Pullout Jan 15, 2014 at 4:00 am

Advice from a Professional Asshole

You’re going to be too tired after the reception. Danny Hellman


Some great advice, Dan. However, in response to #5, I just wanted to point out that having your parents pay for most of the wedding does not necessarily mean you are still a child. There are some people who have spent most of their 20s investing in their future by going to school and trying to receive PhDs or MDs or whatever is necessary to make it in their field. In this process, they may have gone into some debt on school already and have had parents offer to pay for a wedding in order that they don't elope and/or go into more debt before starting their lives together...
@1: If you're asking your parents to pay for things in your life, then your relationship is not really hitting "independent and equal adults." And certainly any parents ponying up five figures can reasonably state that they want a say in how things are run, whether that's a wedding or an education or a downpayment on a house. (The same goes if you're paying for the wedding but someone else has a very specific fantasy they want you to realize for them.)

There are parents who are willing to be financially generous and pay for the wedding, or toward a mortgage downpayment or whatever, without attaching any strings. But usually in life the rule is that the person paying calls the shots. The answer to all letters to advice columnists that go "My parents are paying for the wedding and they want me to (blank)" or "they won't agree to pay for X" is "So pay for the wedding yourself." If you aren't willing to do that, then Dan's rule about not really being an adult applies.
re 7: Hey, some of us like marzipan.

re 10: I can't be the only person to have had sex on my wedding night. Maybe people need to take a note from Miss Manners about leaving the reception already?
And to merge points one and two together: some sort of informal gathering the day before--think picnic in the park--can be a nice touch if a lot of people are coming from away. This lets scattered relatives and classmates run into each other, meet the bride or groom, etc. Planning a four day weekend of Very Special Events is way too much.
Hear hear on avoiding destination-wedding-ing. My nephew had two destination events for his one wedding. First he and his man got married at Edith Wharton's estate, then they held the reception at an all-inclusive resort on the Mexican Riviera. A bit of disapprobation when I declined the invitation, but they're divorced now, so there.
Point 9: Compromise with hosted beer and wine. I'm not paying for everyone to get sloshed.
Could not agree more. To insert a further note of cynicism, given the divorce rate , are you sure you want to spend 5 figures on a few hours?

My advice (and if you don't listen to Dan, why the fuck would you listen to me) is to have a micro wedding. Immediate family and very very few of your closest friends. Sounds harsh? My parents got marred in 1957. I was born several years after that. One day in about 1977 I was looking through their wedding album and watched their 8mm movie. How many people at their wedding were still around? Virtually none. Ditto my disastrous wedding in the late 80s. Apart from family, not a single person is in my life.
Anyone who has a destination wedding should know that most of their guests aren't going to come. It's always been my impression that was the point of a destination wedding - having a small, intimate group of friends and family present without having to worry about inviting your college roommate.

Totally agree on the cake. It's easy to go way overboard on a wedding cake that probably isn't going to be very good and nobody's going to remember. I mean, does anyone actually LIKE wedding cake?

And totally agree on the hosted bar - at least beer and wine, maybe a couple of signature cocktails if you can swing it. And as a guest, if there's a tip jar out for the bartender, tip them!
I appreciate this useful, unbiased advice - with the exception of the (obviously personal) vendetta against marzipan. I'm skeptical of marriage - and downright suspicious of weddings - but I still think you should be able to have whatever kind of fucking cake you want.

My guess is that Dan is just a really big fan of white cake with vanilla frosting, and is disappointed whenever a couple's creative cakery deprives him of it.
@8: agree on the destination wedding part. I got married in HI, knowing that it naturally pared down the list to closest family/friends. Totally understood if people couldn't make it, and expected that. Just have a local reception party. Wedding was our day we invited others to share in, not a party we're hosting for the benefit of others. Don't blame the couple for you going to a wedding you don't want to go to; instead, politely decline.

