Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Frivolity

I’ve been invited to a wedding, but I don’t know yet whether I’ll go – I have to find the perfect gift for this one, and I’m still working on it.

It’s the right kind of wedding, though – a marriage of the minds in which social justice occupies the place normally held by silk dresses and tea roses, citrus sorbets and champagne flutes. In the sermon on Sunday, my pastor pointed out that Christmas celebrations and weddings are the two biggest causes of consumer debt in our society – evidence of how very far these traditions have strayed from their roots. So this wedding is a timely reminder to swim against the flow of the capitalist tide this December.

While I’m mulling over my commitment to social justice – trying to pin down exactly how I’d like to change the world – I thought I’d spend some time remembering my own weddings (the advantage of having two, after all, is that it gives me a degree of expertise in the subject).

In Father of the Bride, the wedding planner played by Martin Short claims that the first choice a bride must make is her cake – because the "kek" sets the tone for the whole wedding. This idea is not only palpably absurd, but it also flies in the face of the acknowledged expertise of countless bridal magazines that place the choosing of the cake at six months before the big day – at least a year after the dress has been ordered and a good eighteen months after the reception site has been booked.

However improbable that advice may seem, though, it rings true for me: I may not have even had a wedding the second time around were it not for my overwhelming desire for this cake:


(My bakery called it a Dr. Seuss cake, though I notice from their website that they have since renamed it the "Alice in Wonderland." It seems suitable, though, that the bakery from which I borrowed the above image calls it the "Mad Hatter.")

That cake really did set the tone for my wedding – a wedding that resisted wedding-ness all the way through. I would like to say that my anti-frou-frou stance was dictated by a rejection of consumerism, or even by a taste for elegant simplicity, but in fact I was driven by the desire to avoid reliving my first wedding, a country-club affair in which the bridesmaids wore floral-print sailor dresses with puffed sleeves while I wore an original raw-silk creation from a boutique called Victoriana. (These are the risks one takes when marrying at age 22, without having ever attended an actual wedding reception before.)

Seven years later, when I was faced once again with the task of tying the knot, I wanted this, my last wedding to bear as little resemblance as possible to my first. I was newly – very newly – divorced: indeed, there was some cause for concern that the legal i-dotting and t-crossing wouldn’t be done before the wedding. I very much wanted to be married – but the thought of actually getting married was enough to give me a panic attack. Long before the date was set, I bought a bargain-basement ivory dress, and then hung it in my closet and insisted on calling it "the garment" in a last-ditch effort to avoid thinking of myself as engaged.

I finally donned "the garment" on a Friday afternoon in late August. Instead of walking down the aisle, I walked in from the side of the church, keeping time with hubby’s steps as he entered from the opposite side. We met in the middle and exchanged our hand-written vows. Somehow, neither of us managed to make a permanent copy of our words, so we have no reliable record of what it is we committed to that day – the only part I distinctly remember was that hubby promised to put me ahead of his job, his friends, and even his hobbies (brave words from one who owns as many Warhammer figures and Magic cards as my husband).

Thirty-five friends gathered at a restaurant for the reception: we ate lobster bisque, drank strawberry daiquiries, and danced to Dexy’s Midnight Runners and U2’s cover of "Everlasting Love." The next day I was almost catatonic with terror, barely able to hold my head up as hubby spooned a few bites of orange sherbet into my mouth from our brand-new crystal sherbet bowls.

I was overwhelmed, terrified, anxious – and I had just made the best decision of my life.

46 comments:

Julie Pippert said...

It's wonderful to be able to look back like that and feel that way now. That's a fabulous cake, too. Back when I got married it was all still generally pretty traditional as far as I knew...no cool (what's that flat frosting effect called) cakes like that. No colors in any of the bakery books I saw.

I've been reading about that wedding.

I'm thinking too.

Veronica Mitchell said...

I also think marrying my man was the smartest thing I've ever done.

