Thursday, July 31, 2008

Well, Would You Look at That?!

We have already previewed the cool, stylish, eminently helpful info sheet that will be enclosed with our invitations. Those bad boys have since been redesigned and vastly improved (thanks, Dave!) and are headed by FTP to the offset printer as we speak.

For those of you who cannot wait a week, or those of you who won't be getting an invitation (sorry - we're just not that into you), Organic Gardening magazine has published a two-page round-up of cool spots in the now-hot town of Durham, NC! It even features our wedding site and caterer . . .

I don't know whether I should be sad or happy that this is 90% identical to what we'll be sending out. It does have the effect of making us look particularly uncreative. Then again, we did produce our thing first!

Also, our maps will be far more useful. These cartoony schematic maps make me a little crazy. If one were navigating town in a helicopter, rather than a rented car, they would do some good. And it's not just magazines that fake the maps - chambers of commerce across the country are doing the same thing. Let me just say, our Cape Cod "map" caused us more than a negligible amount of heartache.

And, maybe it's not Organic Gardening's mission to do so, but they have missed an important part of Durham culture - even for the casual visitor - by failing to mention baseball at all. One of the very coolest things about this town is its devotion to the Bulls, which far outstrips its support of the Blue Devils.


Parting Gifts

I hate terrorists.

Oh, I'm sure some of them are really nice if you get to know them before they blow something up. And certainly their mothers' probably think they're sweet. But those adoring maternal types might think differently if they realized how their terrorizing children are mucking up my perfect day. (You'll see why in a minute).

Now as many of you know, one of the customary wedding-y things is to give a little thank you for trekking all the way out here and buying us a place-setting gift to all of your guests. A sort of thank you for playing, you've been great sort of dilly. These are usually a) edible, b) emblazened with the couple's name and date, lest you forget who they are or to send them an anniversary present, c) breakable, or d) all of the above. Emerson and I, not wanting to be left out, have been agonizing over what to give. Weddings we've attended have had everything from candies, to flower bulbs, to custom beer bottles. But unless you own an engraving company that makes wedding trinkets, the cost quickly increases.

Plus, we have a pathological desire to be different.

And since everything else in this wedding seems to be homemade, why not the parting gift? We weighed our options and came up with, what I think is the coolest idea ever. Recently I've taken to pickling (hey, everyone needs a hobby). I've pickled everything I can get my hands on at the farmer's market and as far as edible, inexpensive, DIY gifts go, you can't go wrong with pickles! A mason jar, a cute hand-written label, a little raffia around the rim and voila! All you need is some fresh produce and penchant for boiling vinegar and you've got yourself a thoughtful, unique, and useful gift.

Except there are terrorists.

Since nearly everyone is flying and with the airlines getting all bitchy and beginning to charge for checked luggage, we're betting that a good number of guests will not be checking any bags. And since some jackass terrorist somewhere got the bright idea to hypothesize that he could make a bomb out of mixing liquids, guess what you can't bring onto a plane? Pickles. Which are floating in a sea of liquid.

So instead of spending the next 72 days slaving over a hot stove making pickles and jam that people are either not going to take or going to take because they are polite but will leave in the hotel room or are going to take but have them confiscated by the TSA, I'm going to bitch about how much I hate terrorists and their imaginary, hypothetical, unrealistic plots to destroy us, and the irrational, infantile, pointless steps our retarded government is taking to make me "feel safe" when in reality all it is doing is inconveniencing me and RUINING MY PERFECT DAY!


Friday, July 25, 2008

No Wonder Postal Workers Go Crazy!

We are shopping for stamps. Our reply card - because we are pennywise - is a postcard.

Our postage options for this item are:

Tropical Fruit
Bighorn Sheep plus American Clock.


Why, Postmaster? Why? We would have settled for a plain American flag, or a white rectangle with a number on it.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Of Vase and Pens

I may have announced already - and somewhat triumphantly - that we are past the "planning" stage and entering the "execution." (The equivocation is intentional.)

