Rach & Dave get married, part 3
August 6, 2012

First on the agenda after all those Mediterranean appetizers: a teeth check.

Once we affirm we don’t have strands of roasted red pepper stuck in our bicuspids, we’re ready to hit cocktail hour.

We’ve rejected the idea of a receiving line and will end up spending the dinner hour downing our beef wellington and then sneaking out to the terrace alone when we probably should be rotating amongst the tables, but for now, we’re really working it. The tartar station and passed slices of filet I was planning on focusing on are now a distant memory; my new cocktail hour goal seems to involve flinging my arms around as many people as possible. I am a hugging machine. (The massive wine glass filled with champagne that a family friend hands me seems to help with this pursuit.)

One of the many modern American wedding expectations I have a problem with is the Grand Entrance Of The Newly Betrothed Mr. And His Missus. First off, I’m not taking Dave’s name in any way, shape or form, so what is there to really announce anyway? I fret about the bridal party not wanting to boogie in to the Black Eyed Peas, about Dave and I being embarrassed of the spotlight too.

And then I come up with a solution.

Only Dave and I will do the entrance. They’ll call us “Dave and Rach” – duh, those are our names. And Notorious B.I.G.’s Hypnotize will be blaring in the background.

It is absolutely the right call.

Then it’s time for the traditional Jewish dance/brush with death: the hora.

I watch in horror as some of Dave’s scrawny, non-Jewish friends are recruited in the heat of the moment to hold the chairs. The result is a bumpy, petrifying ride meant to…brace us for what marriage feels like? I’m not sure, but I know I’m much happier when we’re finally on the ground again.

Of course, as soon as it’s my parents’ turn to test the limits of their mortality, I’m all for it, clapping away.

There are some more dances, but there’s nothing really hilarious about them to share, except for maybe how terrible Dave and I are at dancing. It never even crossed our minds to take a class; we know we’re beyond help.

My dance with my Dad is no better choreographed – the coordination challenges I face span generations – but it is very special to me, if only because both my parents, never the biggest supporters of all this traditional wedding crap, are somehow now beaming.

The toasts range from Poignant (my best friends) to Not At All Focused On Us (my mother, classically trying to prevent her daughter from being the center of attention on her freaking wedding day) to Very Painful To Listen To (An Unidentified Drunk Brother.)

Not because the Unidentified Drunk Brother doesn’t love us of course, but maybe because he put too much faith in his improv skills and his ability to handle an open bar. His final line – wishing us the 3 C’s in our marriage: compassion, communication and sex – gets a big laugh from me, both because it’s funny and because, thank god, it seems like he’s finally going to hand over the mic to someone else.

Dave’s 15-year-old brother – he of bar mitzvah and embarrassing Facebook debacle fame – makes the best speech, in Dave’s and my opinion. He cuts right to the chase, wishes us well, and is done in 15 seconds flat. The whole crowd is so grateful we all ignore the glass of champagne he’s holding.

I know you’re supposed to have some big moving moment at your wedding, probably at your ceremony, as you devote the remainder of your days on earth to your husband, or maybe right before you walk down the aisle, as you contemplate your girlhood  with your parents and begin to see the step you’re taking as a distinct, new chapter in your life. But my moment, if I had one, probably came on the dance floor.

We’re surrounded by a swaying crowd of family and friends, and, this is far from poetic, I know, but everyone just appears to be having a wonderful time at this silly little event. Everyone we love seems to love us right back.

Honestly, Dave and I are kind of shocked that we are capable of throwing this kind of party, capable of somehow convincing people to rally around us like that. We’re moderately sure the constant flow of champagne has something to do with it, but still. It makes me very happy.

The dance floor festivities continue to rage and Dave and I momentarily sneak out for a private cake cutting.

By this point, I’m pretty sure the night has officially reached Your Wedding Isn’t A Failure status (see above dance floor moment), but we’re not taking any chances. Our back-up plan was to buy our guests’ love calorically, with 10 different flavors of cake, and we’re sticking to it.

So that’s my wedding success tip: excessive desserts. Heaping plates of cakes slices, lemon bars, cream puffs and meringues seem to do the trick for us.