My sister's second wedding was planned two weeks ahead of time, because she said if she had any longer to think about it than that, she would get frightened and back out of it. She had a simple, sweet backyard wedding at my parents' place with a view of the mountains and the whole family in attendance. What could be better?

The cake is gorgeous. But does fondant actually taste as good as it looks? I've always been afraid to try it.

cinnamon gurl said...

Great post!

I also liked cakes like that but we had a Chinese double happiness theme happening with lots of red, and an Indian buffet, so we just chose a carrot cake (our favourite) with simple white fondant icing and some red rose petals for colour.

One thing that was strange was one bakery we went to first pretty much refused to do a carrot cake. They said none of our guests would eat it. Everyone expects a white cake. We knew we didn't really care though because we loves us some carrot cake.

I have made a bit of a contribution to that celebration but I continue to mull over possibilities for better options. Looking forward to yours!

Rock the Cradle said...

Wicked cake!

Sounds like your vows the second time around had the same fate as ours. I know the words are somewhere, but somehow, it's not so important to know what they were. It's more important to remember the feeling of that moment when you shared them.

Here's to the smartest things we've ever done! ;)

jen said...

What an incredibly lovely post.

And that cake...and the U2 song..PERFECT. That would be my pic...

oh, hey, wait...i know..what if you chose the music at the wedding this weekend???

am so hoping to see you there. just think of all the fun we'll have.

Mimi said...

FANTASTIC cake. I can see how it would set the tone for the whole wedding. Not terribly 'victoriana', is it? :-)

Before Pynchon and I got married, I read Ann Kingston's 'The Meaning of Wife' as well as the conscious bride books. Like you, I wanted a marriage but not really the wedding. So we buggered off to Jamaica by ourselves. I picked the 'kek' the day before the ceremony. We got married at 10am and spent the day on the beach. Peaceful wedding, happy marriage ... and beautiful memories now that we're in the chaos of babyland.

Momish said...

I love reading your posts, they are always so rich with imagery, I can just sense exactly how it was. And it sounds just wonderful. I cannot get over that cake!! It is one of the best I have ever seen, you rock!

I'm thinking about my wedding gift too. It's almost too hard, like the typical wedding dilemma. "what do you get two people who already have it all?" My meager offerings could never compare! But, like you, I love the idea and the serman you mentioned hits the nail right on the head, so I want to. I really want to.

Aliki2006 said...

I, too, love that cake. Thanks for the wedding tale! We pulled ours off in 5 1/2 months, wrote our own ceremony, and danced to a lot of Nat King Cole...

bubandpie said...

I should clarify that the cake in the photo is not the actual cake from my wedding (I don't have any digital pics of that), but it looks very similar, even down to the exposed-brick wall behind it, just like the one in the restaurant where we had our reception. Our cake was topsy-turvier - the tiers all leaned in opposite directions for more of a Seussian effect.

Mad Hatter said...

A cake with my name on it? A cake with my name on it? This is so spectacular that is makes it hard to comment on the sheer lovliness of the rest of the post.

My anniversary is this Thursday. Me and hub lived together for 10 years and then got married at the Justice Bldg in a ceremony that lasted 3 minutes. Still, it was beautiful and moving. We took our witnesses (good friends) out for drinks and then my husband and I had a romantic dinner. Lovely.

But there was NO CAKE with my name on it.

I know I have never even seen you but having read your blog these past few months, I can safely say that I would kill to see you in that Victoriana raw silk number. Was your hair big as well?

I hope to see you at my second wedding this weekend. In a reversal of stories, my second promises to be much bigger than my first.

Eric said...

Obviously, you got a good husband if he swore to put you ahead of his Magic cards. Seriously, that sounds like just about a perfect wedding to me, although it would have been a pretty short reception if you were playing the whole Dexy's Midnight Runners catalog. Maybe you worked in some Men Without Hats, as well.

bubandpie said...