Also re $ from parents to help pay for it. That should be a gift. If parents can't give it to child no strings attached, they shouldn't give it at all.
If you're going to serve booze of any kind, PLEASE make sure you're serving an appropriate amount of food. We paid for food for all 200 friends and family, but the caterers "lost" half of the food while serving all of the booze. The food showed up at the end of the reception and went home with my parents, because wow, who doesn't love gross leftover room-temp crostini and salmon patties? There was at least one almost-DUI we know of among the guests, and I left the reception drunk and frantic for food (Apparently one should pack an entire picnic basket for just the bride and groom because people will give you booze all day long but no food).
I'd like to marry marzipan.
@13, weddings are neither luxury items nor super-expensive. They can be done for next to nothing if you have a friend who will officiate for you and you just serve sandwiches and ice cream to a few guests.

Of course, most people want to do more than that. But you can have a lovely wedding with great food and a pretty location and live music and nice clothes for well under $10,000.
No mention of photography? Here are my suggested don'ts: 1) Don't waste your money on extensive wedding portraiture. Ask your married friends when was the last time that they looked at their marriage photo album. Chances are, if they've looked at it at all, it was on an anniversary or when they were mourning their divorce. It's a good idea to get portraits of the wedding couple, of the wedding party, and of the respective families. 2) Don't hand out disposable film cameras hoping that you'll get enough good candids. The kids tend to take the cameras and waste the film. The cost/benefit ratio is low. 3. Don't forget to ask your guests to send you their photographs after the event. Chances are that someone who brought his or her own camera will take the photos that you'll cherish in the future.
I think Dan has it right- can't pay for the party then you're still a child.
@17: Or....can't pay for the party? Then you are poor & should either be content shacking up...or elope. (The latter is not an option for us homos who live in states where we can't legally marry whether we have the means to throw a party or not.)

Dan, prior to your wedding, you and Terry didn't have carefully and painstakingly (and expensively) applied makeup and one-of-a-kind up-do's at the hair salon, as many women do. 'Fuck first' is great advice overall - except for the bride on her wedding day.

(But then I suppose she could always fuck first thing in the morning, prior to the salon. Oh well, never mind ...)

@19 That's what my husband and I did. Best decision ever!
I've got no problem with destination weddings if the message comes through loud and clear that there is no punishment for not coming.

One of my nieces was married in Greece. The place they picked was very important to them personally. Her mom dad and sister came, and two aunts who were looking for a good excuse to go to Europe that summer. Nobody else in our large, close family even considered going.

And there was zero fallout. Niece didn't blame anyone for not wanting to spend thousands to come to her wedding, and family didn't blame niece for wanting to have wedding at a place that really mattered to the two of them. Everybody happy.

The important point is not that it's a destination wedding, but that nobody is an asshole about it.
@ 18 Or have a cheap party. Our wedding in the early ninties cost about $800, and that's including our clothes. Your guests want somewhere comfortable to sit, something tasty to eat, and something to drink. Provide that, and everything else is just extras. It can be just as good a reception with burgers, watermelon and beer, and music from your ipod and borrowed speakers, if that's what you can afford.
If your parents are paying for your wedding, that means they're following tradition (one side pays for the ceremony and reception, the other covers the booze), not that you're a child. At least you did better than the Wedding Do's list.
No wait, you actually did worse than the Wedding Do's. There is no way in hell anybody should hold up their hands in defeat and invite people they don't want at their wedding. Leave the exes in the past where they belong.
90+% of wedding cake is terrible. Truth. Just serve a good dessert. Caterers make amazing desserts in single servings. We heard "thank for just serving a dessert," a lot after our wedding.
We sort of followed your cake advice--with the "groom's cake," a simple chocolate stout cake that we ordered from the Barrington Brewery. (Admittedly, you just saw the no destination wedding go out the window.) The main cake was relatively simple, but featured marzipan fruit coming out of a woven cornucopia.
@19 I never understood the elaborate hair/makeup thing. I always liked the idea of looking "like myself," you know? My big sis did her own makeup and had her hair did by my little sis at her wedding.
Plus, bobby pins. Ugh.
Great advice but having an affordable, low-key event can conflict with having sex before. My wife and I worked our asses off the day and morning before our wedding -- hardly up for before-the-big-day banging.
@23 Got no problem with tradition as long as it doesn't suck the life out of mom and dad's retirement just so you can have marzipan fruit coming out of a woven cornucopia (sounds like some kind of fucked up birth scene, but whatever).
@11: "pack an entire picnic basket for just the bride and groom because people will give you booze all day long but no food."