After all the cake has been eaten, the champagne drunk, the two encores played by the band, who promises to perform at our anniversary party, it’s time to peace out.

We board the buses. I’m next to Dave near the back, head on his shoulder, soaking everything in, when suddenly I catch a snippet of conversation from the seat ahead of me.

“Get it together, man,” the voice whispers. “We’re almost there.”

And then, there’s a lot of vomit.

I’m so high on bliss, so bossy on bridal status and so fucking intent on throwing a rager that I simply gather up my dress and make a beeline for the exit, no worse for the wear.

Then we all pile into the bar in the lobby of our hotel. My cousins are situated on bar stools, our friends are sprawled out on the lounge furniture, my aunts and uncles are congregating near the entrance. Jon is pouring glasses of champagne for my parents, someone’s ordering wine by the bottle. My college newspaper co-editor is sitting next to my high school biology classmate who’s  laughing at something my office husband is saying as he slowly drains a glass of whiskey. The bar is starting to feel like an episode of “This is Your Life,” and it’s awesome.

Of course, the happy couple can’t outstay their welcome. We leave the partygoers to their revelry and head upstairs to our room, consider the bottle of champagne on ice, the note addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. B.” (never heard of them), the cute little nightgowns I stocked up on for our honeymoon.

“How would you feel about getting a cheeseburger?” I ask.

And my new husband just laughs at me.

Next up: The day after, and a few bonus features.

Previously: the pre-wedded state; Rach & Dave get married, part 1; Rach & Dave get married, part 2

All photographs by Elisabeth Millay.

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hitched.
June 19, 2012

Our wedding was shockingly perfect.

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I know that sounds strange, and I don’t want to make it seem like I didn’t suspect that marrying that boy I chose five years ago was going to be a good call, and maybe even a little fun. But still, somehow, it all caught me off guard.

The joy and the love, without pretense. The way you can put on a pile of tulle and fake eyelashes and lip gloss and still feel just like yourself. All the little moments woven in between the big ones — because, as it turns out, that’s all you’ll remember. The celebrated traditions, the bits and pieces when all eyes are on you, the epic embraces captured on camera – your memory will be wiped clean of all those, but you’ll be able to call up, with vivid clarity, the feeling of writing out the names of everyone you love on those silly little escort cards. Of letting your best friend read your vows on Thursday night and watching her cry and thinking: passing that index card to her was a good decision (it was) and, you’re totally going to blow his vows out of the water (you’re actually not, how hilarious is that?) Of lying on Jon’s bed before the rehearsal dinner, passing around a pack of pastel macaroons, and deciding that even though they fly them in daily from Paris to the Upper East Side now, it’s still somehow better when he brings them. Of collapsing in a fit of laughter when the rabbi — the rabbi! — interrupts your yichud, and sneaking in a second one on the terrace after dinner to compensate. Of how opening nearly every single card, in your same old living room that somehow looked different in the weird vortex that is the hours after eating scrambled eggs with all your (moderately hungover) family and friends but before you jet off the Hawaii for two weeks, made you cry.

And of that party.

Man, it was a great party.

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I didn’t chronicle it in detail here (because, let’s be honest, I haven’t chronicled much of anything in detail here in quite some time), but it was a bit of a rough winter, as the past few have tended to be. I lost someone close to me and I screamed myself hoarse and I said things I didn’t mean and I struggled with being the bride and growing up and being a grown up in this city. One stretch in particular was marked by a bedside visit where I shared a photo of my wedding dress with someone I knew wasn’t going to be alive to see it in person, looming biopsy results that unfolded like the worst kind of dejavu and then, finally, a guest list war that brought me to tears (ok, and to inappropriate text messages.)

There was a flash in those weeks when I didn’t even think this whole wedding thing was worth it. The ensuing flip-out involved many profanities but the general sentiment was this: why can’t we just go to the courthouse?

I’ll give you a response to that question that involves lots of words and photos and jokes and stories, just as soon as I get all of our pictures back from our photographer. But for now, I’ll just leave you with the short answer, which is that, apparently, even the day that everyone tells you is going to be the most important of your life, the day you’ve spent so long planning and waiting for that you’re positively sure you’re already jaded and a little skeptical and just oh so ready to tackle everything you’ve sized up in your head, can still manage to surprise you in the most wonderful way.