It has actually been rather difficult to write entertaining, interesting and meaningful blog posts during this phase. It's hard to imagine that anyone would want to hear about our quest for the right flower bowls (footed compote or tole basket?), choosing the right pens for addressing invitations (brown ink - fine point - but not too fine), or yet another disquisition on matching shoes to belts (although - I GOT 'EM!).

This final phase is what separates grooms from Groomzillas.

One, of course, wishes to measure one's neuroses against others'. In this way, one could detect a "norm." There are virtually no friends, colleagues or (certainly) mothers who will ever tell you to your face that you're being crazy or - likeliest of all - annoying. I find myself wondering, "Is that a phony smile? Or are my envelopes genuinely fascinating?"

It is the beauty of the blogosphere, I suppose. No one will read these ramblings unless they are truly amazed (or worried?) by the involuted decision-making apparatus of this groom's addled brain.

To summarize: this week we finalized our invitation design, ordered envelopes and a return-address stamp, bought pens and ink, picked up our SHOES, paid the deposit for musicians, booked bachelor party travel, rescheduled our dance lesson and stared glassy-eyed at the shelves of a craft store.

This is life in the minutiae lane!


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Chuppah

It's not just beautiful in principle that Massachusetts allows all loving, committed couples to get married. Massachusetts also has Cape Cod, which is arguably the most gorgeous place in the USA for a wedding.

Last weekend we attended our first two-groom wedding, and it took place at the Heritage Museum and Gardens in scenic Sandwich. Andrew and Ethan are true-blue New Englanders, and I would describe the Cape as a setting custom-made for them. (I would not describe Cape roads as custom-made for Michael behind the wheel of a convertible Mustang, but that's a story for another day.)

I'll admit to being a little nervous about going to a gay wedding for the first time. My fear, I suppose, was that I would see people treating it as a "pretend" wedding, which is a fear I have about our wedding. In my anxious mind I hear patronizing voices say, "Aw, isn't that cute." There are still some people close to us who hesitate to use the W word, preferring to say, "big day," or just "event."

I was not just relieved but thrilled to see that my fears were unfounded. The wedding was
absolutely authenticated by the grooms' obvious and total devotion to one another. There was no one who wasn't swept up in the feeling.
Michael read a surprisingly poetic passage from the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision known as Goodridge, the decision which made marriage equality a reality in that state. He couldn't quite keep his composure (he may kill me for posting this picture), but that turned into a lovely moment, with the grooms and their attendants and all the congregation feeling the power and liberation that had been achieved. There was nary a dry eye.

The reception was among the most fun I've yet enjoyed. Again, it was the grooms' total joy and love that gave the party such festivity. I am still glowing, five days later. The emotional pinnacle was Ethan's father's toast, delivered with an unrelenting catch in his voice - I believe there were more tears than champagne in my glass. What I experienced reinforced so strongly that a wedding is truly an act by and for families.

I feel as if we've crossed a threshold now. Not only are we on the inexorable Black Diamond slope toward our own wedding, but we've witnessed first-hand the institution we desire so much to join. It just occurs to me now that Andrew and Ethan are my new role models! They are not the first to blaze this trail, but for me they are my nearest and favorite exemplars. What a privilege it is to follow their steps.

Thanks to Jen and her mad skillz (and her magic camera) for these snaps!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Little Soft-Shoe Gentle Sway

As you may have gathered, we are not having a traditional wedding. Well, let me rephrase that: we are having a traditional wedding in the sense that we are retaining all the important elements of the marriage rite that connect us to our religious and cultural heritage. We are not retaining a good portion of the frivolities that come with the matrimonial industrial complex such as cake cutting, wedding parties, DJs with microphones and the chicken dance.

However for some reason, which neither one of us can remember, we kept the "first dance". Probably because it truly is a first dance, since Emerson and I have never danced together. Ever. That's not how we roll.

