Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Year of Firsts

I thought it might be a good idea, in the aftermath, to write a little bit about our first Christmas as a married couple. In fact, I'm fairly certain we'll be thinking about the next year as a bunch of "firsts". However it didn't feel all that first-y.

Emerson and I have been together over five years and have lived together for a good portion of that so I was honestly more excited about it being the puppy's first Christmas with us than our own. I know, that makes me a horrible person. Or perhaps it's just a reflection of our relationship. As my father said in his toast at the wedding, if you don't think Michael and Emerson are really married, spend five minutes with them.


It was a Christmas of firsts in other aspects. Emerson finally got to eat his first New Haven pizza and, as predicted, it was better than any other pizza on the face of the planet. We bought our first tuxedos (more on that later). And for the first time we bought each other the same gift!


It was also a Christmas of babies. On our ride up to Connecticut to visit my family, we stopped by Princeton to see our friends Patrick and Jennifer (who was an extremely pregnant reader at the wedding) and their new son, Emmett. We also got to play Santa to our neighbor's newborn nephew; his sister lives in New Haven and so we drove presents up to them. My cousin just had a baby, as well, and so we got to play with her at my grandparents.

And this whole year is going to be a bunch of firsts in other ways. I'm looking forward to finally getting in front of a classroom and expounding upon the beauty of biophysics. And now that we're married and "settled" down, it's time to start thinking about that first house down-payment. And whether or not we think about any seasonal marker as our first "X" as a married couple, the one thing I know for certain is that, more importantly than this being a "year of firsts", everything that happened last year was a "year of lasts."

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Extravagant Gifts, Simple Thanks

As I mentioned earlier, we did get our thank-you notes in the mail before Christmas vacation, nine weeks after our wedding, which is hardly a heroic feat, especially considering how urgent most thank-you notes seem. A boss I once had would get quite angry at late thank-you letters, and I remember her saying, "A same-day acknowledgment is so important and so possible!" Possible, yes - but important?

The spirit of her complaint is true: gratitude should be delivered with a sense of urgency.

We sent a little more than 50 thank-you notes. We did not send Christmas cards this year, because that would have been a ludicrous amount of correspondence all at once, and we could throw a little "Merry Christmas" into each note. It took just two weeknights to get them all written and addressed and in the mail.

Here were some things that helped:

1. Keeping it simple. We did not order custom stationery. In fact, we did not use pre-printed thank-you cards. We used these simple, recycled white note cards. The only real aesthetic call-back to our wedding was the return-address rubber stamp that was produced for our invitations. We added a little holiday cheer with this year's Nutcracker postage stamps. The result was, I think, both casual and elegant if (as one friend has said) a bit "Emily Post-ish."

2. Fool-proof writing instructions. I'm sure you've all read and internalized these tips from Leslie Harpold, which are so utterly perfect as to require neither discussion nor description. I remember finding this little article to be heart-warming when I first read it, and Harpold's passing makes it not just a resource but a treasure.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

The Goose Got Fat, Eaten

I don't think either Michael nor I feels especially bad about not posting for a long time since the wedding. We have some explanations, none of which is an "excuse" because we are not particularly sorry for the past seven weeks of silence, except in one important dimension:

We owe our amazing network of fellow wedding bloggers a serious apology. In the weeks before our wedding, you were here for us, being sweet, making our wedding seem like the most important day in the whole world. We should have been celebrating with you virtually, as you celebrated with us, and tossing good vibes and pithy advice your way.

Instead, we spent the first few weeks of our married life detoxing from stress, the spending, the narcissism of what we did. We spent a lot of time with local friends and with our parents. There were turkeys. We bought and wrapped and exchanged Christmas gifts. Very importantly, we got all our thank-you notes written and in the mail before Christmas vacation. We were reading your blogs (seriously!) but not commenting. We never once navigated to this page.

I think both of us were a bit shocked by the life that this blog took on. Literally dozens of regular readers supporting us and learning about us, visiting the site hundreds of times each week. It fed our egos, and it stoked the smoldering embers of guilt. Who were we to merit this attention? And who on earth were all of you to give it to us?

We never meant to be gay-wedding journalists or memoirists. We started this blog to make sure that our guests knew where to stay and eat, and buy us silverware. Obviously we had more to share, and I'm glad we have had the platform.

As we opened our lives up more and more, things got more rewarding as well as more scary. We knew we wanted to draw a line at some point. As much as we hoped for our wedding to be a very public celebration and to set an example for others, we didn't want same-sex marriage to become the defining issue of our lives. I'm not sure that's avoidable, but that is still our hope. Michael is a scientist and I am a professional fundraiser - we are not full-time grooms.

The weeks after our wedding were an emotional roller-coaster in other ways, especially with the passage of Proposition 8 and similar state initiatives across the country. Not only was that personally painful, but I think both of us felt shouted-down by our friends who thought that we were making too much of the issue, and should just be quietly grateful that we got the wedding of our dreams (and the end of the Bush morass).

So, part of our silence was fostering some bitterness about that. We are certainly recovering, trying to think optimistically about things we can do politically to help secure marriage equality, things that go beyond complaining. And, we both led anti-hunger fundraising and advocacy drives at our respective offices; it has been tremendously rewarding to do something purely for others, immediate and tangible, that doesn't benefit one's self at all.

In any case, even though our wedding has come and gone (and I do see the thank-you notes as being the Finish Line), we have more to say and more to share, and we appreciate the attention, and we do think of you - incredibly - as friends.

I am developing a new blog that I will announce and launch once I figure out what it ought to be and have enough material on there that you should want to visit it. I'm not sure if Michael will continue to write, and if he does, what it will consist of (he's been an intermittent blogger over the years).

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Marriage #2: The Marriaging

Our first marriage was before God and family on a small goat farm in North Carolina on October 11, 2008. Our second marriage (depending on how things go) was in the little mountain town of Ukiah, the county seat in Mendocino, California, where Emerson and I were honeymooning.

We set out early the morning of Thursday, October 16, before the sun rose to make the long trek over the mountains to Ukiah. We stopped for one of the best scones I've ever had in a little village called Boonville, the hippiest town in the hippiest place I have ever been (I do not exaggerate when I say that the entire county smelled like pot). We didn't have much time because we had to meet Josh Bowers, the guy we hired on craigslist to take pictures and be our witness.

Ukiah had only one main road and ironically the county seat was not on it. Instead, it was a few blocks off, right next to the county prison. As municipal buildings go, this one wasn't so bad, although it had clearly been a school at one point in its existence, which would explain the baseball fields behind it. It probably stopped being a school around the same time the building next door became a prison (although you never know with these mountain types).
The first thing we had to do was go into a large, open office that reminded me of my high school administration, and fill out a form with things like our names, our parents names, and verifying that we weren't married. We then had to swear an oath to the hippy behind the counter that everything we said was true to the best of our knowledge. It was a tad bit surreal. Then we had to wait while the clerk typed up all of our information. Meanwhile, we checked out the spots where people liked to get married.

Apparently one of the popular spots was in front of the building by the willow tree. That tree, however, was right in front of the garbage bin. Marriage #2 was already bizarre enough; it didn't need to be made more bizarre by a trash heap; that would come later on the baseball field. No, we decided to not get married by the tree between the front driveway and the refuse pile. Instead we would get married in the "courtyard chapel".

Being a typical municipal school turned county administration office, the Ukiah county clerk was able to provide us with a concrete courtyard surrounded by windows looking into various government offices. In the corner was a white wooden arch with absolutely no adornment or flowers or plants or anything. It was perfect!