*All photos by the incredible Elisabeth Millay. A sneak peak of the day through her lens can be seen here.

Evan, you can skip this one
November 16, 2010

My mother has a habit of recommending articles to me that read like warning signs, so I wasn’t exactly surprised when last year, in the throes of my momentary preoccupation with rings of the left-handed variety, she sent this New York Times column my way.

The piece, published under the Modern Love heading, is about a woman who becomes a little overly invested in and reliant on material possessions, namely those listed on her wedding registry, and ends up ultimately losing the thing that inspired the gifts in the first place: her marriage.

Unlike some of my mother’s previous PSA pass-alongs, this one was surprisingly well-written: textured and funny and real, peppered with anecdotes that made me nod in recognition and, admittedly, fear slightly for the health of my own as-yet-unformalized marriage plans. I tucked the cautionary message away in the back of my mind, flagged it with a “deal with this when you finally get a ring” internal post-it. The message to self was clear: Try, oh lover of shopping, not to give in to your retail-obsessed tendencies when you should be focused on your relationship.

At first, it seemed like I wouldn’t have too much trouble taking this advice. The first time I sauntered into Bloomingdales in search of the perfect food processor for our new life together, I emerged an overwhelmed and exhausted wreck ready to pay someone, anyone to just select the optimal blender model for my imaginary kitchen of the future (because lord knows our current one can’t hold any more crap) and get on with it already.

I, the girl who usually feels more comfortable in department stores than her own bedroom, was apparently not cut out for registering. I hated the pace of it (slow and plodding), hated all the choices (I have to pick a brand of knives and a line? Seriously?) I decided against fine china, scoffed at the $125 picture frames, pared my list down to the bare necessities. My mother had to implore me to select a few serving bowls. I was most definitely not into it.

By the time we ventured to Williams Sonoma, to tackle the gritty kitchen supply section of my wish list, I was feeling slightly better about the whole thing. This place was smaller, with fewer crystal displays to get lost in, and free mulled apple cider. Always one to be wooed by food samples, I relaxed a bit, and even allowed myself to fall the tiniest bit in love with a removable-bottom tart pan. The sparer displays allowed me to catch glimpses of things I could actually identify, and, I reasoned, perhaps one day find room in my homewares-adoring heart to love. Wasn’t that the seltzer system Dave wanted me to buy last month? Weren’t those the fun stemless wine glasses my friend set her dinner table with last week? Did that Le Creuset dutch oven come in blue? (Answer: Yes, yes, and  yes — with a matching trivet to boot!)

Zap, zap, zap — onto the registry list they all went.

It’s no secret that many aspects of my life feel a little out of control right now. I’ve been forced to place all my faith in a computer system that will tell me where to live and, as a result, what to do, in T minus four months from tomorrow. My career path is starting to feel less and less like the paved roads and smooth trajectories all my friends seem to have built for themselves, and more like it was carved by a blind guy wandering aimlessly through a dense forest with a machete.

I feel a little lost about a lot of things, but I can guarantee, with a comparatively high amount of accuracy, what color dinner plate will be sitting on my table come 2012. And even though my mother and the article and common sense tell me otherwise, I’m choosing to cling to that dinner plate, just for the moment. I’m scrolling daily through my online lists; I’m adding candlesticks and mother-of-pearl serving trays and yes, even that $125 picture frame; I’m rejoicing at the news that someone bought me that food processor.

Yes, the marriage is what matters; yes, china is cold comfort. But it’s comfort I’m going to let myself indulge in, just for a little while.

Reading… (the How To Freak Out Your Fiance edition)
October 16, 2010

Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert, she of Eat, Pray, Love fame and fortune. (She’s also beloved in certain circles [read: by me] for her speech on creativity at the TED conference.)

I ordered this book last week, despite the fact that it got so-so reviews and that the structure is said to be lacking, because I really adore Elizabeth Gilbert’s voice. I honestly didn’t want to like her, and her super-famous, big-hit-with-divorcees-the-world-over memoir. I figured that anything being read by that many women during my commute to work, especially anything whose title contained the word ‘Pray,’ probably wouldn’t be worth my time. (See: that time I publicly professed my distaste my rabbi.)

