Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Cycle of the Wedding Rings

Again like Megan McArdle, I have been researching wedding planning in D.C. I am trying not to be disheartened by how expensive most of the initially intriguing options are. Like, even the Holiday Inn in Alexandria is charging $75 for a head... and it's not even in the heart of Old Town, for Pete's sake. The places that are slightly more up market are often comfortable asking for $125 or $135. Read: it's easy to spend to close to what I made per annum as a 22-year-old research assistant on a single day's party.

I mean... I probably spent about $100 total for food for the 20 guests who came to the Hayek party And still plenty of compliments for my culinary skills. $75 a head for leathery, under-spiced chicken with rice and creamed corn and iceberg lettuce doused in acid-sharp vinaigrette just adds insult to injury. Dresses likewise commonly run into the four or five figures. Yes, I could go the David's Bridal route* and "save" by buying something that was $500. But all the while, I would be thinking about the discounted gorgeous discounted Nina Ricci I could get on Gilt for the same price, or, in the alternative, two cute BCBG dresses priced retail that I saw the last time I went for a walk in Georgetown....

I understand -- as Pnin tells me -- that extravagance in this context is supposed to signal the strength of our commitment to each other. Maybe, but there's a tiny bit of me that is afraid of accidentally blundering into marriage with Gilbert Osmond, as per my namesake, and I'd rather minimize my damages in that unhappy scenario. So yours truly is on the brink of revolt.

So I started thinking about alternatives during the walk home from work, and came up with...holding something like a long Festival of Pnin and Isabel. We would have something like a cycle of parties in our house. I would not wear a frilly long white dress that I could wear exactly once. I would instead spend the cash equivalent on a series of cute designer dresses from Nordstrom's or whatever that are all just a bit more expensive than anything I'd wear normally. There would be appetizers, similar in type and quality to the menu I put together for the Hayek party. Each party could even have a theme or a pillar, sort of like the pillars of Islam, but different. Like "Love" or "Fidelity" or "Patience" or "Economic Liberty" or "Property Rights." And there could be literary readings and discussions of the pillar before everyone wandered out into the backyard to dance underneath Japanese lanterns and drink sangria and eat fresh-grilled mini-cheeseburgers.

Apparently there is supposed to be something special about having all of the people you love in one place. Forgive me, but I could not have less desire to have all of the people whom I love in one place. I do not need my slightly deranged Vietnam vet distant cousin whose wife works taking tickets at a NASCAR track (yes, really); the trustafarian kids from my freshman dorm at Dartmouth; and Randy Barnett under the same roof. Yes, I love them all, but differently, and throwing them all into one room would just feel too much like a chapter from I Am Charlotte Simmons or (worse?) a really bad David Brooks column. I would be tempted to start noticing people's iliac crests, deltoids, and abusing onomatopoeia. Or, alternatively, start embracing national greatness conservatism. Suffice it to say that I prefer my life compartmentalized. Having a Festival of Pnin and Isabel lets me pander to the needs of my different audiences better.

Reason 1, 739 why I am not a Burkean conservative: I came up with all of this in about 20 minutes walking to the metro.

Sadly, I doubt I'll be able to put these insights into practice. Our two respective families will demand something more traditional.

I am half-tempted to write to about The American Scene advice column about all of these dilemmas. It's the sort of subject matter that's right up their alley, I think. But we'll see.

*I sort of feel Cintra Wilson's pain. Not because I'm a model of litheness; I'm comfortably above the Roissyite threshhold of desirability (thank G-d?) -- but because I'm so short I wear small sizes anyway. And invariably, the expensive stores have more and better fitting option than discount brands like David Bridal's will.

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