Right before we started, she asked us if were planning on exchanging rings. Shit! We quickly took off our rings and swapped them so we could exchange them in front of God and Josh the photographer. The clerk read from her print-out of the marriage ceremony, her gold-spangled costume necklace jingling down to her navel. After our big gay wedding on the goat farm, standing in the bright morning sun in the courtyard of an old school next to a prison in front of a softball field felt a tad bit anti-climactic. After our beautiful vows in front of friends and family, declaring our lifelong commitment of love and fidelity in front of an amateur photographer from Mendocino seemed underwhelming; it was difficult to hold back the chuckles.

But somewhere, right at the end, when I was reciting those words that you hear countless times on television and in the movies, it struck me how monumentally important this moment was. It didn't take us 14 months to plan; it didn't involve the precise melding of a million minute details to be perfect; it didn't involve the approving enthusiasm of our family and friends. We had to rely on the actions of strangers, Josh the photographer, Kathleen the deputy clerk, the California Supreme Court, to bring our marriage to the country. Now, an entire state of strangers avowed that they had a stake in my relationship. It was pretty fucking cool.

When it was over, the clerk handed us a colorful certificate declaring our marriage. It may have been in Comic Sans. I don't think it made it back to North Carolina. But we remembered to order an official notarized copy before the big vote. So our marriage has the honor of being real in the eyes of those who love us and, however briefly, real in the eyes of the State of California. And although we will undoubtedly celebrate October 11 as our anniversary, October 16, no matter how fleeting, will forever remain an important part of history.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Strike Beard!

Ok, one more and then we'll have to stop...

It's getting to be winter and Emerson and I have both decided to grow beards again. But I've decided to not just have a beard, but a strike beard. And here is why:



We can blame the ripping away of my marriage on the homophobic black community. Or we can blame it on deceitful Mormons (which has the added benefit of painting the black community as easily gullible and sheeplike in their blind obedience of propoganda). But a large part of the blame needs to go with the major gay rights organizations. In part it is because the strategy of ramming gay marriage through the courts is not working. We ultimately one twice but the backlash has landed us 0 for 30 in constitutional amendments. There is a saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

The other reason the major gay rights organizations are to blame is their idiotic blind trust in the Democrats. If the HRC didn't spend so much money trying to get Barack Obama elected (and God knows he didn't need money), they might have been able to focus on state and local issues. So gay rights groups have gotten what they wanted; there are large majorities in both Houses of Congress and a president who deigned to mention us as part of a platitude in his acceptance speech (ohmigod! He talked about us! He talked about us!!!). The Democrats have complete control of the government. So let's see how long it takes the triumvirate of Obama, Pelosi and Reid to pass major pro-gay legislation. I'll take anything. A repeal of DADT. Repeal of DOMA. Passing ENDA. Anything.

But until then I won't shave my beard.

Because it wasn't just the evil Republicans who stole my marriage from me. In fact, an unprecedented 27% of self-identified gays voted for McCain. And it's time that the gay community woke up and started fighting for itself and stopped wishing that the magic Democrats will wave their wands and do shit for us after we get them elected.

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Idiotic Justifications and Cold Comfort

I'm going to share some of the responses I've read - some directed to me, some written on blogs, some that just passed in front of my eyes going from one friend to another. I'm not going to parse them all, because if you can't see what's stupid or off-base about each of these things, then - well, then, you're stupid or off-base, and maybe this is a good point at which to sever our relationship.

Also - I want all of you who are irony-deprived to switch on your sarcasm detectors. I want you to see it coming before you're in it, knee deep.

The thing that these messages mostly share in common is the sentiment that gay people shouldn't be so upset because this is "just" a setback, it's minor in the context of Obama's win, that fair-minded liberals are in now way to be held responsible, or that we nasty old queens are just bitter/angry/self-loathing/uppity.

So here's my wall of shame, unattributed stupid things that people said and wrote yesterday about the crushing nationwide defeat of gay rights:

some of us feel worse than you do! please re-direct your booing and hissing to the morons of the state, not all of us.

Uh - right, the Democratic candidates, party and voters stood up for us so passionately. They were just overwhelmed by the irresistable Mormon army, right?

In general, courts are the wrong place to press these sorts of claims. . . . Unfortunately, too many groups have decided that the success of civil rights can be widely applied to circumvent the electorate on issues where there is no public consensus.

Oh, I must have misread the constitution and the 14th amendment - my bad! Voters are totally justifying in repealing civil rights just to punish the courts for being so pushy!

Whoa, let's not get distracted here [by the high turnout and 70% support for Prop 8 among black voters], folks. The real, true enemy in all of this in the Mormon church, perhaps the most despicable bastion of bigotry in our country.

The Mormons did not come to California and mark those ballots. The mind-boggling level of homophobia among African Americans is just one piece of this failure, but it is possibly the most shocking and disappointing piece.
I believe--and thought you did too since you actually had a wedding--that, while of course the ultimate goal is official State recognition and the accompanying legal rights, the State doesn't have to approve your union or anyone else's for it to be official and sacred. That's in the way that you live your life; not the labels you put on it.

Yeah - I had a wedding to demonstrate that I don't care if marriage is legal or not! And then I flew to California just as a way of saying "Look how superficial this legal marriage stuff is!" Boy, am I glad that my wedding didn't accidentally result in any legal responsibilities or privileges.

if a country that so viciously oppressed a group of citizens could, 40 years later elect someone from that group--then I have great confidence Emerson that we can overcome what voters in California and other states did on the ballot issues.

So - is 40 years a optimistic estimate as to how long equal rights are going to take? Because I have heard some generous 5, 10 and 20 year estimates. As mama used to say, "You can't hurry love!"

And finally, what I think is maybe the worst most gut-wrenching thing I heard all day:
Oh fuck! This is the first I've heard of it. FUCK!


Sorry I pierced your bubble of straight, white privilege with the bad news. I'll try not to do it again. You can get back to congratulating each other now. We'll just go back to our corner and cross our fingers that someday, somebody will give a shit about us . . .

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I'm So Bitter I Could Just Cling to Guns and Religion

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

I find it utterly impossible to be happy for the country right now. While I never agreed with much of Barack Obama's politics, I was geared up and even psyched to witness the first African-American president. It is long, long overdue and brings us one important step closer to correcting century old wrongs that have permeated our society in almost every way. It was an historic event that I am utterly unable to find positive or to rejoice in.

Barack Obama may have won a decisive victory across the country but the decisive losers were gay Americans. The campaign that brought us “hope” and “change” brought neither of those things to the millions of gays and their children. The passage of all four anti-gay ballot measures yesterday underscores that while the voters may have shifted demonstrably in favor of the Democrats, they remain unmoved when it comes to the rights of same-sex couples. This cannot be blamed, as it was in 2004, on a conservative electorate enamored with a Bush political agenda; that was resolutely defeated. California, which Obama won by nearly a 15 point margin, banned gay marriage all the same.

And while it is unlikely that they tipped the scales, I find the overwhelming support for Prop 8 among African Americans appalling. The bittersweet irony is that Obama’s unprecedented mobilization and registration of voters and his historic candidacy that gave a well-deserved voice to a long since marginalized minority brought about inequality for another. The group of citizens who saw their hopes and dreams materialize last night simultaneously voted to strip those same hopes and dreams away from a different marginalized minority. Slavery is a horrific stain our nation which means it is even more important for those who have most acutely felt its ramifications to fight for equality under the law for all Americans.

So no, Mr. Obama, I do not question the power of our democracy; the people still have the power to strip away the rights of others. Before last night I didn’t imagine my fellow citizens could rip my marriage away from me. But as you say, Mr. Obama, America is a place where all things are possible.