Quoted for truth. Send 'em away early with the picnic basket and everyone will be happier.
Here's what I would add to the list: Don't get really drunk and make an ass of yourself -- this is what the best man or your new sister-in-law is for. Seriously. Drink very moderately and remember to keep some food and water in your belly.

And others are right -- definitely fuck the shit out of each other first thing that morning.
Although marriage is something I consider a DON'T (for ME, anyway--I don't necessarily mean everyone else) thanks, and bless you Dan, for excellent advice once again!
I'm incredibly glad that I got married in 1995 following all(most) of the above rules. Wedding in the little church across the street (with a bell you can ring!) Lunch (cheap catered) in our back yard. Everyone gone home by 8:00. Our only violation?? Tired, very tired post-reception sex before having to get up at 4:00 a.m. to go to Maui...
15 minute ceremony in a garden at the reception site, dinner immediately following, open bar till midnight, oh, and we did it on a friday night, so it didn't tie up anyone's weekend.
Still get thanked 11 years later.
My husband's parents paid for our super-cheap wedding as a wedding gift. If that makes us children, so be it. The sentiment was sweet and appreciated, especially as we were students at the time.
I don't remember much about my wedding, but that was 31 years ago. A wedding is one day in your life. A marriage is every day in the rest of your life. Think about what's important.
Is it just me, or is the groom in that cartoon not getting anywhere near the target? (Unless maybe he's hung like one of those ancient Egyptians?)
@4 I like giving guests the option of seeing a lot of the wedding party before and after. We had an optional group dinner at a restaurant two days before the wedding, when my grandparents got into town, and we invited a lot of people to the rehearsal dinner. We also had (again, optional) brunch at the hotel the day after the wedding. Not everybody came, but it made the closer friends and relatives feel included, and it made up somewhat for having the wedding in a remote-ish place (there were no good options for us--we were asking a lot of people to travel long distances no matter what). But for the wedding night, absolutely, leave the reception after a couple hours so your guests can go home and you can have some time to fuck before you pass out.

@15 Don't bother getting a good photographer unless you're committed to picking out and buying the prints you want. We had an amazing B&W photographer who made our families look like the Kennedys... at least judging from the proofs. My mother and I passed them back and forth in the mail and on holidays but never actually got around to ordering prints until five years later, by which point the photographer had gotten rid of the negatives.
To expand on @4's comment:

Doing an informal event the day before works well for many reasons. You invite your closer friends for a picnic, hike, even a work-party to get the venue set up. Each spouse-to-be's friends met the other partner and friends from the other side of the aisle. Then you've already talked to the people you most want to BEFORE the ceremony, because on the wedding day you don't have enough time and need to chit-chat with Uncle Harry and your second cousin at least a little.

