Save the Date
The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest
Named one of 2014’s most anticipated books by CNN and Flavorwire
From a fresh and exciting new voice, a hilarious and insightful examination of the search for love and the meaning of marriage in a time of anxiety, independence, and indecision.
Weddings. They’re fun, festive, and joyful, and at a time when people marry later in life—and sometimes not at all—they offer endless opportunities to reexamine love and what we want for ourselves, regardless of whether or not our aim is a walk down the aisle. In Save the Date, Jen Doll charts the course of her own perennial wedding guesthood, from the ceremony of distant family members when she was eight to the recent nuptials of a new boyfriend’s friends.
There’s the first trip home for a childhood pal’s big day, in which she learns that her first love has eloped to Hawaii. There’s the destination wedding attended with little baggage beyond a suitcase of strappy sandals and summery party dresses. Regrettably, there is a series of celebrations that mean the end to a valued friendship. There’s also the wedding that offers all the promise of new love.
Wedding experiences come in as varied an assortment as the gowns at any bridal shop, and Doll turns a keen eye to each, delivering a heartfelt exploration of contemporary relationships. Funny, honest, and affecting, Save the Date is a fresh and spirited look at the many ways in which we connect to one another.
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***
Copyright © 2014 by Jen Doll
Allow me to begin by saying, I am very, very happy for you.
Allow me to begin by saying, Once upon a time there was a girl who met a boy, and they fell in love and wanted to be together forever, and she wore white, and he wore a tux, and they walked down an aisle strewn with rose petals into their bright, shining future. That girl was not me. Congratulations! Or is it best wishes? Here is your KitchenAid. Le Creuset Dutch oven. Kate Spade stemware. Crate& Barrel flatware. Highball glasses. Crystal paperweight shaped like a heart. Hundred- dollar gift card to that furniture store you like. “Informal pasta,” whatever that is; you had it on your registry, so it must be good! Four tea towels, a stainless-steel garlic press, a “Love” coaster set, a pack of organic coffee filters, and a butter knife, because I didn’t have a moment until just before this grand event to go online and buy you anything and that was all that was left. Your family sure is proactive. How can you stand them? Oh, here is your bowl. Yes, I bought you a bowl. I realize it wasn’t on your registry, but I got it for free when I bought the same bowl for myself. I guess that doesn’t mean I bought it so much as acquired it, but, wait, I’m talking too much, aren’t I? You look amazing! Cheers to the gorgeous couple! Yes, please, a refill would be excellent.
But let’s backtrack.
Sometimes they come once a year and seem like a good excuse to go on a vacation to a predetermined destination, a place with built-in friends and a legitimate purpose and even a prepared schedule of activities, a wedding gift basket waiting for you in the hotel room, packed with granola bars and locally derived tchotchkes and miniature bottles of sunscreen. Sometimes they come like migrating birds or wolves, in flocks or packs. When you glance behind your shoulder, there’s another one gaining ground, and you can’t seem to stay ahead of them no matter what you do. They’ve got their eye on you. Sometimes it seems every weekend is a wedding. On the odd occasion, one weekend brings two, forcing the invited into a perilous decision-making scenario that has grave, long-lasting consequences: Which couple will be anointed friends forever, and which will descend slowly but surely into the status of “mere acquaintances,” their big day having been forsaken? Intrepid guests who don’t want to choose will go to both, driving for miles, taking red-eye flights, swapping out dresses and shoes and jewelry and handbags and itineraries as if actors in a play or models in a fashion show, which is a not entirely inaccurate depiction of a particular State of Wedding Guesthood. This is just what’s happening to us right now, the wedding guest of a certain age will think, gasping for breath but shrugging it off, going along. We’ve reached that stage in life. It’s only temporary. This, too, will pass! At some point, surely, the perpetual wedding dance will cease, and we will be able to sit back in the comfort of our wedding guest retirement and possibly even save a little money by not going to so many weddings. But while we’re going to weddings, we should try to have fun at weddings. They only happen how many times a year? Well, we really have no other choice.
And oh, there is fun! There is plenty of fun. There’s fun even before you get to the chapel or the reception hall or the rented suite of the fancy hotel or the country club or your best friend’s parents’ backyard. The weeks and months preceding each wedding will inevitably involve secondary parties— bachelorettes and bachelors and showers and engagement celebrations and whatever else is deemed necessary to get the crowd pumped for the headliner. Do not be fooled by these seemingly casual add-ons: They are the octopus tentacles of the ultimate party, stretching farther in all directions, part and parcel of an event that in most cases, when all is said and done, guests will have shelled out rather a lot of time and energy and cash to attend. We do this willingly, even joyfully, because not only are we often actually quite happy to be there but also this is an algorithm we’ve been brought up to believe in. Tit for wedding tat; eventually it will be our turn, too, and we’ll get back everything we’ve given and possibly more. You go to my wedding; I’ll go to yours. I’ll buy you a heart-shaped waffle maker (in stainless steel, per your request); you’ll eventually return the favor with an enameled stockpot in Marseille blue. There’s little time to consider whether this formula will resolve as promised, who’s getting a better deal, or if we even want our turn in the wedding lineup of the ages—and if we do, how and when and why—because we’re already on to the after- party! The fun never stops.
To a single woman, a lifetime of weddings can begin to seem like a nuptial-themed Groundhog Day; we guests behaving slightly differently each time within the same basic framework as we strive for the ending that will put a stop to the unremitting weddings, or at least to the way we’ve been methodically acting our way through them. The story of a serial wedding goer is rarely the impeccable scenario depicted in the brochures and magazines or promised by the wedding planner, nor does it align with the aspirations of a pushy mother of the bride, an entitled groom, or one of those so-called bridezillas (such an awful word). The dream-wedding-in-the-bubble, the “perfect day” meticulously constructed to suit the whims or long-held fantasies of the marrying couple or their kin, is all too easily punctured by wedding guests who don’t share quite those same goals and aspirations. Or who get drunk and then decide they don’t. A “perfect day” becomes an entirely unrealistic concept when you start to let in the riffraff, not least because “perfect” is a matter of opinion. There is no “perfect day.” There is only the day upon which two people are married, for better or worse.
"Save the Date is a hilarious, open-eyed account of one woman's life as a wedding guest. Doll chronicles the good, the bad, and the drunken with wit and insight into the state of modern marriage."
— J. Courtney Sullivan, author of The Engagements and Maine
"Reading Save the Date is like attending a wedding with the coolest plus-one ever. Jen Doll is witty, charming, and can see through all the BS of the wedding culture while still having a fun time with it."
—Drew Magary, author of Someone Could Get Hurt and The Postmortal
“Jen Doll's sharp, funny true tales of guesthood acknowledge—at last—that attending other people's weddings is a unique rite of passage in itself. Save the Date is a welcome companion.”
—Wendy McClure, author of The Wilder Life
“Jen Doll address relationships, romance, weddings, and love with the sharp and intuitive eye of a psychotherapist, and the impeccable comic timing of, well, an impeccably good comedian. Not only that, she coins a phrase that is not only brilliant, but important: ‘My unemployment jeans.’ Save the Date is a self-examination of the single gal at its cleverest, funniest best.”
—Sara Barron, author of People Are Unappealing: Even Me
“With humor and honesty…Doll offers a refreshing take on society’s evolving ideas on marriage and the importance of knowing oneself.”
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