But nothing we do is ever easy. Our song is not a Bryan Adams pop ballad; it is Gershwin tune from an obscure 50s movie musical starring Bob Fosse, so two dudes swaying back and forth with their hands on each others' hips like they're dancing to "Yesterday" in the gym at their junior prom ain't gonna cut it.

Enter Yuliya...

Last week we sucked it up and laid out a hunk of cash to Yuliya, a Ukrainian baby doll who is going to teach us how to Foxtrot and choreograph a little routine for us. It'll be like if Pasha danced with Dmitry, only if Pasha and Dmitry were ten years older, 40 pounds heavier and didn't know how to dance. If we were in front of the judges, Mary Murphy would be like: "The way you're moving into your moves like your fall-away split pivot over-spin into your throw-away? Is it working for me? No, it isn't. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to kick you off the hot tamale train."

Anyway, as you can imagine, there are, um, problems. Mostly with Emerson. First of all, I know a thing or two about Dance. I took ballroom dance classes in college and used to go salsa dancing in grad school (read "used to go" as "went once"). Emerson, on the other hand, has two gigantic left feet. So with my loads of experience and Emerson's lack of talent, I am a natural choice to lead.

But all of you astute readers out there are saying "Wait a sec! If you lead, doesn't that mean Emerson has to follow?!" Oh yes, boys and girls. It does. And I'm not convinced Emerson has followed anything in his life. Instructions. Directions. The clearly marked trails in the woods. Yuliya is not convinced either. We're trying to practice our one-two-quick-quicks and he's dragging me around, looking over his shoulder, paranoid that I'm going to dance him into a chair. And I just might do if he continues to be such a bad dancer.

So if we survive these dance lessons which are clearly a metaphor for our relationship vis a vis trust, control, communication and compatibility, we will have an awesome first dance. If not, one of us will clearly end up dead.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Why Get Married?

It's not uncommon for us to be asked why we are getting married in North Carolina. From friends and family as well as strangers. I suppose the reasoning goes, why get married if the government doesn't recognize it; if it isn't legal? Sometimes the question is a little more crass - why get married if it doesn't really mean anything?

Most people don't get asked that question. They'll get asked, why are you marrying so-and-so? Or why haven't you two gotten married yet? Or, do you plan on getting married someday? But not, why get married if it's pointless?

As a result, I have had the opportunity over the last five years to think about marriage a lot, which has required that I make explicit what most people intuitively understand about marriage, but never examine or articulate. Despite this silence, there is something about marriage that makes us want to go so far as to amend the Constitution over it.

This is a good opportunity for me to try to explain, for you and for myself, exactly why Emerson and I are spending so much time and energy and money on what a majority of the country sees as nothing but a big party. So.... why are we getting married?

Because marriage is important.

And contrary to what you might hear from the ironically named Focus on the Family, it is not important because of babies. Certainly babies are a key component but when you want to create a family you don't start from scratch, building one up de novo, just like GM doesn't reinvent the wheel every time they design a new car. I already have a family and so does Emerson. The second we get married, though, we have created a new family, not from the mysterious ether of our love, but by joining our previously independent families together.

The family really is the basic building block of society; just look at any of the numerous European interbred monarchies and you can get a glimpse of why uniting two individuals unites whole swathes of people. And that is important because we are fragile organisms. We need other people to survive. If something happens to one of us, we are not living in a vacuum, a happy unit of two charging against the world. I no longer only have the support of my family, but his family as well, which is, of course, no longer my family and his family but our family. And that support is not really optional. Families, unlike knitting clubs and drinking buddies, have a binding responsibility for one another.

That is how I view marriage. Marriage is responsibility. And not just for us to be responsible for each other but for society to be responsible for us.

And the reason that we are getting married, even if it doesn't "mean anything" in North Carolina, is that marriage is not a private matter between two consenting adults who should have the right to do whatever the hell they want. Marriage is a public affair. We certainly don't need a marriage certificate to tell the world that love and care for each other, or that we plan to spend the rest of our lives inseparable. Spend three minutes with us and I think you'll figure it out.