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Because It's Personal

A lot of people are pissed at me today. I've been pretty brittle. I'm not handling this very coolly. I'm ruining people's fun. Whenever I've seen or heard sentiments of celebration , I've made it a point to interject:

"What a great night!" someone says.
"Not for gays," I reply.

Would it be so hard for people to acknowledge that? And why do I keep hearing the words I had no idea? You should have known. Stop patting yourself on the back.

There's no reason for the defeat of gay rights to detract from the historic victory that occurred yesterday. That's simply not where my head is, where my heart is. And, frankly, I don't think it's disrespectful to keep pointing it out.

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Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Gay men and women across the country, people whose lives are dedicated to service, virtue, and generosity were stripped of equal protection under the law, their second-class citizenship reaffirmed by voters of both parties in Florida, Arizona, Arkansas and possibly California tonight. I sat in a bar filled with whooping, gloating Democrats, apparently pleased to once again have loyal gay liberals as their cannon fodder. I wanted to cry, but instead I got angry and shouted.

I shouldn't let myself be bitter, because bitterness is self-destructive, but I may allow myself these feelings for a while. I'm mad as he'll, but I'm supposed to keep taking it? I have not one kind word for America right now. You betrayed us.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hope, Desire, Secrets and Meaning

Desaray’s early morning post today – and her slow, scary, exciting and mystifying approach to the Friends community – set me to thinking about prayer. Election day – filled as it is with conflict, with the thirst for power and prestige, with self-delusion and self-congratulation – empty as it is of quiet, reflection, honesty and generosity – is a really good day for reflection.

So, please be patient as I type for a while about these things: Prayer and weddings, prayer in weddings, prayer after weddings and prayer that puts weddings in a new light and new perspective.

Weddings – no matter how secular – are still built on the foundation of archaic prayer services. Yet, prayer is not one of the words that we hear a lot in planning weddings. It’s an elephant in the room. Related words like blessing and of course vow are commonplace – they stand for prayer without making a big deal about it.

The Knot has just five references to “prayer”: three of these are under the rubric of “requirements” for Catholic, Protestant and Jewish ceremonies; one is a Celine Dion song; and the last prayer is one that was answered with a good photographer.

The Knot is no one’s standard of serious intellectual or spiritual involvement, but I think it’s fair to say it dimly reflects the zeitgeist.

It’s not surprising that prayer should be a bit of a taboo in the matrimonial-industrial complex. For one thing, planning a wedding is so often about “getting it just right,” which is impossible with prayer – when prayer is “just right,” that usually means it’s scripted, stilted or hollow. Prayer’s outcomes are unpredictable. They are neither right nor wrong. They often look like failure but feel like success. A wedding ceremony as ambivalent as this is unlikely to “impress” anybody.

Another ideal of wedding planning is making it “personal,” or customized. It would be hard to get prayer right according to this standard. For many people, the most authentic and meaningful prayers are the involuntary ones that flow out of hope, despair, grief, fury, ecstasy – in short, vulnerability. These prayers would be inappropriate (or, at least, very uncomfortable) for a wedding, no matter how intimate and personal it might be. Consequently, the "personal" prayers that couples tend to choose are treacly.

For those of us who are religious but getting married outside a church, asking people to participate in religious prayer is delicate. Inside a church, with a clerical celebrant, a marrying couple has some cover. “These prayers are not really our words,” they could say. Or, more affirmatively, “These prayers are a lovely, old-fashioned tradition.” “These prayers don’t quite reflect our beliefs, but they are part of the bargain for having our beautiful wedding in this beautiful space – and maybe they’re not so bad, since we got to revise them a little bit.”

I don’t think we got prayer right at our wedding. We were close, but not quite there. Our readers and co-celebrants weren’t entirely comfortable with the language, although they were good sports. They saw it (generously) as “our day,” and they gamely did their part to deliver what we requested. Still, I wish we had collaborated with them more. Talked more. Prayed together. Invited them more deeply into our personal prayer lives so they could get the counterintuitive connections between our “personal” spirituality, and the public signs and language of the ceremony.

Sometimes – more than sometimes – just going through the motions of prayer is good - as good as getting to that deep, dream-like state of prayer, the state that prayer strives for, in which one is in communication with hidden parts of one’s self, and with hidden parts of the world, and they are forgiving one another. Practicing prayer not only prepares us for those extraordinary moments, but it also has good, objective outcomes of its own. It is energetic.

In retrospect, looking back at the last year, I wish that I had spent at least as much time in the practice of prayer as I did in the practice of foxtrot. At the same time, I am not regretful. Our wedding, at sunset, on the cusp of autumn, opened up new channels for my prayer life, and reopened some that I had been neglecting. With a new, renewed family, the time and space for having and creating memories, I am refreshed and eager to get down to the good work of prayer.

I have some tools that I use for prayer. Maybe it is indulgent or boastful to write about them in this forum. Maybe it is helpful.

My criteria for choosing these over the course of my life has been that prayer tools should be easy to do but challenging to my feelings and beliefs, and they should have evidence of tradition and inspiration.

The “Suscipe” prayer from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola is one of these. It is easy to find a good/correct rendering online. But, I learned it a bit differently from my spiritual director in college, and I like my shorter, simpler version:

Take, Lord, and receive all that I am and have. You have given it all to me, and I give it all back to you. Just give me your love and your grace, and that is enough.


Another prayer I learned in college is one that I didn’t think I could use or accept, because it seems so . . . prosecutorial. This is the Orthodox Rosary (Chotki) Mantra, known as the “Jesus Prayer.”

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.


The last prayer tool that I want to share – because I’ve gotten very long-winded here – is the Avalokiteshvara Mantra, which you surely know already:

Om Mani Padme Hum.


I sometimes just repeat it or look at it, like a pure mantra. Sometimes I alternate the mantra with a prayer to eliminate both anxieties and seductions, like this:

Om Mani Padme Hum.
To be without worry.
To be without peace of mind.
Om Mani Padme Hum.
To be without screwing up.
To be without getting it right.


And so on. This prayer is like a bloodhound for detecting secret fears. Other times it exposes my "goods" as addictions.

So – what are your tools or prayer, reflection and communicating with hidden parts of yourself?

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Living in a Calgon Commercial

There are many good reasons to eschew wedding gift registries. To have them is really rather greedy. If there are household items one really needs, wouldn't it be more prudent (and ethical) to cut back on wedding extravagances and buy those things for one's self? Shouldn't we, after all, have contributed most of our wedding budget to fighting injustice, and asked our guests to contribute their gift money to similar causes?

This is the utilitarian conundrum that philosophers like Peter Singer demand we confront. As important as it is to strive for moral clarity in resistance to both culture and our own impulses, there is some soft consensus among ethicists that scrupulous devotion to moral purity produces diminishing returns for investments of anxiety, isolation and intellectual paralysis.

In other words, one may achieve greater good in a life characterized by self-acceptance, companionship, reflection and pleasure. This is how I can declare that there is a universal good in wrapping myself with a fantastic bath towel.

We installed new bath linens over the weekend, having received them as gifts off our Crate & Barrel gift registry. The bliss - as if I had never dried myself before - was immense. Oh gods, oh venerable Pallas! If I am not to see in my life the accomplishment of full human equality under the law, then I think the feeling of Organic Turkish Cotton after a warm bath will comfort me for a long time.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Please Be Seated

Cruising around other wedding blogs as well as commercial sites gave me a serious inferiority complex about my shortage of DIY skills. Although our wedding had a "hand crafted" feel on the whole, that was mostly a matter of our obsession with details and tricking actual artisans and craftspeople to do our bidding.