Mad - It was actually a really pretty dress (though I will admit that the sailor bridesmaids dresses were, um, ill-advised). And I had really pretty hair, too, though in a no-longer-fashionable style: French braided part-way down, then curled, with bangs all poufed up. In my defence, it was 1993, and the '80s had only been over for four years.

Mayberry said...

Love that cake. Love it! It sounds like a wonderful wedding.

Lady M said...

Beautiful weddings and excellent cake! It's always reassuring to attend a wedding where the bride and groom have clearly thought a lot about the *marriage* as well as the wedding.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I chose a simple wedding and used the money saved as our down payment for our home together.

Hooked on Doll Houses

Beck said...

Marrying my husband is one of the only good decisions I've ever made. It was very, very smart of me.
And your cake was fantastic!

Gwen said...

That cake is enough to make me want to get married all over again, except I still can't go in for the white dress and pomp (we got married in Vegas, with only friends in attendance; my dress was from a resale thrift called Flashy Trash; I will know I've done well as a mother if I can convince my daughters to choose similarly; my standards are so high--me and Madonna). Not that the bakery will mind, will they? Maybe I'll just order it for, I don't know, my 40th birthday?

Or is that excessive?

Mamalooper said...

My second wedding was so much MORE me than the first one. Same as you, I was soooo young and didn't have much in the way of expertise when planning a wedding. Lots of peach and dark green and frou frou and 5 bridesmaids.

Second time around much more intimate and true to Monkeydad and me. Nary a bridal mag was read prior to the event. But it was sooo meaningful and happy and just so right.

Jenifer G. said...

Just wanted to say I just love these cakes...I have seen them in magazines and think they are so funky. I had the same obsession for my wedding...shoes. I say a pair in a magazine, ripped out the page and went on a mission to find them.

Did I mention it required multiple long distance calls to track these down and that they cost more than a third of the dress price?

Regardless, I had to have them. And, you know what? Nine years later I still love them! Hubby suggested getting a plexigalss display box for them..maybe some day. Practicaly people always say why don't you dye them so you can wear them again. That is entirely not the point.

After my father passing away six weeks after our engagement at age 48 these shoes represented for me something that brought a smile to my face. They must remain as I wore them. Mixed with all the happiest and saddest memories I could imagine.

Bottom line. Whatever it is that is your 'must have it" then do not apologize for it. Make it yours.

The last wedding I went to was my Mom's (in November) at Richmond Hill City Hall. There were 8 of us and after we went to The Keg. It was one of the nicest weddings I have ever been too.

Weddings are most meaningful whem you feel the couple's happiness radiating. Sounds like yours was exactly that.

Mary-LUE said...

My husband and I went to a Justice of the Peace and it wasn't even a second wedding. We had no money for a wedding, were living far away from almost every one we knew and were not... WERE NOT... interested in saying personal things in front of a lot of people. My only regret is that the friend who came as a witness didn't take the best pictures. The only ones of Paul and I alone are saying our vows and the kiss. There isn't a nice shot of just the two of us looking at the camera.

My favorite wedding story though is a woman who got married at the church I used to atttend. Apparently she'd had a really bad first marriage and at her second was unable to repeat the vows properly. When the minister said, In sickness and in health, she said, in health, etc. All the way down the line. So, in the end, she married him for better, for richer, in health. I hope it all worked out in the end! ;)

Mary-LUE said...

P.S. I'm with everyone on that cake. Very cool!

Lisa b said...

Very cool cake. I wish I'd done the second wedding thing the first time around but I worried I would regret not going for the Victoriana dress.

nomotherearth said...

Love the cake. I almost got one like that, but went with one that was similar, but more flowery. I was working with a sort-of non-theme of spring and renewal. But I digress..

Lovely post. I wish I had your way with words.

sunshine scribe said...

I loved this post. As usual I am swept up with your every word. And that cake! That cake!!

We decided to have our wedding be all about us and kept it very small and very simple and took all the money we saved on a big traditional wedding ... and did the whole thing in Bermuda. It was perfect in every way.

I love reading about wedding stories. Both of them.