Similarly, before a school reunion, organize a picnic or lunch at a pizza joint beforehand. Invite your 6-8 closest friends who will be in town. Then when you go to the big event with the rubber chicken and cheesy retro music you can focus on dodging the guy who used to beat you up and who is now trying to sell you insurance and chat with those you missed in the afternoon and maybe notice that a few classmates have evolved in the last decade and are now interesting people.

wtf? bummer...

obviously they didn't have enough sex before the wedding.


not even close.

its a shame she has to start faking orgasms before the damn ceremony is even over...
Excellent advice from Dan! Remember (which no bride ever does)that a wedding is to celebrate a very important and solemn occasion, NOT for bride to play queen for a day. Have a wedding you can AFFORD and spend the rest on your new house or future together. Dan should write a book with Miss Manners on how to do a wedding RIGHT.
I never understood the destination wedding thing. The part where you travel to somewhere exotic is called the honeymoon. Why are you inviting your entire family on your honeymoon?
Don't ever use animals as part of the wedding ceremony. The Seattle Mayor used a dog to give away the rings when he married his partner. It was unbearably "cutsy" and everyone was fearful of barking or something worse happening.
make that "cutesy"
We had a happy hour the day before to let all our of town guests mix and mingle with free drinks! That went over very well!

We can ignore the fact that my husband later broke his "monogamous commitment" but cheating on his 9 months pregnant wife... the wedding was a spectacular low key affair and by far the best day of my failed 2 year marriage!
Wow, it looks like somebody got up on the wrong side of the marzipan this morning...
Addendum to #3: Before even getting engaged, a woman taking the pill should use another form of birth control for a while to make sure she likes the way her man smells without the pill's effects. The article below is just one of many.

Don't get married on a holiday day weekend like Memorial, Labor, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or New Years. Those our for us to do what we want, not be stuck in town.
Here's another suggestion on the cake. Any bakery that first asks you if the cake is for a wedding: It's a fucking scam and they are going to up-charge the shit out of you just to make a buck. These are the bakeries that cater to idiots who have no sense of taste or culinary aptitude.

If they start showing you pictures and don't tell you a flavor profile, walk the fuck out.

There are bakeries (like Morpheys/morfies whatever the hell it is?) who will ask you if you are buying a wedding cake, and then they will charge you an arm and a leg. You can literally have multiple people come in and buy separate cakes for the event and have the exact same amount of shit-quality cake for a lesser amount, if you tell them it is for a birthday. There are multiple SHITTY bakeries that will do just that, and they cater the the wedding crowd. Go to a REAL bakery (there are only two in Seattle worth half a damn in my experience--run by the same expert baker/chef--one in W. Seattle and the other on the hill).

And for the record, there are other douche-canoe bakeries that up-charge for a wedding while delivering the same shit-poor cake. I laughed in their faces while loudly deriding their lack of ability cook and walked out on them all.
Re: parents paying for a wedding. Like most people have said, must it be so expensive? My brother paid for his wedding which had a price tag of 70,000 including housing for people who flew in from Europe and Africa, rented cars for some people and rented houses for the same people. It's his first marriage and he didn't want the parents to chip in because they'd hijack it and invite all their really loud and obnoxious old friends. He and his wife split the cost based on who wanted what. It saved them a lot of headaches. If my parents had their way,it would have been a circus with more than 1000 people.

Re 2, anyone been to an Indian wedding or for one of the many ethnicities running around in West Africa? My brother's wedding reception lasted 8 hours not including prep time. Indian and African weddings are hardcore. Thankfully,they provide food and booze to handle all the people you're inevitably related to *in some way*.

Re 6: goes back to my point about 2. When you're related to 75% of the 500 people you're stuck with for 8 hours, you do your damn best to try and make the invites out to the sane ones. For all my brother did,there was still drama. People who weren't invited showed up and caused drama because they weren't invited. People complained about children not being invited and still managed to bring their brats to a wedding that clearly stated on the invite: nobody under 18. Those same people complained that the little bride and groom were allowed in,but their precious brats weren't allowed. There was drama from some aunts that their children weren't asked to be in the bridal train. Trust me on this: crazy at a wedding stops being cute after 30 minutes.