Our one craft project, which I blogged about in September, turned out nicely, though, and I thought I'd share the final product with you:



I'm not sure whence we stole the family-wedding-pictures idea, but I'm seeing it pop up all over the place, and I'm really glad we pulled it off, and grateful to both our moms for helping out.



This last close-up shows the milk-bottle flower arrangements that the moms made so nicely with celosia, eucalyptus and some kind of berry that I have yet to identify. The framed portrait you see is of Michael's grandparents looking so elegant.



By the way, the card basket cost $5 on the clearance shelf at a craft store and the guest book was a cheap $7 acid-free journal from Barnes & Noble, with a vacation picture glued to the cover. My philosophy on these things was, if we don't have the time, money or inclination to really make these anything special, then lets not spend any real money on something that will just be a compromise. What's written inside is what we'll cherish anyway.

P.S. Thanks again to Missy for taking great snaps!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Raise the Bar

Several people who read this blog were guinea pigs in our months-long experiments with wine and beer. For their edification, and for anyone else who might be interested, I am happy to provide the final list of drinks we served:

Aperitif:
Gruet Winery (New Mexico) Methode Champenoise, Brut, non-Vintage
Hugues Beaulieu (Cotes de Languedoc) Picpoul de Pinet, 2005
Evan Williams Bourbon in Mint Juleps

Dinner:
Folonari (Veneto) Pinto Grigio, 2005
Castellana (Abruzzi) Montepulciano, 2006
Spaten (Munich) Oktoberfest "Ur-Marzen"
Red Hook (New Hampshire) "Late Harvest" Autumn Ale

Digestif:
Talisker, Scottish Malt Whiskey, 10 Year
Oban, Highland Scotch, 14 Year
Macallan, Fine Oak Highland Scotch, 12 Year
Basil Hayden's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Clear Creek (Oregon) Eau de Vie de Pomme, Barrel Aged 8 years
Clear Creek (Oregon) Williams Pear Brandy

We were really pleased with all our choices, limited as we were by the ridiculous liquor control laws of North Carolina, our budget and our obsessive wish for magnums. The wines paired perfectly with the food, and the brandies paired nicely with the cheese course.

And if any of you are interested in re-sampling, we have a ton of this stuff left over.

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Water-Colored Memories

Two weeks feels like a lifetime - keeping up with everybody else's wedding blogs reminds me how intense the last year has been - and how peaceful and just-right life feels now.


We haven't got any professional pictures back, but we have many talented photographers among our friends, and I am happy to share a few of their snaps - those that I would consider "general interest" pictures. Many, many thanks to Jennifer, Bethany, Tom, Missy and Kristen for these great images.

I am happy that somebody took a good photo of the ceremony program, after the trouble we had with the offset printer. I am proud of the design of these programs, but more importantly I am grateful to Dave for designing such gorgeous invitations, which served as the template for these pieces.



The animals on the farm were a big hit with the guests as we hoped they'd be, and the buses arrived early enough that people had plenty of time to tour the whole farm and enjoy it in the daylight. Lemonade and iced tea were served during the hour before the ceremony.

The chickens were very sociable, and the donkey stayed quiet throughout the ceremony. He appeared to be paying rapt attention, in fact, which was a bit unnerving.





The brass quintet was a bit underwhelming. But, I think only Michael and I really noticed their ponderous timing and freewheeling sense of tonality, because we had so often listened to great recordings of all the music they were to play. Nonetheless, part of the reason for having the quintet was the juxtaposition of the elegant and the rustic. I assume this was their first time playing in or beside a goat paddock, and it was a cool thing to see.



The ceremony was just exactly what we had hoped for - thoughtful, prayerful and dignified. We really chose excellent readers who brought drama and insight to the scriptures. My best college friend, who is now an academic theologian, gave a reflection which - to put it crassly - blew minds. Our "collaborating presiders" did their work with grace and confidence. And our two vocal soloists sang beautifully.



Immediately after the ceremony, the sun emerged from behind the clouds and illuminated the horizon with a dramatic, fiery sunset. On the porch and the lawn of the farmhouse, our guests enjoyed hush puppies and oyster po' boys washed down with champagne (Gruet Brut from New Mexico), dry white wine (a picpoul from the Roussillon) and sweet mint juleps.



The tent was gorgeous, with three long banquet tables. We were glad to have insisted on long tables against our caterer's advice, because they were perfect. Each place was set with a personalized menu card and a packet of vintage-style postcards, wishing "Greetings from" all the places we have lived and worked - and the places from which so many of our guests traveled.





On the center table, draped in burgundy linens, the centerpieces of dahlias, zinnias, celosia, artichokes, eggplants, pears and peppers, were (of course) 100% local and organic, and assembled by a team consisting of our moms, my aunt, my sister and Michael. They were so nervous to do such a big and important job, but as you can see, the results were lush and elegant. I am very happy we didn't chicken-out and spend a lot of money on a florist.





The other two tables were draped in navy, and had hurricane lamps set into magnolia and laurel wreaths, with votives and green hydrangeas scattered around. An absolutely fantastic salad of squash, goat cheese and figs was set at each place so that guests could start eating during the first of four (!) toasts.


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Our Illegal Wedding: Now With Extra Illegality!

As soon as the ceremony ended, an odd feeling set in. I probably asked a dozen people, "So, does this wedding seem a little weird to you?" I suppose it was mostly that surreal sensation that many people report: This is it. We are getting married right now. Jesus tap-dancing Christ!


But, there were plenty of other unplanned occurrences that made our wedding day peculiar. For one thing, it was intermittently disrupted by bursts of machine gun fire in the distance - which (blessedly) many guests mistook for fireworks. The brass quintet played all the music at a funereal pace that made Michael and me pull our hair out - although it undoubtedly sounded fine to anyone unfamiliar with those pieces. Also the DJ (in whom we had so much faith) was after all a mind-boggling idiot.

Most importantly, though: our wedding was shut down by the police!

I'm not joking. Apparently, at the quiet end of a country road, sound travels a long way. We might have learned this from enduring the distant machine-gun fire all afternoon. The police came at 9:30 to ask us to turn it down or turn it off. A neighbor from about a mile down the road had called them in hysterics. A very hateful, very sleepy neighbor.


Dave, the owner of the farm, fended the police off for a while. We turned down the volume a notch. It is in fact quiet out there, so we truly didn't need it dialed up to 11. This satisfied the police for a while, but at 10:30 we heard they were on their way back. We told the DJ to wrap it up (probably the most merciful thing to do, in fact) and, unsurprisingly, he chose to end the night some awful music, not on our playlist, that I do not care to recall.

Fortunately, by then, we were good and boozy, actually having a great time, and amused the unique distinction of having our wedding shut down by the cops.

So is it, in fact, just me - or was our wedding a little bit weird?

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Nice Day for a White Wedding

While Emerson and I were on our honeymoon, we were (of course) constantly rehashing and reliving The Most Beautiful Wedding Ever, when we came to realize that our wedding was really, really white. Back before the book came out, we used to read Stuff White People Like, so we decided to see exactly how much white people would like our wedding.


First things first: the wedding was on a goat farm that we found by meeting the goat farmers at their cheese stand at the Farmer's Market. I mean, the whole wedding was practically an advertisement for a farmer's market, given the local and organic nature of nearly all the food as well as the flowers (#5 Farmer's Markets, #6 Organic Food).

The ceremony featured a brass quintet, obscure pieces by 19th and 20th century composers and a soprano solo sung in Czech, in clear expectation of our guests Appearing to Enjoy Classical Music (#108). We wore clothes that we found on eBay and in thrift shops (#49 Vintage). Also, one's attendance at the ceremony was the ultimate consecration of Having Gay Friends (#88).