Kyla said...

Weddings give me panic attacks. I love my husband and I have beautiful pictures from the wedding, but my official stance on weddings is "ELOPE!!"

Your cake (example) was AMAZING!!

Robbin said...

My first wedding was a huge formal catholic affair with all the associated trimmings.

My second was a luau in the backyard of my husband's grandmother. I wore a muumuu instead of a wedding dress, and the dress code was Hawaiian shirts and khakis. We giggled through the entire ceremony. My cake was decorated with white chocolate coral and seashells, and it, too was beautiful.

I think second weddings are usually better. We think more about the getting married part - more about what we want and less about what we are "supposed" to have.

Not-so-Sage Wisdom said...

We are do-it-yourselfers, for personal as well as political reasons, and that carried right through to the way our wedding happened -- Joe designed the engagement ring, we designed the wedding rings, I designed the dress, my sister made the cake, we wrote the vows and designed the ceremony and we both cooked the meal -- along with a LOT of help from family and friends, not to mention an artisan or two.

In the end, I couldn't imagine the day being any better than it was and we received numerous compliments.

At the same time, my mother likes to call it the "wedding from hell" -- I hope she's exaggerating -- because although it was a lot cheaper and a lot more personal, it took a lot out of the people (silly folks) who agreed to help out -- down to some invited guests helping us prepare salads and marinate chickens the night before!

For us, it's all about community and a shared interest in the connections between people and I think our wedding reflected that. Had our friends not been ridiculously caring and understanding, though, it could have been a disaster. But that's one of the most pleasing conclusions I came to on that day, that we began our married life together with a wellspring of support.

P.S. If you're looking for gift ideas, look into canadahelps.org (I'm assuming they're Canadian)...the recipients can choose to donate whatever sum you give to the charity of their choice and there are thousands of charities registered.

Not-so-Sage Wisdom said...

silly me...

i just followed the links to the backstory on this and feel slightly sheepish.

alright. forget my gift suggestion.

(note to self: don't comment 'til you know what's going on)

bubandpie said...

Jenifer G. - You should really post a pic of those shoes on your blog - now I'm curious!

The radiating-happiness thing can go wrong sometimes - the most radiantly happy bride I ever saw was marrying a man with no observable good traits, so the whole wedding had a bit of a train-wreck feel to it: it seemed as if the bride's happiness had more to do with finally landing a man than with the actual man she had landed.

I was happier the day I married the wrong man - because when I married the right one I was full of fears that all proved to be groundless.

Not-So-Sage - Your gift suggestion was very much in the right spirit, even though the kind of gift I'm looking for is a bit different for this weekend's "wedding."

kittenpie said...

I was pretty adamant about skipping a lot of foufy wedding crap too. I'm just not a really fussy and formal person, and I hate organized fun, so I avoided the usual games and garter and tosses and speeches and dances and so forth. My dress was vintage, made over to fit better and replace an old metal zipper, because I was too terrified by the mere concept of the poufs and flounces and lace and beads spilling out of every bridal shop I walked by. I think I might do that part differently now, but I'm hoping not to have the chance.

Jenifer G. said...

Interesting point on the radiating happiness...I hope I don't have the opportunity to do this again to find out for sure! My wedding was pretty traditional but when I look back it really was the best party I have ever been too. Watching our families really mingle for the first time was wonderful.

As for the shoes...I don't want you to be too disappointed after my build up! I will post a photo soon. After I read your comment I remembered something I jokingly said to our photographer, something like I will pay you more to have the shoes in each shot. He has become a business acquaintance of my husband's and still remembers me saying this...

T. said...

I planned my wedding in six weeks. There was a matter of haste, as my pregnant belly just kept growing, and my mother didn't want a whale walking down the aisle.

In all the haste, I forgot to order a cake. The day before the wedding, we realized our oops. We went to a local bakery where the kind lady whipped up a fabulous carrot cake creation.

It was lovely, but no where as lovely as the MadHatter cake.

cinnamon gurl said...