But I gave in a few months ago, on the advice of a friend whose opinion I trust, and came to the shocking realization that I, like so many others, really like Elizabeth Gilbert. Also, I’m apparently getting married. So giving Committed a go seemed like a logical next step.

The problem was that I made the mistake of ordering it on Dave’s Amazon account. What I had counted on: using his free shipping (holler at student accounts.) What I hadn’t counted on: Dave getting an email alert with all the info on my most recent purchase.

“What is this?” he asked me, particularly concerned by the book’s tagline: “a skeptic makes peace with marriage.”

Whoops!

No worries, dear, it’s too early for second thoughts. The ring is still much too sparkly.

the Rabbi and the Ex
October 13, 2010

The first bit of wedding drama we’ve encountered since establishing a formal excuse to throw a big party has centered around – surprise! – our choice of rabbi.

(I know…if my attempt to convince someone to perform a freaking mitzvah attracts this much conflict, imagine what a disaster all those pesky secular tasks – flowers and photography and, god forbid, the dress – are shaping up to be.)

Anyway, the debacle went something like this: My parents belong to a conservative temple in my hometown, just a half hour away from the spot we’re in the process of snagging for our big day. But the rabbi there a-won’t conduct a ceremony before 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday, which presents a host of logistical issues and b-how to say this….at the risk of being struck by lightning, let’s just go with “he doesn’t share my values.”

Fortunately, my values clearly allow for going behind people’s backs, so that’s exactly what my mom and I decided to do: completely bypass Super Conservative Rabbi A and go directly to Totally Lax Reform Rabbi B, he of the other big synagogue in our town, he who is rumored to start ceremonies at the ungodly (like, actually) hour of 6:30 p.m. – even during the holiest period of the year! (Which, as a bonus, our date of choice happens to fall squarely into. Just to make sure our spot in hell was noted in ink, not pencil.)

Everything seemed to be proceeding according to plan – Rabbi B didn’t seem to care what time the sun went down, barely seemed to know what the Counting of the Omer was, was very receptive to the fact that I would be wedding a Jewish doctor. But everything in wedding planning seems to have a catch, and this was Rabbi B’s: he didn’t want to piss off Rabbi A. They had a good working relationship, he said, and he didn’t want to look like he was poaching Rabbi A’s members just because he was willing to overlook the fact that we were serving prosciutto during the cocktail hour. Would we please call Rabbi A and make sure that he was cool with this little plan of ours?

My response, of course, was: why in the hell would I ever do that?

Incredulous, I immediately called my mother, launching into a lengthy monologue. I’m not into confrontation, I implored her, especially when it comes to esteemed, elderly members of my faith. Who knows how close that guy is with god? Why would I want to fuck around with that, openly? I just wanted to tip-toe quietly behind his back, not directly disrespect him. And it’s not like I’m one to shove something in someone else’s face.

Really? my mother asked. What about all those calls you just made to your ex-boyfriend?

Oh, right. That.

It’s…totally true. In the wake of my engagement, I coincidentally reached out to my ex-boyfriend. Twice. (Maybe his email was broken! Had to try the cell to make sure!)

Yes, we do catch up every so often, but the timing certainly wasn’t random. I had been waiting months, maybe even years, for this day – the day I could firmly, with proof, inform the Ex that I’d met the love of my life and – shocker! – he wasn’t an insensitive Cornell grad with an i-banking job.

It wasn’t just that I wanted to make sure the Ex knew I was engaged – surely I could leave that simple task to Facebook. No, I wanted to personally and fully inform him of my good fortune, of my victory, of my assured life-long happiness. I hadn’t established how, exactly, I’d hoped he would react, but I think I supposed said reaction would make me feel good and right and satisfied.

So I emailed. And called. And waited.

