No-Hassle Nuptials: How to Have a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding, by Judith Martin

The inimitable ‘Miss Manners’ shares her daughter’s story.

Our dear friend and Contributor Judith Martin is the author, with her daughter Jacobina, of Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding, just published by Norton.

My daughter and I are surely as sentimental as the next bride and mother-of-the-bride — just not to the point of having lost our minds.

On the off chance that there are others who also want to have lovely and meaningful weddings without sacrificing their friends and finances in what has now become the standard marathon, debt-ridden, egotistical pattern, I thought it was worth sharing our story.

Jacobina had the wedding of her dreams — but she didn’t start dreaming about her wedding until she fell in love and became engaged. So when she approached it, properly starry-eyed, it was as a starry-eyed grown-up, not a spoiled child. Lucky for me.

Perhaps this was because I had previously taken the precaution of curing her of royalist fantasies when she was little. She had prattled, as little girls do, about wanting to be a princess.

“If that’s really your ambition, let’s figure out how to accomplish it,” I told her. “First you must find a way to make a great deal of money. A great deal. Then you should start hanging around with Eurotrash. Eventually, you’re bound to meet some paunchy old guy with bad breath and a shabby coat of arms who is living way above his means and would be only too eager to make you a princess.”

After that dousing, there was no more talk of marital social climbing. Instead, her girlish dreams were about having a career in the theater, so when her friends dressed up as princesses, she always went for meatier roles. Those dreams came true. She is now a member of the faculty at Second City in Chicago.

However, when it came to planning her wedding, she naturally had emotional yearnings. She wanted her wedding bouquet to feature the flowers her bridegroom had brought her on their first date. She wanted a real wedding dress, not a debutante’s strapless ball gown that would make her look naked in the headshots.

She wanted the wedding to be close to home, for sentimental reasons and because it would minimize travel for the guests. She wanted the wedding trip to be far from home, for romantic reasons and because it wouldn’t.

She wanted her best friend, who is her brother, to be her chief attendant, and she wanted her fiancé to have his close friends, women as well as men, attend him. Having been several times a bridesmaid, she could not, with a straight face, assure her bridesmaids that she could choose a dress they would wear again, so she told them just to wear dresses they loved, and not to worry about matching.

Although — or perhaps because — she teaches, directs and has performed in improv comedy, she did not want anything jokey in the ceremony. Nor did she envision it as a bio-epic about herself and her bridegroom. Anyway, that would have been redundant, because the guests were all relatives, friends or friends of the family who already knew their history. They didn’t even feel the need to broadcast how in love they are: They figured that everyone there was bright enough to realize that this was the cause of the wedding. So the ceremony was serious and the fun began with the celebration that followed.

It all turned out charmingly, although it was a radical departure from today’s conventional weddings, without benefit of wedding planner, master of ceremonies, D.J., gift registries, broken budgets or family feuds. But neither was it a return to the old-fashioned gender-cast, lookalike weddings of the past.

Nor was it what is known in the wedding industry as “It’s the Bride’s Day and She Can Do Whatever She Wants.” Not only does the bridegroom fully share her taste, which bodes well for the marriage, but so do the finicky mother-of-the-bride and the less-notoriously-but-equally-opinionated father-of-the-bride.

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