No, we are getting married because we are asking for you to be responsible for our union. And that's an intuitive thing. If your best friend tells you he's breaking up with his girlfriend, you'd be curious and maybe a little concerned but it's his life and it isn't working out. But if he tells you he's thinking of divorcing his wife? He better have a damn good reason. Emerson is not my boyfriend. And we want you to know that.

For the rest of the world, society is ready to jump in and do just that, and that's why we have both civil and religious marriage. But Emerson and I don't have that formalized support. Our community (in the form of the State of North Carolina) won't offer that to us, but that cannot and will not stop us from asking for it. If it can't be from the state then it will be from our own community of family and friends, and before God (and on a goat farm).

We are also not forging a new path, creating something new and different and revolutionary. What we are doing is deeply rooted in tradition and in the human psyche. And as we are asking society to take responsibility for us, we in turn have a responsibility to enter into marriage. Marriage is so vital to human society, so vital to the kingdom of God, that we cannot allow ourselves to be given a free pass from that immense responsibility. The "benefits" we would get from legal marriage are of little importance when you compare them to pleasure and sacrifice and comfort and responsibility of entering fully into the most ancient and sacred of human traditions.

Emerson is not my boyfriend and he is not my partner. But I cannot truly call him my husband until that promise is witnessed. The wedding rites will not be created fresh to fit our particular wants precisely because marriage is not something that we desire; it is a necessity. And it is not within the power of the government to deny us participation in that rite because it transcends the state as it transcends us.

And that is why we are getting married. Well, that and the kick-ass party.


Thursday, July 10, 2008


So, since we got engaged . . . Okay, I'll stop there. I was about to tell a lie.

Since well before we got engaged, I have wanted a brass quintet to play for the wedding. Through all our many hair-brained ideas and scouted locations, I imagined live brass in each of them. Almost nothing could be more extravagant, and make even a little picnic on a goat farm into an elegant and uplifting occasion.

Well, we got one! Miraculously, we can afford it.

But that's hardly half the story.

I would say I know more about modern and contemporary chamber music than the average person. Which is not saying much. I am certainly no connoisseur. Those people are crazy. But I know enough to name a half-dozen important composers I admire and pieces that move me. I have known for years that I wanted a brass quintet with the talent and flexibility to play something fresh and unexpected. No Pachelbel, no Vivaldi, no Titanic.

I thought that graduate students (or talented college students) would be ideal for this. They are hungry for opportunities to perform and make a little money, and they have a still-youthful passion for music that might broaden their palate. And, let me tell you that "contact your local college" is the most prevalent piece of advice in budget/DIY wedding guides. So, obviously people have done this with some success!

Knowing that our local "kudzu league" university has a pretty strong music program and a renowned student orchestra, I sent an email to their student president (it operates as both a curriculum and a club). He replied within a couple of days, and forwarded my request to the whole wind orchestra. I got two nibbles from individual musicians (a trombonist and a flautist, which . . . anyway), and one very promising reply from a young man leading a brass quintet of his own!

As you can imagine, I replied right away, and enthusiastically. But then - surprise, surprise - only silence for several weeks. I left messages on his cell and at his home, I sent probably six emails. Finally, we spoke.

All my hopes for a cheap-yet-boundlessly-creative student ensemble were dashed.

Not only was this group of students wildly more expensive than the highest estimated price I had encountered for professionals, but they really couldn't play anything other than standard boring wedding fare. Or, more accurately, "Faire," as they also specialized in Renaissance weddings.

Finding myself back at square one, I followed up with some students who had replied to my initial request, but found silence there as well. Undoubtedly, because it's summer, they were off doing exciting things in Malawi and at various law firms.

I contacted a well-known trumpeter, recommended to me by our dear and lovely soprano vocalist (more about her later), but after a month of waiting, he replied that he would be playing another wedding that day, and that three of the five members of his ensemble would be otherwise engaged, as well.