The menus were printed on unbleached, recycled paper (#64 Recycling). As you have already read on this blog, we toiled and agonized to find exactly the right Wine (#24) and Microbrews (#23).

A solid majority of the guests were friends from Graduate School (#81), The Ivy League (#98), or both. Except for those who went to art school with Emerson (#47 Arts Degrees) or grade school with me (#16 Gifted Children).

And let's not forget about our honeymoon, which was just as white. Since we missed our early morning flight, we killed time by buying new iPhones (#40 Apple Products). It worked out great because we were able to take pictures of our honeymoon and upload them instantly to Facebook (#106). And while on our honeymoon we did many things that white people like, such as wine tasting (#24), doing things by the water (#51) and wearing outdoor performance clothing (#87).

And of course we capped it off San Francisco (#91), where we enjoyed the very best imaginable Sushi (#42). And the plane ride back? I'm almost ashamed to admit we brought the Sunday New York Times (#46).

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Monday, October 13, 2008

We Now Return to your Regularly Scheduled Honeymoon Program

Do you know what happens when you show up to the airport just one minute after the 30-minute baggage check-in deadline? You have to stand in line all morning waiting to rebook your flight (and get bilked with no-longer-waivable fees). And you lose the first 7 hours of your honeymoon.

It's probably not so stressful (and slow!) if you're the only person in the airport to make this mistake - but I would say Delta's 6:40 flight to Cincinatti this morning was half empty. All those ticket holders were in the "International Check-in/Domestic Disappointment" line along with us.

On the upside, maybe you get the extra hour of sleep you wanted. And, you finally have a chance to buy those casual fall shoes you wanted for your vacation. And, you finally get a fancy lunch at the boutique hotel by the airport. And, your new itinerary puts you in scenic Sausalito just in time for dinner.

After the initial sting, this setback isn't so disappointing. Although, having some wedding pictures to enjoy would be soothing, too.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Holy Sh#t, We're Married!

I know that I should probably be doing something else other than blogging on the morning after my wedding but for some reason I am compelled to do so. So here we are.

We'll have a full wrap-up soon but I wanted to get a few thoughts down this morning.

The first thought is: holy shit, we're married! My second thought is, to quote the great Stephen Colbert: "Great wedding? Or greatest wedding?" My third thought is: Yuliya would be so disappointed.

I should probably leave it at that for now, but I will say one thing. My second favorite moment was when the horse galloped in triumphantly during the interlude and my favorite moment was when the burro came braying and kicking right after him. That's right. A burro.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's 74 and Sunny in Durham

Let's get dressed up and have a garden party . . .

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Blog Blogis Gratia

So our big day is fast approaching. Eight days ago I started a new job and today is the day that I do my first real experiment. Today is also the day that my parents come into town and the true beginning of the weekend. With all the activities and responsibilities looming, I felt that I really wasn't going to get any time to blog after this morning, so I should do it now.

Of course, I don't actually have anything to say. I'm a little nervous, a little excited, a little stressed. But none of that makes for interesting reading by the masses. I have no final bits of wisdom or trivia, no hifalutin thoughts about the nature of marriage or the significance of this particular marriage either to our own lives or the lives of our families and friends. I certainly don't have the time or energy to compose some rambling, humorous post with witty parenthetical asides. I'm worried we've forgotten to take care of something, although if we have forgotten to take care of something it pretty much isn't going to be taken care of.

I guess I just want it to happen already! C'mon, future!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It was just like any other day.

All week I keep hearing about things I'd love to do this weekend if I weren't busy, you know, getting married. There's a big game at UNC, not to mention good Big 10 match-ups on television all afternoon. Several appealing movies are opening, and the NC Museum of Art is showing a classic Claude Sautet film. The Kickin' Grass Band is playing at Cat's Cradle - we've been to no live shows since we moved down here, and this is one that would inspire me to get out of the house. Also on Saturday night is Campout Carolina, a night of electricity-free solidarity in support of a healthier environment.

And as much as I prefer fresh air to electricity, you better believe I am sleeping indoors all weekend.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cost Cutting and More Cutting

I picked up our programs and menus this morning. They look lovely. Remember when I asked why offset printers could charge such radically different prices for the same job? Well, I found out.

We went with the cheapest printer. We supplied our own stock - unbleached, recycled paper. They wrecked it. I don't know how, but they wrecked it. They couldn't explain why or how, but I doubt they are secretly hoarding my paper, so I believe they wrecked it.

They replaced it with their own virgin paper. So, not only are our programs not printed on (expensive) unbleached, recycled paper - we used twice as much paper as actually necessary. We are definitely not getting that LEED Platinum certificate now.

Hey, thanks trees! Nice knowin' ya!

I'm gonna go set some carbon credits on fire . . .


Manifest Destiny by Alexis Rockman, Brooklyn Museum of Art

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Monday, October 6, 2008

What Is Lasting

So, our wedding will take place in five days, and today is also the feast of Saint Bruno, whose name only sounds the same as my future in-laws' surname. There is no family connection to the saint, but Bruno families around the world probably consider him to be a patron. He is a good man for the job.

Saint Bruno was born in 1030 in Cologne, and he had a fast rise from promising student to professor to presumptive new bishop of Reims. Bruno lived in tumultuous times. His own diocese was rattled by an abusive prelate and the battle to remove him. In Rome, Emperor Henry IV was resisting the church-wide reform efforts of Pope Gregory VII, going so far as to establish an antipapacy in Ravenna.

In the midst of all this turmoil, Bruno's esteem rose among many parties. The clergy of Reims sought his leadership, and Gregory sought his counsel. Bruno, though, longed for a simple life, attached only to prayer and work, eschewing power and influence. During his years in Gregory's closest confidence, Bruno took care to keep himself always in the background. His mission was to free the church from corruption and politics, not to defeat Henry.

Anyhow, the thing I most want to tell you about him is that Bruno, during his journeys toward and away from centers of power and conflict established two monasteries. The first was at a remote spot in the Alps known as Chartreuse, from which the Carthusian Order grew and gets its name. You may also know the liquor called Chartreuse, which the monks distilled and sold to support the maintenance of their houses, and which today is still sold in support of various charities.

The Carthusians live lives of great simplicity and quiet. They rarely speak except to pray. Each act - including prayer - is undertaken at the slowest practical pace. Their charism is captured by their motto: "Stat crux, dum volvitur orbis," which means, "The cross stands while the world is changing."

An acclaimed film was made about the monastery of Grande Chartreuse. The images literally defy words, which is surely the point:



Can you imagine what Saint Bruno would have thought about our modern wedding rituals? What today's Carthusians think of us - if they even know what we're up to? These ceremonies - ostensibly dedicated to the making permanent of something that is imperiled by human whims - have become binges of frippery. Michael and I are as guilty of it as anyone else - each argument we have had about paper, flowers and wine is venal. What will last after Saturday? Where shall we turn our focus?

We have five days left until our wedding. This week, we are going to approach life with our eyes turned toward what is permanent. Whatever is picayune and vain and worrisome is forbidden. Any thought that provokes me to anger is banished.

Each time the Bruno name is said or seen on Saturday, I will consider it a tiny prayer for the aid of Saint Bruno in keeping calm and quiet, and caring most about what is lasting.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Convicted of DWI: Disproportionate Welcoming & Itineraries

Are you familiar with this theory of "maximizers" vs. "satisficers?" I am unambiguously a maximizer, and I really encourage everyone to join our side, because it results in very rewarding weekends. I may not be very organized in every aspect of my life, but I do keep an hour-by-hour itinerary of each Friday through Sunday - and I never look back and regret wasting my days off.

Anyhow - I think we have done a lot to help you maximize your trip. You have the data you need to make serious meal plans. You have two great maps of Durham's organic highlights. And, a smattering of other "local color" suggestions.

