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Village Idiot: Need to plan the marriage, not the wedding

“I got an email today,” Mel told me. “Chardonnay and Jackson are splitting up. They only got married four months ago. It’s so sad. I played guitar at their wedding.”

“And you think that’s why they’re splitting up?”

Mel gave me the stink-eye and told me what a lousy, thoroughly despicable man I am.

“It’s OK,” I said, “I’ve learned to live with it.” Mel is in a band that plays at lots of weddings in the summer. One wedding he played was on a big tourist boat that goes up and down the river. The entire ship had been rented for the wedding and the reception.

“How’d it go?” I asked Mel the next time I saw him.

“Great,” he said, “until the groom and the father of the bride got into a fistfight.” That’s the trouble with floating weddings: There’s nowhere to run when things go south. The guests are stuck there like sprinkles on a wedding cupcake until the ship gets back to shore. And what do you say as you're leaving? “Congratulations”? “I’m so happy for you”? “Where’s the honeymoon?” It’s one thing when the usher asks “Whose side are you on?” at the church; it’s quite another when he asks you at a brawl.

Every time Sue and I come home from a wedding now, we tell each other it will be our last, because you can smell the coming disaster the way you can tell someone forgot to empty the cat’s litter box. It’s a mess from the first cringe-inducing, self-written vow to the last drunken, slurred “thanks for the cappuccino machine.” At the last wedding we went to, the groom’s mother gave the bride a gift certificate for breast implants. Creepy.

Sometimes wedding remorse comes after the guests have left. One bride didn’t realize that getting married meant she would have to give up dating other people. You’d think their wedding planner would have mentioned that to her somewhere down the line. They seemed to have gotten all the other details right: They reserved the date with the country club for the reception, they picked the bridesmaids’ dresses, they got the perfect paper for the invitations, they scheduled all the wedding gown fittings, they planned the menu with the caterer, they picked songs to be played at every ritual moment, they ordered flowers for the church, they rented a big white limo and they listened to CDs from local wedding bands. The only thing they forgot to plan is what their life would be like after they got back from the honeymoon at Disney World.

It wasn’t just the bride, in that case. After a while, the groom started to miss his old apartment; he liked sitting around after work in a living room that looked like a dirty laundry basket had exploded. Sure, he liked his new wife, but he didn’t want to be with her every waking moment. You need some downtime, he thought. Sometimes he longed for the nights he would just spend lying on the sofa flipping through the channels, watching violent movies and sports. His friends used to drop by unannounced and bring their own beer, but not now, now that his wife was always there. It never bothered them when she was just “the girlfriend,” but now that they were married, his friends wanted to give them some space. If there’s one thing the groom hates, it’s space.

These days, all the groom’s old buddies go over to their friend Bob’s house instead, because Bob is single. Again. His place is filthy; the bathroom is a danger to public health. Bob is happy to have his friends over. He never asks them to use a coaster. Sometimes the groom wishes his new wife was more like Bob.

“So what happened to Chardonnay and Jackson?” I asked Mel.

“It seems she fell for the guy who installed their new hot tub.”

“How very romantic.”

Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.

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