In the end, my dad, who has little interest in the back-and-forth of personal politics, volunteered to call Rabbi A and explain the situation to him. There was a little sugar-coating of course – Rabbi B is a personal acquaintance, he said, Rachel and David seem to be on the reform track – but my dad told the truth, plainly and clearly: They want someone else. And Rabbi A was perhaps a little hurt, but, on the surface, gracious and understanding and willing to give us his blessing. And that was that.

And the ex? Well, I never did reach him. There’s always a chance that the entire city of New York has had all of its modes of communication shut down for the past month, and that Goldman Sachs is running in the dark, but I’d say the safer assumption is he’s just ignoring my calls and emails. Which is ok, really. Because the truth is, I wasn’t looking for anything admirable or pure or positive – like perhaps closure or a simple congratulations – from that imagined encounter. I was, as my mother suggested, simply looking to shove it in his face. And for what? For a formal declaration that I’d “won” whatever little competition I’d invented in my head? How silly, how immature.

After all, I don’t need a phone call to tell me that.

the backwards love story, part dos
September 20, 2010

*I’m working my way through this a little bit out of order, starting with the engagement story here and then backing up to our first meeting below. The last chapter, that of me freaking the fuck out this summer in anticipation of us declaring our whole let’s spend our lives together! intentions to the rest of the world, will round out this trio soon. But now, part II, also known as the official beginning…

Dave and I met for the first time, as in the first real time, as in the first time where neither of us was marooned on a bathroom floor or intending to hook up with the other’s roommate, in June of 2007, in a hostel on a prime street corner in downtown Barcelona, right by Las Ramblas.

I was wearing a gauzy yellow top, sitting on a stool by the computers, slightly hungover and dehydrated after an epic night at what was eventually deemed to be a gay club, and then an epic day exploring the Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia.

He was wearing a Penn shirt, which at first seemed to be a lucky coincidence, a perfect excuse to start a conversation, but then, like everything else, was ultimately exposed to simply be inevitable. (He had brought solely Penn t-shirts to wear during his five weeks of post-graduation travel. Go Quakers?)

Here I am, the day that we met, for real.

And here’s Dave, eating dessert at the restaurant we went to that night.

To explain to you how nervous I was, all I probably have to mention is that I didn’t order dessert after dinner. Yes, that nervous. Also, too nervous to insist or allow for a picture of us to be taken together. I have a shot of nearly every other moment of that entire trip, of my three and a half weeks spent crisscrossing Europe and sticking my toe in Asia, but I was too nervous to get one of me and Dave. I wanted to seem totally nonchalant that night,  didn’t want to act like it was a big deal that I had met this guy who I was totally falling for in an exotic Spanish city – even though under my breath all I could think was, howisthishappeningIamthecoolestpersonever! And my point-and-shoot simply didn’t fit in with the persona I wanted to project, the one who was trying to keep her shit together.

It was the only night I left my camera at home.

Not that I need it, of course.

I remember every detail of that night: the restaurant we went to, with the delicious tomato-rubbed bread; the hours we spent talking, about everything and nothing, in the common room until they kicked us out at 3 a.m.; the way he said “have a good rest of your trip” as the elevator doors closed to take him back down to his floor. “Have a good rest of your trip?” I repeated those words over and over to myself for the next week, alternatively pegging him as a callous asshole – “who says that! how impersonal!” – or as a sheepishly awkward science major, depending on which country I was in and what song had popped up as a backdrop on my ipod.

None of my friends can forget the encounter either, as I’m sure they’ll tell you. I wouldn’t stop babbling on and on about it: to Jon, as I nursed a sinus infection from my cousin’s house high up on the Italian hills overlooking the Mediterranean; to Amruta, in Istanbul, where I prattled on over mint tea and one too many tequila shots; and back home, where Bridget thought I was a lunatic for wanting to even show my face again to someone I had hooked up with in a bathroom. (The horror.)

I remember driving down to DC after I had landed stateside, riding shotgun alongside Nit with Meg flipping through maps in the back and turning to them and saying, I know this sounds crazy. I know I only spent a handful of hours with him. I know we’re not going to be living in the same place. I know it might not really happen for a while. I know all I have to go off of right now is a Facebook message from Paris and a promise to call. But I really think this is it. And them kind of nodding but also rolling their eyes and then going back to making fun of me for hooking up the weekend before with a 25-year old law student which – cringe – did seem dreadfully old at the time. And that was that.