But, I just made one more helpful thing for a friend, and I thought, "Why keep it a secret?"

At Duke University, the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and the Viñoly-designed Nasher Museum of Art are both world-class institutions. The Nasher's current show of Spanish masters includes some of my favorite paintings by Juan Sánchez Cotán. Best of all, the Garden and Museum entrances are just two blocks apart, and neither one is too big for a short, satisfying visit.

For those of you staying at the Marriott and not renting a car, here are your instructions for making an easy Saturday morning visit to these local treasures:

Step 1: Walk from Marriott to the DATA (transit) terminal.
Directions: Exit from the hotel's north doors - onto the civic center plaza. The Carolina Theater is on your left. Walk in that direction, then along Morgan Street. The DATA terminal is about a block ahead.

Step 2: Buy an unlimited-ride 1-day pass ($2).

Step 3: Take the Route 6 bus.
Directions: The bus leaves every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour.

Step 4: Deboard the bus at Duke University Road & Anderson Street.
Directions: You will see the Nasher Museum of Art at this intersection.
Note: Chapel Hill Street changes into Duke University Road on campus. They are in fact the same roadway. Don't let this confuse you.

Step 5: Visit the Museum, then the Garden.
Directions: From the Museum, the garden is one two blocks north on Anderson Street. Anyone in the area can point the way.

Step 6: Don't miss the return bus!
Directions: From where you got off, the bus returns on the opposite side of the street. Be there by :20 or :40 past the hour.

Reaching the Garden & Museum from the Courtyard (and nearby hotels) is not as simple by public transportation, but it's worth noting that it is an easy 2 miles on foot.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Something Gold Can Stay

Not even our guests are likely to get a close glimpse at our rings, so it doesn't seem like spoiling any surprise to show some photos up here.

Michael and I exchanged engagement rings back in 2006. He gave me mine on my birthday - July 3 - what should have been a big fireworks night in Coney Island, but instead the atmospheric entertainment was provided by lightning. We had Astroland almost entirely to ourselves, and got to ride the Cyclone twice before all the rides shut down. Disappointed about missing the Wonder Wheel - and completely oblivious to the special moment approaching - I was grumpy. I didn't want to walk on the beach ("It's wet and filthy!") or down the boardwalk ("Are you trying to get us mugged?!"), all I wanted were clam strips and funnel cake, and if I were Michael I would have changed my mind.

My ring was a Tiffany silver ring, shaped like a pillow. Michael had wandered all over town on the preceding Sunday in the blazing heat, trying to find something unique for me, but not too expensive. He was still in graduate school at that point. Thwarted by all the local shops closed for the holiday weekend, and his admittedly poor memory for addresses, he trekked 15 blocks up Fifth Avenue through the steam and the throng to Engagement Central. He made a beautiful choice.

The fact that Michael decided to spring the question first gave me an opening to shop at a more leisurely (and less sweaty) pace for his ring. I had time to find a well regarded local jeweler in the East Village, Little King. I even took Michael there, ostensibly to look for wedding bands. Then, I had to sneak 100 blocks back downtown at my lunch hour to actually order the ring, and again to pick it up, in order to give it to him at Christmas Eve dinner, hidden under his coffee cup.

Those two rings no longer exist, but here is how they looked on that Christmas Eve:


We had the cockamamie idea of combining the rings together to make our wedding bands. Back in May, when we were both in New York for work, we took them to Little King to test the idea out, and it was met with enthusiasm.

Last week, the finished product arrived in a padded FedEx envelope. We had my mom and sister check the inscriptions so that we wouldn't accidentally spoil the surprise. They are beyond beautiful; they are perfect; they are entirely and perfectly ours.

We still haven't put them on, and we will probably wait to do so until the moment arrives for us to say: "With this ring I marry you, and with all my worldly goods endow you."


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Perfect in 10

I don't trust the Weather Channel very much, particularly since reading a funny article about their numerous foibles and failures in the New Yorker back in 2000. Things have improved a lot in eight years, but the 10-day forecast is still reliably unreliable, and my real favorite weather source doesn't bother with the crap shoot that is a forecast longer than five days.

Nonetheless, we are now within the "envelope" of professional weather prediction, and it is looking mighty fine!



From my direct observation, I have one very solid prediction: it's going to be chilly after dark. Assuming that the weather is more likely to get cooler than warmer over the next 10 days, I want to strongly reiterate to our female guests the particular importance of bringing a sweater, jacket or wrap.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You Better Shop Around

After complaining bitterly about our vendors, I had lovely conversations today with two of them. How annoying! Where is my righteous indignation now?!

Even though I hadn't ever spoken to either of these vendors, they were totally familiar with our wedding. One told me she knows our farmers/hosts and they are all excited about our celebration, and the other said she's planning to visit our site tomorrow. What an unexpectedly high level of customer service . . .

In other vendor-twilight-zone moments, I received these five quotes for our remaining printing needs: $492, $320, $286, $251, $161. Those are five radically different prices for the exact same print job! What gives?

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Just As Unique As You Are

I'll admit to reading wedding blogs and watching wedding shows and skimming wedding magazines in the check-out line. It's a fun thing that one is only allowed to do (justifiably) for a few months. It's as if you only get one Christmas in your whole life - you maximize and exploit the opportunity.

In the spirit of over-doing it, it's great to try to get wedding ideas from the mainstream, heterosexual-dominated Matrimonial Industrial Complex. Our wedding will be a lot like straight people's weddings, with the flowers and the music and catering and stuff. Why not take some cues from their awesome celebrations?

But this morning, I learned from a particularly bizarre forum on Weddingbee that apparently many straight people don't want to share their wedding media with us, and they certainly don't want to highlight gay people's experiences on their websites. Apparently bandwidth - and compassion and justice - are in short supply.

But we need our space on those websites and magazines and TV shows - and it's not just to make a political point. Until there is enough gay-specific wedding media out there, you awesome/crazy brides have got to share with us!

Their "cover" argument is that highlighting gay weddings creates a "separate but equal" situation - that since gay people's weddings are just like straight people's weddings, there's no need to give them their own online space. Obviously, this is a strawman. It doesn't take a minute's thought to see why a gay bride or groom might specifically want to look at pictures of a gay wedding.

Here are some of the tricky questions that we have had to navigate, with little guidance from the Knot or Martha Stewart or those ridiculous shows on Oxygen and We:

What do two grooms wear? Should they match or contrast or complement each other? What have other grooms done, and what looks good? Where on earth can we find enough good pictures of enough beautiful weddings to get some ideas?

How do two grooms dance together? Should we play it up, or play it down? Choreography? Just boogie around like a couple of fools? What does a two-groom foxtrot look like? Beautiful or ridiculous? Where can we see examples?

How do two grooms walk up the aisle? How can we capture the traditional spirit of the wedding procession, while acknowledging what's different, but doing it in a simple and subtle way? What have other couples - male and female - done? Who has the pictures and who can explain their line of reasoning?

What are some "new traditions" to replace or supplement the old (but fun!) hetero-normative ones, like the bouquet and garter tosses and the classic Midwestern Shot Line? There must be hundreds of stories of what worked and what didn't - we need to see options that fit our style and our celebration. Show us!

So, we're not being greedy or "political" when we ask for something like Queer Wedding Wednesdays. Maybe there's a money-making idea out there for me to establish my own Queer Weddings version of the Knot (hey - I'm patenting that right this second).

I can't deny that looking at pictures of same-sex and other queer weddings brings the political issues of marriage equality and justice right to the forefront, right in front of your face as you're trying to do something as light-hearted as choose a letterpress printer or a cake flavor. But that's exactly the point - letting us share in the fun in a way that works for everybody will quickly and finally lay all these tensions and debates to rest.

