A Note: I originally wrote this piece last year after my coworker G casually mentioned he was going to his 15th and final wedding of the year. This piece originally had a home before getting dropped and has been pitched and pitched and pitched. While it never found a fancy, editorial place to settle, I wanted to share it here because G, as the realistic romantic he is, set me up with some key advice for the wedding seasons ahead. Thank you G for letting me tell your story, I hope did you proud.
I actually didn’t believe my coworker the first time he casually mentioned his wedding number.
Just months before he had convinced me he’d spent his 28th birthday at Chuck E Cheese so it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume this wedding count was a bit over exaggerated. As it turned out, Gianfranco wasn’t lying and each Monday when he’d arrive into the office bleary eyed after a red eye from France or Minnesota or Martha’s Vineyard, I couldn’t help but pester him with questions about surviving the “Hunger Games” of love.
Not only was I curious, but there was something about Gianfranco — a 6’2 Queens-native with an affinity for a perfectly timed sarcastic joke and a mindset that borders between realist and pessimist — being a real-life Jane Nichols in “27 Dresses” that just delights me. Hence how he became my touchstone of wedding advice without even knowing it.
“I’m 29, I’m at peak wedding season,” Gianfranco told me during our interview. “Not only do I have my friends, but I have my girlfriend’s friends and we’re plus-ones to each others weddings. I just went to my 15th and last wedding and I was so happy. I celebrated at the wedding more that I didn’t have to go to any more weddings than the marriage of the people.”
If you’re in your 20s, the next couple of years are about to heat up in the wedding department. First, there is the wave of people from your hometown who will tie the knot. Then the couples who met in college before finally, one by one, your friends will start referring to their partnership as a party of one. And since we don’t all have a slightly grumpy wedding expert sitting across from us in marketing meetings, I present to you the Wedding Commandments of my marathon matrimony expert who has literally traveled to the ends of the earth in the name of other people’s love.
Budget if you can.
As reported by The Knot in 2016, the average American couple will spend at least $32,000 on their wedding — not including their honeymoon. But it’s not only the couple whose bank accounts feel the brunt of their nuptials, but the debit cards of their guests as well. “All my weddings were long distance,” shared Gianfranco. “One was in France — and if you hear anyone complain about going to France for a weekend, smack them! I’ve very grateful but it’s really expensive! You’re not going to France, you’re taking a red eye on Thursday, then taking a four hour train to the top of France, going to a rehearsal dinner and the wedding, and then back at work on Monday. I haven’t taken any vacations besides weddings this year.” This on top of Gianfranco attending four bachelor parties left him traveling everywhere from Martha’s Vineyard to Normandy, France to the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. While some people might not have this opportunity, Gianfranco recommends lining the weekends up with work trips or if possible, buying tickets and booking hotels way in advance.
But along with travel and room and board, wardrobe can also be a stressful expense. When asked to be a bridesmaid or groomsman, individuals can be expected to pay for a new suit or dress that in reality they will never wear again. “I wore the same suit 11 times and if you have to go to a black tie wedding, you should buy the tuxedo,” counseled Gianfranco who wore his tux four times this year. “I had to buy two more suits upon the groom’s request but I’m never going to wear it again. It’s like the chatzky your from your grandma you put in the back of your closet that you can’t throw out!”
No one needs a $300 bowl.
“I never get gifts on the registry. It’s an opportunity to buy a bowl you don’t need and no one will ever use,” Gianfranco explained. “It’s rude in my opinion that you would ask me to buy a suit to be your groom’s man, go to a bachelor party, come to your wedding wherever it is, buy a hotel, and then buy you a bowl you shouldn’t own. I always give money which I’m sure isn’t going towards that bowl!” I imagine crystal bowls and egg holders will continue to haunt Gianfranco’s dreams for years to come. The last time I saw an egg holder in use it was by Anjelica Huston in “Ever After” and coming from someone whose family plays croquet at birthday parties, if anyone is going to be using them it’s probably us. But Gianfranco’s point holds true. No longer are couples being married in family churches down the street where the only expense on the guest’s part is exchanging a gift for a free meal. Now it can cost thousands of dollars just to spend the weekend at a close friend’s nuptials. Along with cash, Gianfranco also suggests something more personal that won’t break the bank. “One thing I do — I’m not a photographer by any means — but I have a nice camera and I take pictures at the bachelor parties and I make little books for the groom,” shared Gianfranco. Personal and long lasting — 20 somethings take note.
Be your easiest self.
Weddings are beautiful but stressful events. As Gianfranco reminded me, it’s our jobs to be the easiest wedding guests possible. “On the day of the wedding, just be happy to be there. Don’t talk about people’s dresses or who is in the bridal party or who just broke up with their boyfriends. Every time I hear that bullshit I just go do shots,” Gianfranco shared. While it seems self explanatory, I think we’ve all been to a wedding where family tensions or past grudges resurfaced in ways that felt immature and petty. It leaves you questioning, why did you come in the first place? So if you think maintaining a smile throughout the event will be too burdensome for you, politely decline the invite and save the couple the $40 they would have spent on your dinner. As a guest, your only job that day is to not hit the open bar too hard and make the newly wedded couple feel as good as possible.
And if you think that you might be asked to give a toast at the wedding, take it upon yourself to write it ahead of time. “When the speeches come around, I judge the shit out of people,” Gianfranco admitted. “This is not a moment to take advantage of. Even if you’re bad at putting words together or you are nervous about speaking in person, if you invest energy into the speech and you care about this couple, your efforts will be quickly recognized and appreciated.” Gianfranco put his own advice to the test this year during his best man speech. He even decided to take it one step further and wrote a handwritten speech for a close friend which he simply handed to him before the wedding.
Finally, the talk.
If almost ¼ of your weekends in 2016 are spent at weddings, you’re bound to collect research on the things you love, things you’d lose, and things you’re judging but would never say out loud. Music selection (Pitbull always shows up, even if he isn’t invited), indoor vs outdoor, BBQ on the menu, photographers, Save the Dates vs emails — when you’ve been around the wedding circuit a while you’ll be surprised the notes you start to make for your own special day.
But I believe Gianfranco’s greatest advice from his year of research is this. “I always knew I wanted to get married. If anything, everyone getting married so early stresses me out because I don’t want to get married right now,” Gianfranco shared. “But if you’re in a relationship and you’re going to a lot of weddings, you will be forced into understanding how serious you are in your relationship as your partner watches their ten best friends get married. The talk is coming so just be ready.”
Wise words wedding guru, wise words.