Finally, seeing no other options - and coming to peace with a brass-less wedding - I called the music booker recommended by our caterer. As you can imagine, lacking faith in our caterer, I had avoided taking this recommendation. I assumed the booker would offer us something both expensive and uninspiring.

Oh, was I wrong.

The booker was absolutely delightful. Professional, respectful, prompt and efficient. when I told her our budget she firmly committed to find us a quintet for "a lot less," and she did. Hallelujah!

But what I had not foreseen was that my above-average yet quite-limited knowledge of music would be called upon immediately, and quickly proven inadequate. The quintet needs a set list in just a few days, at the same time we send our deposit. We have an idea what "sound" we want, but can we (could we ever) possibly come up with a specific list of pieces?

Let me admit that very little good work has come out of my office these past two days, although I look as studious as a philomath in my office with the door closed. Am I busily writing proposals? No, sir. I am listening to the great works of Adams, Barber, Copland, Dahl, Ewald, Ives, Ligeti and dozens of obscure others, in order of descending popularity.

I am trying to guess which string quartets, which saxophone concertos, which piano sonatas will easily and beautifully transmogrify into brass chorales. Of course, I have no idea what this group of musicians can play or are willing to arrange or learn.

But there are two things I am sure of: we are having a brass quintet at our wedding, and I know more about modern chamber music than I ever imagined, but still a little less than those nutty fanatics.



Last weekend, another pair of dear friends came down from New York to keep us company. One will be a reader during our wedding ceremony, and the other will be designing our invitations. We have written a lot about his talent already.

I suppose, as of this week, I shouldn't say, "he will be designing," but "he is designing." The work of design is intense and arduous. We spent three hours on Saturday mostly looking at fonts and typing our names over and over. Minute differences in the shape of the serif or the height of the small-caps make a visible difference.

Awesomely, we found the "look" that suits us and our celebration best. It fits our country style, patriotic motif and old-fashioned-casual aesthetic. I wish I could share it! But I'll wait until the invitations are in the mail, so I don't spoil the surprise.

Meanwhile, I'll share something cool that's also going in the envelope.

We know that many couples like to provide their out-of-town guests with guidance and information. How else would they know where to brunch?! But our impulse is to plan, plan and plan some more. So, with the help of our designer, we'll be making a cool orientation packet to send along with the invitation, and here's a little snapshot:


Thursday, July 3, 2008


So I have been to a fair number of weddings this summer. The time it takes me to go from entering the wedding to crying tears of happiness is proportional to the number of days until my wedding, as the various brides and wedding guests can surely attest to. Probably a photographer or two as well. I am increasingly worried for my own pending nuptials.

I didn't used to be like this. I was a cynical, heartless viper when it came to all things treacle*. But now, for the love of God, I am an emotional wreck. I'm even crying right now. Seriously. It's a good thing I have my office to myself. I am truly afraid that I am not going to be able to get through the processional without my face becoming puffy and bloated from the floodgates of joyful emotion. So I need a pro-active solution

I could try yoga or meditation or some other new-agey homeopathic touchy-feely garbage. But not only am I highly skeptical of anything remotely connected to mindful breathing or southern California, that stuff is, like, time-consuming. I believe in the quick fix; better living through modern chemistry. And here-in lies the problem.

They don't make don't-cry-at-your-own-wedding drugs. I know. I've looked.

I suppose social anxiety medicine would work but I know a guy who took propranolol before a public speaking event and, well, let's just say it was less than ideal. So maybe I'll just pop a few xanies right before and hope for the best. It's not like I have to remember anything more complicated than "I do."

*This might not be entirely accurate. Some of you may remember the time(s) when I (theater geek alert!) sobbed uncontrollably when Gavroche was shot. And maybe Fantine. And others. But I did not, I repeat, did not cry during Miss Saigon. A boy must have standards.