Where are my awesome brides at? LOVE YOU LADIES!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nightmare on Charlotte Street

It is very common for me, and many other people, to have anxiety dreams when they are stressed. And while Emerson and I have thrown our fair share of large parties, this is by far the biggest and most expensive and thus it is obviously a cause for a fair bit of stress. And the lack of any real responsiveness from the vendors has done nothing to east that anxiety. Consequently I haven't gotten a good night's sleep in weeks. Every night (and I am not exaggerating about the "every") I have had a wedding-related nightmare. In my dream world, everything that can possibly go wrong has.

Some were simple. I have forgotten to arrange shuttle buses and so no one comes. The DJ didn't have any of the music we want to play. The brass quintet didn't show up.

Some were more complex. The cat got loose and we had to find her; why the cat was at the wedding is still unknown. Emerson and I and a small entourage left early in search of a bar because we needed to find a particular beer JLaw had once in Brooklyn four years ago. Oh, and it was snowing.

But by far my favorite nightmare was the one in which we forgot to have a) the cocktail hour, b) the first dance, c) the toasts, and d) the dessert. Everyone was done so quickly that the wedding only lasted 30 min. And yet we somehow still managed to run out of alcohol.

Yet what freaks me out the most is that I have yet to have the mother of all nightmares, the only event that is, unlike my missing cat, actually likely to screw us over: the nightmare in which it rains.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Frendors and Venemies - Pick Up Your Phones!

I raise money for a living. I have done so for several years. Some parts of my job are difficult - writing long proposals, organizing big events, preparing complicated budgets. But perhaps the easiest and most important part of my job is returning phone calls. It is often the tiny, crucial difference between yes and no from a donor. I want to teach our vendors the why and how of using telephones to make money.

To assess their current competence with regard to telephony, I have created this short quiz:

1. Let's say you are the manager of a transportation company. You receive an email from a customer confirming coach service for a date four weeks from today. You reply with a terse email demanding a phone call and immediate payment. The customer quickly dials the number you have provided. What do you do? Do you a.) answer the phone or b.) let it go to voicemail? If you answered b.), do you ignore the message or reply?

2. Let's say you are the manager of a wine store. An engaged couple has visited your store to talk about wine selections for their upcoming wedding. Of course, you are extremely courteous and helpful in discussing their preferences and their budget. You send them home with a few bottles to taste, and tell them to email you with their entire order within a week. You provide the store's email address and emphasize that they should write, "Attn: Manager" in the subject line. They send you an order amounting to almost $2,000 of wine - a major and serious purchase for this young couple. Do you reply to thank them and confirm their order and arrange for payment? Or, do you leave them hanging with no response for 5, 6, 7 days???

3. Let's say you are the menswear manager of a small, posh boutique. An engaged couple has ordered custom formalwear for their wedding. They are prepared to spend more on these garments than they have ever spent for anything other than their car. After they place their order, let's say you make a little forgivable mistake, and forget to send it along to the workshop. But, that's okay! You fix the problem in plenty of time. Later, one of the grooms phones you to check on the delivery date. You say, "They have not arrived yet, but I'll check on them, and call you right back!" What do you do? Do you check on it and call back right away? Or do you ignore the question and never call back at all???

I know some of these questions may be tricky for neophytes, luddites and (apparently) people who make their living through sales. But try your best! There could be a career in it!

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Pints Go Marzen In

A few days ago we realized that, while we had spent a fair amount of time trying to choose wines to serve, we had spent relatively little time thinking about beer. We didn't want to be lazy and serve Corona or some crap like that. And while my love and admiration for Yuengling is greater than should be allowable for a mass-produced domestic lager, the committee voted it down. And by "committee" I mean Emerson.

So we toyed around with the idea of serving local craft brews, which fits in very well with our focus on locally produced and sustainable food choices. But while the Triangle actually has a great selection and variety of microbrews, they tend to run close to 10 bucks a six-pack. Add the 75c "corking" fee per bottle if we choose not to get Heinekens from the caterer (like that would even be a choice) and we have another case of the committee voting in the negative. And by "committee" I mean me.

So if you can't go with the oldest beer in the country, and you can't go local, what's left? Seasonal! We're both suckers for Oktoberfestbiers, and a pale lager that's not over-hopped seemed perfect for a late summer / early fall wedding. But with so many craft beers as well as major labels making a beer they call "Oktoberfest", exactly how do you choose?...

Beer tasting! Last weekend Emerson I and trucked our way over to the beer store (a chore, I know), and snatched up every beer labeled "Oktoberfest" or that had some sort of visual aid on the bottle that implied we should be drinking it in October, such as an orange leaf or a scarecrow. And then we sat down in front of the Mets game (watched them kick the Phillies' collected asses, but I digress) and tasted away. With notes!

Almost every beer we tried would have sufficed, since we culled the obvious losers at the store, but we pretty much landed on two. First, Spaten. Made in the traditional Marzen style, it's pale with just enough sweetness to balance out the light hops. It's truly refreshing and a quintessential Oktoberfestbier. (Of course, nothing else in this wedding is German and importing twelve-ounce bottles from across the Atlantic isn't exactly sustainable, but I refuse to dwell upon this fact any longer than this parenthetical statement). Our second choice isn't technically an Oktoberfestbier, though to it's credit it doesn't claim to be: Redhook Late Harvest. A classic American red ale, it was full flavored yet smooth; should be a great choice to go with dinner, especially if the weather is on the cooler side. Also, it's from New Hampshire; the connection should be obvious.

Now, I suppose this also an appropriate time to wax nostalgic over my halcyon days as a study abroad student and my October excursion to Munich and the Hofbrauhaus, a madcap adventure that I'm sure was entirely unique to me and my buddy Adam and that no other college student experienced in the years leading up to, or the years following, that fateful trip where I drank beer out of comically gigantic glasses with 2,000 other American and English college students and which is undeniably the most authentic experience one can possibly have in a foreign country. But I won't mention it, because it has little to do with my big gay wedding 12 years later. Although I am now vaguely inspired to start a new blog all about the utterly unique and unprecedented experiences I had in college...

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The Real Meaning of Nonplussed

We are now projecting attendance in the 80-88 range. Down from 105 last week (and as many as 115 earlier this summer). I guess this is the double-edged sword of a "destination" wedding. It's plenty of people to have a good time - but still feels a little disappointing.

The upside is, I am no longer the least bit stressed about the budget. The downside is, I'm worried that the scale of some of our choices (especially the tent) is too big for this party now.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Loosen Your Belts, Visitors

The primary reason we wanted to get married in Durham is that we live here - being the control freaks we are, we couldn't imagine planning a distant wedding (even though it might have benefited our mental health). The second reason is that we could stretch our money much, much farther here than we could in New York or Connecticut.

The third reason - almost as important as the first two - is that Durham is a food mecca, one of the real centers of the farm-to-table movement. Not only have we striven to make our wedding embody those principles (most of the food will have traveled only a few miles, and much of it only a few yards), but we really want to encourage our out-of-town guests to experience some of the culinary treasures that Durham and Chapel Hill have to offer.

But you don't have to take our word for it! Bon Appetit is calling Durham-Chapel Hill "America's Foodiest Small Town!"

We included a big guide to our favorite Durham food-and-drink spots with the invitation, so that guests could plan their dining itinerary in advance. (How many times have you arrived in an unfamiliar town for a wedding only to end up eating in the hotel or at the diner across the street?)

I have reproduced our guide below (with links!) and added some more suggestions that couldn't fit in the print version. It's going to be a busy weekend, so plan and call ahead!

