By: Yael Farzan
A gorgeous mad Staten Island wedding in midwinter. Outside, millions of sheep-white flakes swish twirl fall rain sprinkling on a three-tiered wedding cake of land, as the paper-white sky opens up pillows and feathers fall in slow motion on rushing white hats. Blurred images inside: silky dresses all glitter and sequins and wisps of hair and clinking and wine and glassing and leaning and sushi salad finger-food walking around, words whisper around the room like the scent of passing whiskey, sprinklings of Mozart and wafts of fancy tomato aromas. The people—women in gowns and men in hats—Men of the Hatten, some from Manhattan—stealing furtive glances at each other, stepping away, coming closer, shifting laughing glancing averting eyes, clutching phones desperately. (Someone is supposed to call them any minute, of course.)
One woman slaps the hand of the man next to her, who has already picked up a caviar bite. “Stop,” she hisses.
The same woman takes a proffered drink; someone inquires about her dress and her cheeks flame while her heart and blush plump overtime. “Oh, the dress? This old thing? Ha…” Her voice shaking through raspberry-stained lips, she says it’s either Badgley Mischka or Adrianna Papell or Yves Saint Laurent; she can’t remember.
Anyway, the hall is a massive ornate intricate highbrow, this high-flung thing, this big tall piece of architectural glory, very posh. You walk up all these red-velvet-covered stairs—and “it’s like the Metropolitan Museum,” one girl says to the man on her right in the humble blue tie, of the Renoirs and Matisses dotting the walls. She squints her eyes when she smiles, but it’s a stretchy smile, like polyester trying to be silk, like her dress.
And here she comes, here comes the bride, all dressed in white . . . and she’s essentially still the same little girl who used to sing this song during jump-rope at recess in elementary school, pretending at playing House and Mother, and I say essentially the same because yes, she’s twenty-one, and not ten, but still, she’s twenty-one, for Heaven’s sake (which is what her non-religious aunts and uncles whisper amongst themselves behind their silken congratulations), and then, from playing Nun for twenty-one years she will most probably be playing Mum in one; and it’s all because there is actually an ironic amount of truth to their mutterings of For Heaven’s Sake . . . It really is for Heaven’s sake, in their eyes.
So here comes the bride . . . and she’s so Barbie-doll and delicate like the hand-crafted Bohemian crystal pitchers on the table, and petite and perfect and good and nice and the whole package deal . . . Anyway, the girl from before—remember her? Polyester-trying-to-be-silk, we’ll call her—I see her shaky fingers as she holds her glass of wine. Probably Essie-painted fingers by a manicurist on the Upper East Side somewhere, frequented not because they’re good but because everyone goes there, at least all the people she knows. Adjusting the strap of the clunky handbag on her broad shoulders, those shaky fingers weave through her hair while the music starts. The screech of the violin, the jolly Fiddler-on-the-Roof tune as the groom enters. The bride’s eyes shine, she of the glistening Bare Minerals powder and the happy sweat of her cheeks, the flash of the photographer catching the diamond glint in her ears. Hair flies around her face when her groom comes to pick up her veil and gets stuck on the shiny MAC stain of her lips. She fingers her necklace and is whisked away by mother and in-law, as the giggles and gaggles of girls undergo a mass exodus to the ballroom, with a necessary stop at the bathroom, of course, to quickly touch up the lip gloss that has apparently rubbed off in the span of those three minutes.
Ah, these weddings.
At this point I have lost track of how many weddings I have attended in my life, and do not recall the specific number (Fifty? Seventy-five? One hundred?). But I know that I have attended most of them, and, as such, humbly consider myself well-versed in the anthropology of wedding culture.
By now I have received tens of paper-cuts opening countless wedding invitations and have rubbed my fingers against hundreds of monogrammed initials and have filled out an equal number of RSVP cards that I always end up mailing late.
From my engaged and soon-to-be-married friends, I have learned the nuances between all the different shapes of a diamond ring (princess, pear, teardrop, square) and all the different kinds of white (off-white, cream, etc.).
And although many a summer dress has been permanently sweat-stained from the effort of lugging wrapped boxes of Libbey Wine Party 12-Piece Set or Godinger Dublin 10-Ounce Crystal High Ball Glasses (you can never go wrong with wine glasses) five blocks from Bed Bath & Beyond to the subway, and then another ten blocks from the F to the apartment where the bridal shower is being held, I hope I have, on the upside, lost at least a few pounds in the long run.
I have gotten lost going to weddings more often than I would care to and have asked for directions (“The simplest ones possible, please”) from bored subway station attendees (“Where is 201 McDonald? 36 Ross Street? Why does it say I am three hours and forty-five minutes away?”) more often than anyone else I know.
I have circle-danced the horah until my calf muscles protest, and in the process have had my poor feet torturously smashed by mile-high red-lacquered-soled Louboutins with sword-sharp points.
I have chosen between Five Star Catering’s “mushroom-barley” and “butternut-squash” soup many, many times, consumed dozens of breadcrumb-encrusted-salmon appetizers, and have watched, in silent exasperation, as waitresses swiftly whisk dozens of untouched $100-a-plate-meals away in seconds.
I have also hugged countless of my friends in white wedding dresses, dashed to guests’ tables to grab their what-I-hope-to-be empty goblets of water to revive a soon-to-be-fainting bride, and stolen embroidered napkins off plates to wipe off a sweat-shined forehead for the same reason. I have stepped on (and probably smashed in the process) dozens of clumsy toes that haven’t moved out of my way as I try to break through circles to reach the bride in question with my rescue objects (the glass of water, the embroidered napkin, a chair for her to finally relax her wobbling knees…). And I have embarrassed myself more often than my friends know, crying silent salty tears into paradoxical smiles as I watch my friends walk the wedding aisles.
But, despite all this, I love going to weddings. I like the girlish anticipation and excitement of choosing a dress and putting on my makeup, like the crowds of people, the scene of it all, like seeing what kind of dress the bride is wearing, like the dancing and the feeling I receive, only at weddings, of being drunk on happiness and the life of it all. I like the roller-coasters of tearful emotions, laughing and crying all at the same time; like all the details of flowers and centerpieces; like the breathless, invigorated feeling when we all sit down, after the band has decided it is time to leave and all the guests have left too, and re-sing our favorites songs out loud—that pleases me immensely, and so does watching the bride and groom stand under the black-and-white tallit, the first touch of their hands after the groom steps on and shatters the glass, the first streaks of the violin that open up the yells and the clapping and the loud “Mazal Tov!”s; all the sweet promises these scenes hold of love and fairy-tale endings—I like them all.