One advice I do have though is this: wait for a couple days before you leave for your honeymoon. My brother and his wife booked their honeymoon a week after the wedding. They got over the adrenaline rush, the exhilaration and spent a week getting used to the fact that they're now stuck together and will still be after their vacation in 'paradise'.
My wife and I got married in our backyard with two friends, one to perform the wedding and one to take pictures. Best fucking decision of our lives. No family bullshit, no parents trying to make it their own version of a perfect wedding, and it only cost the $35 for a marriage license.
@3: You're not the only one to have sex on your wedding night. I did. We were exhausted, husband was drunk, but we had a giant hotel room with a hot tub and there was no way we weren't going to use it. Best sex ever.

For cake, We had cupcakes (salted caramel, plain vanilla or pb/chocolate), but the meal also included some dessert -- I think it was tiramisu. I didn't have any because salted caramel cupcakes. But I do like the idea of other desserts as an option.

Our parents didn't contribute much -- we got a little bit of financial help with some other bills from one set of parents, and my inlaws paid for the rehearsal dinner. I'm glad we did that. We're in our early 30s. We didn't want to ask for parental help. I don't think either set of parents would have tried to be too controlling if they were paying, and we didn't do anything particularly crazy, but it was nice to know that all our decisions really were OUR decisions.
Destination weddings are great for those of us who actually hate people. If we had our wedding in the city a gagillion people would have felt slighted if we didn't invite them. Plus no one freakin lives in the same place anyway. All over the country. So everyone got invites to chilllax with us and do some fun stuff like scuba diving and zip lining, had a literally 3 minute ceremony, paid for a 5 star meal and it was all cheaper than getting married in Seattle AND I didn't have to deal with a big crowd.
Also I totally agree with the parents paying for crap part. I don't want to be beholden to anyone.
You know, Dan, sometimes people have wealthy families even if they themselves have very little money because they've chosen to work in a low income job.

The family paying is not actually ridiculous and you're being a dick if you really believe that.
Number 6 may be the most troll-y thing I've read in quite some time.
Good points but I don't see how we could have possibly snuck in a quickie on the day itself because we were staying with family and constantly surrounded.Quite usual I'd have thought, that either you are staying with people or they are staying with you, or other various ways of having your time taken being host and hostess.

Wedding night we stayed up chatting with friends, and were too tired for boinking. But the morning after - Champagne breakfast and married sex, so lovely. So that's another solution. Been 18 years and I still adore and lust after him.
I agree about the suggestion to ask guests for copies of photos they might have taken...it took about 30 years for my family to finally see and get a copy of THIS amazing shot, taken as my mom and dad (with future grandad in the background) left for their 1963 honeymoon:

About the cake: When I heard a bride say that they would have whatever-that-horrid-semi-solid-matter-is on the cake instead of frosting, and actually said that it was because it "didn't taste as good but it looks better" I thought:

"Now you know where her priorities lie, dude, any second thoughts?"

They will trudge through the rest of their days together, looking good and hopefully enjoying what's on the outside, and not how it tastes or feels.
Great point on fucking before the reception!! Too tired is likely; too trashed even more likely. We had the reception at our house. I was doing OK as a poster boy groom until as the evening wore on somebody found the stash of Jameson left over from a St Paddy's Day bash, and then someone else pulled out a hash pipe . . . & I was passed out cold by midnight. Not very romantic, eh? Dan, wish you were there!
@70: I believe the horror you refer to is fondant. My personal opinion is that no respectable baker uses it.