Piedmont is our favorite restaurant. Local, fresh, seasonal food inspired by French and Italian country cuisine. Superb wine and cocktail list. Also great for brunch. Reservations required 919-683-1213.

Brightleaf Square. This tobacco warehouse was one of the first turned into a shopping and dining destination. On Friday evenings there is live music in the picturesque courtyard, and locals are really raving about newly opened Piazza Italia, especially the gelato. However, do not fail to cross the street to The Federal for the best fries and French-Mexican-pub-grub in Durham and a terrific selection of local brews. Or, go around the corner to Pop’s (919-956-7677) on Peabody Street, a trattoria and pizzeria focused on local ingredients and housed in an old laundry.

Rue Cler is a new and very popular French restaurant and bakery just steps away from the Marriott, great for lunch, dinner or just an espresso. Reservations suggested 919-682-8844.

American Tobacco Campus. Across from the Durham Bulls park, the ATC has several restaurants with comfortable outdoor seating. We like Tyler’s Taproom with its extensive beer list, good pub food and always-crowded poolroom.

Pizza Palace is our local pizza joint in an old barn with a huge picture of Elvis in the window and some of the best New York pizza outside the boroughs. No, seriously.

Front Street. There are several restaurants right across the street from the Courtyard including cheap Chinese and Mexican, should you have a craving. For something very nice, we recommend Papa’s Grille, an upscale Greek-influenced restaurant for dinner or drinks in its elegant bar (Reservations suggested 919-383-8502). The Front Street Café serves excellent salads and panini at lunch time and delicious cinnamon rolls in the morning.

Ninth Street. Choices abound in this pedestrian-friendly old-fashioned shopping neighborhood. For breakfast try Elmo’s Diner for eggs and country ham or the Mad Hatter’s Bakeshop for croissants and pastries. For lunch or dinner we recommend Vin Rouge (Reservations required 919-416-0406), a classic French bistro, Blu Seafood & Bar (919-286-9777), or Dain’s Place for some of the best burgers in town. The newest addition to the neighborhood is Ox & Rabbit, a soda shop straight out of the 1950s.

Ninth Street is also home to probably Durham's most famous restaurant, the Magnolia Grill, the temple - if not the birthplace - of New Southern Cuisine. This place has been listed on countless "Best Of" lists since the 1980s, and the restaurant and its owners are multiple James Beard Award nominees and winners.

Watts Grocery. The restaurant owned by the chef catering our wedding, also featuring new interpretations of Southern classics and Southern twists on bistro favorites. Great for brunch or dinner. Stop by late night for some hushpuppies or red velvet cake at the bar (Reservations suggested 919-416-5040). And when you’re finished, head next door to the Green Room, the dive bar from “Bull Durham.”

In the Forest Hills neighborhood just south of downtown (nothing is far in our little city), is the small culinary empire of Scott Howell. The flagship restaurant is Nana's, where Howell's years of apprenticeship under David Bouley are really evident. Next door, Howell has recently opened an excellent and interesting wood-fired pizzeria called Rockwood Filling Station. On the same block, Howell runs an unimpressive Texas-style barbecue shop, for unknown reasons.

For a mix of local seafood and flown-in fish prepared in local styles, a funky Durham spot is Bennett Point Grill. A bit out of the way, but well worth it for the good, inexpensive food and relaxed vibe. Nearby is Bennett Place, historic farmhouse and site of the largest surrender of the Civil War. Bennett Point and Bennett Place juxtapose important, interesting elements of Carolina culture. Make it a daytrip!

Chapel Hill also has enough destination dining to fill an entire blog of its own. Sticking near to the Franklin Street corridor (the main axis through town), you'll encounter A Southern Season, the Angkor Wat of food shops, and its cafe The Weathervane; the Lantern, dedicated to local ingredients but adding an uncommon Asian flare and speakeasy-like lounge in the back; and Crook's Corner, a true Southern classic as evidenced by the constant crowds.

Some of you will not be satisfied with tasting only the barbecue we serve you at the reception, and we hope some will take this trip to North Carolina as a porcine pilgrimage. There are countless mediocre barbecue joints claiming to be authentic, but only two we really recommend. Allen & Son serves archetypal eastern barbecue done perfectly along with delicious Brunswick Stew in Chapel Hill. Dillard's serves an amazing kind of barbecue that is unique to Durham and found nowhere else - absolutely memorable, but closed on Sunday.

Once you have eaten your way through all these suggestions, you will be ready to move down here and live by us. That's when we'll start talking about the best Indian, Thai, Japanese and Mexican food in the area!

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Crafty!


For each weekend left until the wedding, we have little projects, mostly arts and crafts. Thankfully, we know that all the really big stuff is covered (catering, venue, music, ceremony). I'm glad we got those things out of the way so we could feel free to try some slightly outlandish (for us) things that might fail, knowing they are of minor importance.

Our first project was actually rather successful. We are using the very traditional two-card seating system. Each guest will pick up an "escort card" upon entering the reception tent, and then at each seat will be a "place card." I believe that giving people specific seating assignments helps alleviate the awkwardness of choosing your spot at a "mixed" table of friends and strangers.

It only came to mind recently that this system doesn't exactly lend itself to an outdoor wedding. Lots of little pieces of paper flying around is neither charming nor particularly "green." Fortunately, we are not the first people to seek a way to hold those little cards down.

Somewhere in my obsessive scouring of the internet's matrimonial treasures, I found a picture of an escort table crisscrossed with ribbon. It looked quite lovely – very formal, and a bit more interesting than some of the simpler options. I filed it away in my mind, but later – couldn't remember where I had seen it.

Fortunately, this project is more popular as a bulletin board than as a tabletop, so applicable examples and instructions were widely available. Also, Michael and I – although not artsy/craftsy – are also not total idiots. Thanks to the crafts store that bears my fiancé's name, we were able to assemble enough ribbon, scrap booking supplies and double-sided tape (no hot glue guns - that's a serious level of commitment) to make this happen.

The downside of this project is that I spent hours looking for the escort-table idea that I had remembered but failed to bookmark. In doing so, I saw so many - dozens upon dozens! - of great place card ideas. I felt so inferior to all these creative folks! I realized how many cool, creative projects we hadn't even tried. But I didn't want to change course. A simple, utilitarian display is infinitely more "our style" than any cool deployment of corks, pine cones, seashells or origami.

And I am sure that no one will show up to our wedding having just spent hours clicking through galleries at The Knot or MS Weddings. I hope not, anyway!

Update: Look what somebody else posted today (!): http://tinyurl.com/682455

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No Postage Required if Mailed in the United States


I started to worry about seating charts. As in many things, I wanted to get a head start on what I know from experience can be a complicated and tedious task.

So, we developed a system. Using color-coded Post-It notes, we began arranging guests at 13 tables. It was fun at first. Give me a yellow! (Confirmed attendee.) Give me a blue! (Expected, but not confirmed). We need two purples over here! (Seat fillers, like at the Oscars.)

Unfortunately, fun turned to frustrating quickly. Do you want to know why - and how you can help?

Because we are waiting for 98 RSVPs! I know, I know - you have 9 days still to reply. But why wait?! Give us a hand people, send them in - especially if we don't know if we are holding 0, 2, 4 or 6 seats for you!

So, we tried and tried to figure out a seating chart and all the possible permutations of classmates, distant relatives and political confederates. As you can see from the visual evidence on the right, we eventually hit a wall and - shamefully! - resorted to drowning our sorrows in fruity cocktails.

Keep us out of rehab! Send your postage-paid RSVP cards today!

(n.b., These fruity cocktails are not a preview of what will be served at our wedding reception.)

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