Friday, December 3, 2010

Wedding Bells

Ever since one of my best gals from high school got engaged last month, I've been all over the wedding scene. Oh, I'm not a bridesmaid or anything - one of the benefits of losing touch with 90% of your high school chums is that you end up very uninvolved in the matrimonial party - but I've been thinking about my wedding, and about what my fancy day might be like.

I wasn't one of those kids who was obsessed with weddings. I wasn't really a dress-up kid; my sister was, but instead of donning pretend veils, she basically dressed like a Day-Glo version of Siouxsie Sioux. My younger sister has a juvenile punk streak a mile wide, which is odd, because now she dresses like a prepster with a hidden jones for jumpsuits. We all have our quirks.

I was more of the reading type, and the reading I did was balanced between trash-o-rama Sweet Vally Sagas and more highbrow kidslit like The Giver. Sweet Valley was just infested with melodramatic tales of lost love, where one night of passion before leaving for war turns into a young girl's "lifelong mistake" (i.e. pregnancy and shame-children), thus propagating the species for another generation without diluting any of the drama of the final-chapter wedding bells. Sweet Valley Sagas, for those of you with better taste or penises, were what you get when you combine one part icing sugar, three parts desperate love, a quarter-cup reincarnation, and a passing acquaintance with historical fiction. They. Were. Awesome.

In any case, though, they didn't fuel any obsession with marriage. My parents' wedding was low-key; my mom made her own wedding dress, a size-two number with ribbons. My dad sported an 1980s mustache. Although the last Royal Wedding was in 1983, the year of my birth, I don't come from a culture that's all about giant froofy dresses or spending tens of thousands of dollars on Your Special Day. My parents were wed in my grandparents' home. In my family, if you want drop thousands of dollars, you'd better be picking up some real estate.

But my family way isn't the only way to do things, and there's a serious wedding industry out there. The Canadian wedding scene alone rakes in about four billion dollars - to put that in perspective, that's more than we collectively spend on foreign aid and international development. From magazines to TV shows, from cakes to cake toppers, from gowns to feathery...hat...things, from rings to DJs to venues to celebratory DVDs, it's a mega money machine.

Depending on where you're coming from, folks seem to either buy into that, or want to go their own way. Wedding magazines regularly encourage couples to drop student-loan-worthy amounts on their wedding day, but some (and as much flak as she gets, Martha Stewart really is the best for this) point couples in a more DIY direction. Less traditional often equals less expensive, since wedding purveyors haven't clued in to the idea that 120 fancy cookies can be for a wedding the same way a four-tier cake is. And doing it yourself gives brides and grooms a level of control over their giant paper flower decorations that buying really misses out on.

My girlfriend from high school seems to be going the lo-fi route. Her engagement ring is a gorgeous pearl set-up, bucking the diamonds-are-forever trend that bloody De Beers pimps so hard. My mom got no ring - "I think I got a dog" - and my friend Rachel has long proclaimed that if and when she gets engaged, she wants a tapestry. "Rings signify ownership," she says. I tend to disagree, unless they're clamped around my ankle with a ball and chain, but during this summer's OTT heatwaves, I was like, "Screw diamond rings, what I want to be proposed with is a Dyson Bladeless fan."

I haven't really been to a lot of real-type weddings. Maybe one or two, where there's a venue and a first dance and a sit-down dinner, and not in the last few years. My pals have mostly Done It Themselves: my friend Ewan had a choir of his friends sing him and his bride down the aisle. The friends were dressed as Star Trek crew members. Liz and Toby eloped: they invited my mom, who brought my teenage, basketball-shorts-wearing brother. One of the "bridesmaids" wore ski goggles in an attempt to neutralize the August sun's UV rays. It was...unusual. Nobody's worn ugly bridesmaid dresses or shoved cake in their beloved's face.

