WEDDING BY COMMITTEE
One bride wonders: What's so wrong with asking family for their thoughts on the planning decisions?
By Jancee Dunn
Recently my sister Heather decided to paint her fireplace white. This is minor news in most families, but not ours. All day, the phone calls flew back and forth. My mother suggested cream instead. My father phoned from the golf course to warn that painting the fireplace would decrease the property value. I debated the pitfalls of the ‘wrong’ shade of white. My sister Dinah requested a photo of the fireplace before weighing in.
My family does everything by committee, so that the most trivial dilemma is debated with the zeal of Talmudic scholars. So a few years ago, when my boyfriend Tom and I announced our engagement at a family dinner, everyone began chattering at once.
The proceedings started out deceptively easy when we reached a speedy consensus on the wedding’s location: Sanibel Island, Florida, a sentimental vacation spot for both of our families and site of Tom’s recent proposal. Then it all slid downhill when we moved on to the menu. Not only are there three chefs among us, but like most families, we’re obsessed with food. When I proposed the idea of coconut shrimp for appetizers, my hair blew back from the force of the commentary. Your father doesn’t like seafood. It’s Florida so we’re having coconut shrimp, end of story! Forget the shrimp, fried food will kill your appetite. No, it absorbs alcohol. What about an oyster plate? Absolutely not, one bad oyster and you’ll remember this day for another reason.
Three hours later, they had endorsed exactly one menu item – steak –and an impassioned debate had broken out around the wedding cake. To keep everyone happy, Tom and I eventually agreed that each tier would be a different flavor: chocolate, vanilla and raspberry, and lemon coconut. (Carrot cake was vetoed as “too healthy.”) “And don’t cut the cake and smash it into each other’s faces,” said my mother. “It’s disgusting, it’s not a loving thing to do. Feed each other gently.” Yes, Mom.
“It’s just a cake,” Tom said later as we drove home. “Why does everything have to be a landmark Supreme Court decision? I don’t know how you people get anything done. If this was a corporation, it would be run into the ground.”
I sighed. “Get used to it,” I said.
And so the months before our wedding were marked by reams of e mails. Flowers? “Do all white because it’s timeless,” Heather wrote. “Colors go in and out of style.”
Fine. How about lily of the valley? I suggested in a group – always a group - e mail.
TOO EXPENSIVE, my father typed back in the capital letters favored by retiree dads. Two dozen e mails later, the verdict came in: white roses.
The ‘long dress or short’ discussion grew particularly animated. At first, they ruled that I should wear a cocktail dress, because at 35, I was “no spring chicken.” Then, in a last minute nod to tradition, it was voted that I should wear my mother’s dress, an unconventional but lovely column of lace.
Should I wear my hair up? Elegant! said my mother. Aging, asserted my sisters. Down is more modern. Exhausted, I compromised with a style of half up, half down. Take back your wedding, urged my friends. It’s about the two of you, not the fourteen of you.
It was too late. As the wedding day approached, Tom and I were down to one decision: the intimate messages we would inscribe to each other on the inside of our wedding rings. When we couldn’t agree, Tom teasingly suggested I call my family for advice.
“I already did,” I admitted. “They think we should just keep it simple and just do dates and initials.”
And so a few weeks later, I found myself walking down a sand ‘aisle’ on the beach at Sanibel. When I saw my family’s beaming faces, tears blurred my eyes, because I realized that they were having just as much fun as I was. They weighed in on my wedding not to aggravate me but because they shared completely in my happiness. Yes, the ceremony was technically about the joining of two souls, not fourteen, but Tom and I had a lifetime to be a duo. I didn’t want to take back my wedding. My family’s meddling drove me nuts, but in an increasingly disconnected world, I was actually glad that I had a group of people who cared enough to make twenty phone calls about veil placement.
Of course, everyone has limits. When the wedding was finally over, Tom and I were packing for our honeymoon, a long road trip down South.
I held up my cell phone. “Maybe I’ll take this, just in case of an emergency,” I said casually.
Tom took it gently out of my hands. “No,” he said.