Until, as these thing always go, it wasn’t. He called. We met in New York. He came down to see me in DC. And the rest is history.

Except, as these things always go for me, it wasn’t.

For someone who spends an inordinate percentage of her time devising detailed plans, I have a surprisingly tough time when those plans actually come to pass. Always being one step ahead of yourself – or two or four – can make the process of actually living your life nearly impossible. From almost our first date, I could see the whole future laid out before us, in a creepy crime show kind of way. We would date long distance for a year, and then he would move down to DC for a summer research gig, and then we would do long distance again, and then we would both move to Philadelphia for his rotations, and then we would get married and live happily ever after, just like my parents. (Double cringe.)

This internal monologue made things especially difficult for me at the beginning, when the facts of our relationship – we’ve known each other for a month! – didn’t quite match up to my feelings – I’m positive I’m going to marry this kid! Even my emotions themselves hadn’t quite caught up yet; I didn’t feel in love with him quite yet, but I was positive I would, and it was this relentless anticipating and waiting to catch up, waiting for other people (including him) to catch on to what I already knew (we’re going to be together forever!) that left me breathless and overwhelmed and slightly concerned about the very real possibility that I might be delusional.

Which, I understand, this ensuing engagement thing does not necessarily preclude. But at least now I’m delusional with a pretty ring on my left hand.

Thank you, Barcelona.

engagement season
January 7, 2010

One of my new year’s resolutions (in addition to CALM THE FUCK DOWN, a perennial favorite) is to stop talking about all things wedding-related.

And I’m going to get on that, I swear. Starting tomorrow.

Because before the moratorium kicks in, it must be documented that everyone and their mother has gotten engaged over the past four weeks. Like, actually. One of my friend’s mothers just got engaged.

I can’t figure out if this is symptomatic of the holidays, an aberration that we’ll see crop up every December from here on out. Or – the scarier possibility – if this is just the start of the Wave. You know, the Wave of adulthood. Whereby everyone stops getting carded and starts getting married, gives birth, joins the PTA and then gets old and dies. Or at least stops going to happy hour.

This isn’t just about having no free weekends in June, you see. This is serious.

The thought of this string of engagements continuing at the pace that’s been set since Thanksgiving is completely petrifying to me. The announcements are no longer limited to the couple that’s been dating since they were 10 or the couple that refuses to have sex without a ring. I’ve seen ex-hookups, ex-boyfriends, guys who cheated on their now-fiancees with my friends, kids who were my reporters at the college paper, a couple that met on Jdate eight months ago – all go down once the temperature dropped.

I know that I could ignore all the talk, somehow filter out those engagement announcements on my Facebook newsfeed. But the truth is…I love weddings. I’m a little obsessed, actually. Which is where the resolution comes in.

Yes, I’m super-sarcastic and cynical and have been told I have a heart of ice. But I love jewelry. I love dresses (true story: as a child, my parents would punish me by forcing me to wear pants for weeks at a time.) I love parties. I love being the center of attention and spending my parents’ money (just kidding about that last one, Mom!) Oh, and I kind of love my boyfriend too.

It’s a recipe for disaster. Said obsession combined with my expert reporting skills means that I’m basically aware of every engagement in the tri-state area. And some on the West Coast too.

It needs to stop, and not just because Dave has started automatically crossing the street when we pass by the boutique bridal shop in my neighborhood. It’s because as much as I can’t help pointing out every single jewelry store billboard that dots Philly’s diamond district, in actuality, I’m not that girl. I don’t really want to get married super young – at least not for the right reasons – and I don’t really feel the need to have a ring on my finger when I’m already living with the guy who’s probably sticking around forever. As much as my outdoorsy brothers like to think I’m just a ditz with a credit card (cue Cher Horowitz), it’s not true. I have a good head on my shoulders, and I know what’s important in life. It’s just that sometimes the glitz and the gossip distract me. Which is why, unlike all those people swearing to lose twenty pounds in 2010, I’m actually going to follow through with my resolution this year. After all, there are a lot of cute dresses out there, and not all of them are white.