But I love pretty, fancy things, and I love love, so weddings are really appealing to me. I'm not a huge fan of polished, glossy business. I like my celebrations like I like my men: a little rough around the edges. For example, the recent trend of hand-tooled and rough-cut engagement rings looks gorgeous to me. It's lovely, not ostentatious bling, and unexpected. Or this couple's wedding photos, which were taken in a gallery and show off her dark teal wedge sandals and gown beautifully. I love that splash of the unexpected - not everyone wants to be a princess on her wedding day. Some of us want to be David Bowie.

No matter how a wedding shakes down, ultimately it's not about the first dance, or the chicken/fish, or the groomsmen shagging one of the bridesmaids, or any of the other things each couple strives for to set their party apart. It's a celebration of love, of unity, of promises. Whether it's just two people who love each other very much running down to City Hall, or a day-long affair with 400 of the couple's friends, relatives, neighbours, former bosses and personal shoppers, the point isn't the "stuff" of the wedding. Nobody cares if the entree has ginger or the flower girl trips. What people want, what we care about, is that magic moment that says, "You may now kiss the bride."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Twenty-seven years ago today, my parents were the exhausted and probably terrified guardians of their first child - me! Hello! I was born in Toronto's East End, on a day that was probably much like yesterday: a little dismal, a little rainy. Late November isn't a great time for inspiring weather. It's not like spring, which has its organic fireworks display of fresh foliage and blue skies bursting forth. My parents had to settle for a new kid bursting forth, a process I'd imagine was a lot less picturesque.

But burst forth I did, and twenty-seven years later, I've turned into a passable main character in a pretty decent book. I have a fantastic family with supportive, funny parents. I have smart, thoughtful siblings. I lucked into a fantastic group of friends, most of whom called me on my birthday to wish me feliz cumpleanos, and I got especially lucky with my female friends (not in that way, pervs), because I have a seriously excellent coven of lady-pals. Sure, my chapter on employment is a little skinny, and I'm still neurotic and weird about any number of things (spiders, food, fears of looking stupid on the subway platform), but I think I've turned into a decent adult.

I'm actually pretty excited about getting older. I feel more comfortable in my skin (which, I know, is something women in their forties who just discovered the joys of, like, colonics and talk therapy usually gush about), both in the hey-this-body-is-pretty-nice sort of skin, and also more comfortable in my priorities. The jobs I'm looking for suit me, instead of just desperately grabbing at the first gig that makes me some paper. The men I spend time with are solid, decent guys who make me laugh. I've learned how to say, "Hey, you hurt my feelings" and "I don't agree with you" in ways that aren't tantrum-y. I brush my hair less. I spend less time obsessively thinking about how much I weigh. I spend more time thinking about friends, family, co-op, how to be a real live writer, bikes, and delicious food and snack ideas. I'm happier.

In the same way that January 1 is a magnet for stringent, punitive resolutions ("I'm going to lost one-third of my body weight, never drink beer again, and be nicer to the siblings I haven't gotten along with since birth"), and early September usually inspires dreamy attempts at new projects ("I'm going to renovate the kitchen and finally get around to writing that novella about man-eating duvets"), birthdays tend to inspire a similar stock-taking of one's life. Remember elementary school? The difference between seven and eight seems massive, and the trip into double-digits at ten, or official teenager-hood at thirteen, is mind-blowing. The new age, scrubbed clean of your fuck-ups of the past year, represents new promise. As a twenty-six-year-old, I was kind of a screw-up. I broke myself down: I quit binge-drinking, got help for an eating disorder, had panic attacks, and got some surgery.

My twenty-seven-year-old self knows better. This year could be a year of rebuilding after the flood. I'm looking forward to the kind of milestones my late twenties will bring: travel and fulfilling work, friends getting married, new businesses being launched, maybe falling in love, definitely showing off as much cleavage as I can. I mean, as much as I like getting older and all, I'm no Helen Mirren, and breasts are definitely one of those things that are better when we're younger. Everything else? We'll see.