For those of you who say that the whole point of a destination wedding is to avoid inviting people without slighting them, trust me, they're still slighted because they're perfectly aware of why you're doing it. Admittedly, they're less slighted because they know they can't be the only ones left out, but they know that you are assholes.
Personally, I say fuck weddings. But yes, thank you for the wonderful advice.
@72 Correct: Just because it's non-toxic doesn't mean it's food.
Seconding the "don't leave for the honeymoon the next day" motion. Planning a wedding can be months of stress, the week before there are so many loose ends to tie up that sleep is minimal, you've got people coming in from all over who will hug and kiss you with their regional germs you don't have immunity to...I had friends who left for Tahiti (137 hours of travel) the day after the wedding; they did nothing but sleep and nurse their head colds for the first four of seven days in their $500/night bungalow. Go home, sleep a lot, eat a bunch of vegetables. Sort out a little of the mess and write some thank you notes so that you don't come back from paradise to a huge stack of chores.
Not that he doesn't give some reasonable advice, but if Savage really knew anything about love and had the capacity to see anything besides sex as worthwhile, he'd realize that everything was backwards. The only thing a bride and groom need to plan is to make the committment; all the problems he describe stem from the notion that the bride and groom need to plan something else, and are necessarily hosts of some elaborate party.
For instance, the reason parents host receptions and spend money on the ceremony is because they love their children, and if the bride and groom aren't childish, they won't be so petulant as to describe those generous plans -however at odds they may be with their own taste - as "bossing them around." Brides and grooms wouldn't be "too exhausted" after a reception in their honor if they simply greeted the attendees, received their good wishes and took off instead of hanging around playing host and hostess - worrying about what everyone was eating and whether anyone was dancing.
Marriage isn't a party, it's work, but the kind of work that one wants, accepts and loves.
In other words, the real "don't" is "Don't make a fool of yourself planning a wedding to fulfill your fantasies." When it comes to weddings, all you have to do is find someone to make it official, show up, be thankful for whatever anyone wants to give you or do in your honor, then get on with your life.
@51 And you win the prize for "Most Misogynist, Assholish Comment of the Day." So you've got that going for you, which is nice.
Mr. Cynic & I definitely blew #2 - our ceremony was on the long side. We're theatre people, though, so it was (objectively speaking) pretty damn entertaining. Rather than a wedding party in matching shitty dresses we had a "ceremony band" made up of our closest musically inclined friends who played songs by The Magnetic Fields & Ingrid Michaelson & Fatboy Slim. Our readings & vows got lots of laughs & tears. We put more thought into the ceremony than the reception because that was what mattered to us. So, addendum: if you're gonna drag it out, make damn sure that it's interesting to more people than just you & your parents.
Your advice about providing free booze would be nice to follow, but I have discovered that in the three provinces I frequent, BC, Alberta, and, Saskatchewan, in order to get a liquor license, I must agree to charge a minimum of one dollar for alcoholic beverages, and in some places I have to hire an outside organization to serve it. The exception is if I have the reception at someone's house, in which case we have to follow noise bylaws. I understand the logic behind it - keep people from getting too drunk and unruly, but it puts a damper on the fun.

Most Canadians I know opt for the destination wedding because it is way less hassle for everyone involved. The ones I've attended were some of the best - a nice week long vacation with people you love. No hassles with booze, designated drivers, and it's way cheaper for everyone who would have been comming from out of town.
Our families were scattered across several states. We chose the city where my parents lived because they were elderly, my mother was in poor health, and they were least able to travel. It was a local wedding for them, and for almost everyone else (including the husband and me) it was destination.

Of the 90-ish people in attendance, about a third were under twenty-one, about a third were in recovery, and more than a few of the remaining should have been in recovery, but weren't. So we decided against a bar of any kind, and just served iced tea, iced water, and coffee. The reception was in a ballroom on the second floor of a hotel, and the hotel had a bar on the ground floor. Those who wanted alcohol managed to find it.
Thanks Dan! I agree with all of these, particularly #1. I am currently in a 'discussion' with my partner about whether it's reasonable for his friend to expect us to pay $4000 for a cruise just to attend his wedding. I say no.
Is no one bothered by 3) and the implication of "inevitable infidelity" or am I the only one who was both struck and deeply hurt/shocked/bothered by that?
On the subject of sex the day of your wedding: it's a busy day. You have the rest of your life to fuck this person. Fuck whenever, if you can manage it. but if it doesn't happen don't make it the end of the world.
What ya got against marzipan? The more the better here.

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