I love that not-so-sage-wisdom made such a fitting gift suggestion, even if it's not for a real wedding per se...

ewe are here said...

qpOoh. I absolutely love the look of that cake. Absolutely fabulous!

Your first wedding, well, that kind of wedding always scared me. Your second wedding sounds like it was lovely. Small and joyous!

My husband and I were married on Boxing Day, on the beach, with only a dozen family and close friends allowed. We had a lovely dinner at a restaurant on the beach following. That's all we wanted, and frankly, all I could handle the thought of, because my dad had passed away soon after I got engaged. And the best part? I married my husband.

Binkytown said...

I so wish I would have been brave enough to do away with the tradional wedding business. Your day sounds like it was perfect. It was lovely to read.

mad muthas said...

yeah, but look at you now! btw, what does one wear to a socially just wedding?

metro mama said...

Wonderful post. I wish I had that cake at my wedding! Love it.

Kristen said...

That cake is great! And I should know - I see a ton of wedding cakes from all of John's pictures.

I can also say that these days, weddings have turned into "anything goes" affairs - sure, there are still traditional expectations, but nobody is shocked if those expectations aren't met. It's a good thing, I think.

penelopeto said...

great post, and love that cake! we had our parents' wet dream wedding, but no cake. didn't want one, didn't want to take the obligatory pics, didn't want anyone smushing anything into my face.

But my cousin was so adamant that we cut something for a photo that we posed over a cheesecake on the sweet table. the look on our faces is priceless.

Not-so-Sage Wisdom said...

well, now you all have a gift idea for the person on your list who has everything. :)

Crunchy Carpets said...

We had a great cake...it was very simple in look..with just some real flowers on the top...but inside..
Ooooh 3 layers of different Chocolate Mousse....it was soooo yummy.

I loved my wedding. The reception was just what I wanted it to be..a big party. The love and fun was intoxicating.

We had a formal churchy service though and that terrified my dh.

I think, if we had the money, I would love to do a wedding that was totally dh's vision. Something for him. He gave up a lot for me...and did a lot for me...trusted me.

Lawyer Mama said...

LOVE the cake!

My wedding (at 22 also) was a similar country club nightmare complete with poofy dress and big hair. Luckily our marriage is still going strong (and I say luckily because who in the hell knows themself well enough at 22 to get married?!?) but if I had to do it over again, I'D WANT THAT CAKE!

Can't wait to see what your "wedding present" is too!

Jenifer said...

I can relate to this post well. My first wedding was classic storybook. White dress with like a 15 foot train.... set us back thousands of dollars, and ended up meaning nothhing really. 6 months later it ended.

A year and a half later, I got married wearing a pink sweater and gray pants on a Thursday evening in the middle of our living room by a JP with about 10 close friends. By far the best day of my life....and it cost (well if you don't count our rings, they were the one thing I splurged on) about 50 bucks and 30 of that was for the marriage license.

Mrs. Chicky said...

I love that you wrote about this! My second (and last!) wedding was very similar, an anti-wedding if you will. I had such a good time but I was completely terrified from the proporsal until well after the honeymoon.

What I'm trying to say is: Been there, done that, know exactly where you're coming from. Oh, also? Love the cake.

Mommy off the Record said...

I loved reading this post. I felt like I was right there with you at your wedding!(Wish I were, too, cuz that cake looks just divine.)

I think if I were to do our wedding over again, I'd have it much smaller than I did. I mean, we only had about 110 guests, but if we were to do it over, I'd probably cut that in half.

And I completely agree that we tend to spend entirely too much on Christmas and weddings. Every year, I tell myself I'm going to spend less on gifts, but it never happens. Ugh. Habits are hard to break, I guess.

Kate said...

Gorgeous cake!

I had a very simple small wedding - all planned and executed within 6 weeks. It worked well that way - I don't know how people manage to cope with 18 month engagement periods - such a BIG build up to a wedding... but is it really preparing you for marriage?