Recently, I told some friends that I was going to accompany my younger daughter while she tried on wedding dresses. Their reactions were as follows:
From the women: "How very sweet"; "How lovely to bond with your daughter"; "I'm sure you'll enjoy it."
From the men: "Bring your checkbook."
This is not going to be a rant about how difficult it is for men to deal with weddings -- their own or someone else's. (In fact my daughter paid for her own dress and, with her fiancé, is also paying for the wedding.) My role was to stand by, look as though I knew what I was doing, and contribute my considered judgment on how she looked in the dresses she was trying on. Not being an utter fool, I restricted my comments to an occasional "lovely" with a few "beautifuls" added for variety.
Face it friends, when it comes to weddings, men are about as essential as a third leg. This is true during the premarital stages and the wedding itself. (After the wedding it's another story, but this is a family newspaper.)
We generally stand around, amazed at the enormity of effort that goes into its preparation and then, at the event itself, we walk down the aisle looking like penguins and stand under the chuppah unnoticed while everyone gazes in awe and admiration at the bride. If it weren't for the fact that the law requires two for a wedding, we could just as well stay home and watch the Wedding Channel.
Viewing the preparations for my daughter's wedding (never mind that it is scheduled for next November), I am in awe at the breadth and intensity of the action. I can recall three sites that were officially chosen and then rejected. Latest word is that it is set for the chapel of her alma mater, Brandeis University. The bride has informed me of the principal reason for this. Apparently the chapel has a glass wall, which catches the sun at a certain hour of the afternoon so that the wedding pair is silhouetted against the sky. I am not making this up.
When last I heard, the guest list was being kept to 125, a goodly number of whom will fly in from California, where she was born and lived until we moved to Rhode Island. Others will be arriving from Seattle, St. Louis, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
The dresses for the bridesmaids have already been selected, the canopy has been chosen and the rabbi has been alerted. Enough non-Jews will be present so that my wife will write a booklet explaining to them what they are watching. It will probably contain no reference to the fact that this is an all-woman production.
My role consists of saying the aforementioned "lovelys" and "beautifuls," as well as a plentiful number of "yes, dears."
Clayton, the other half of the duo-to-be, has only to utter one "I do," an important responsibility, granted, but one I'm sure he can handle. His role has been even smaller than mine; he didn't even get to watch the dress selection. Truth is, he is probably quite happy with this arrangement; call me a sexist pig if you will, but women seem genetically wired for this sort of activity while men are more interested in what takes place after the last grain of rice has been thrown. (Oops, sorry. I forgot. Family newspaper.)
The mother of the bride has been content with offering advice when requested. As a practicing historian, her interest in weddings as a genre is limited to the marital customs of the Incas and the Aztecs, most of which would probably be illegal in California. The stepfather of the groom lives in Washington state and has, thankfully, been most circumspect in his queries about what to expect when the day arrives. I doubt whether he will be surprised at anything that transpires. As a former Marine, he knows when to duck and weddings provide many opportunities for the men involved in them to practice their avoidance skills.
Which is pretty much what I am about at the moment. Frankly, I'm not anticipating the wedding as much as the aftermath, because in a year or two I expect that the products of this union will begin to emerge, among them I trust, at least one baby boy. Eventually he will develop a liking for the important things in life: baseball, TV, "EverQuest" and girls. When he does, you know whom he will turn to for advice and counsel. And the best part is that when he finds the right girl and is ready to marry, never, ever, will he ask me if the shoes he has picked match the socks he will be wearing at his wedding.
For this let us all give thanks and say, amen.
Yehuda Lev, former associate editor of The Jewish Journal, now makes his home in Providence, R.I. His business card reads "Journalist Emeritus."
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