Man Attends 15 Weddings in One Year and Lives to Tell the Tale

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.

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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.

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A Contagion of Kindness

Last week during my weekly muffin run, I was in line behind a mum and her 1-year-old daughter. Clearly a bit flustered, the mum set her daughter down to wrestle change out of her overstuffed bag and as you can probably guess, the minute her tiny feet touched the ground the cries of abandonment began. Almost instantaneously, the owner of the store, folding boxes nearby, got down on his knees and just started chatting with the little one, offering her a box and asking her muffin order. She was mesmerized. For about a minute. But in those 60 seconds, the mother clearly relaxed seeing that people understood. It was such a tiny moment of sweetness, a stranger coming to the aid of a parent, but standing witnessing it so close, I realized how rare these little moments of kindness can be.

It often feels like in order to survive life in New York City, we surround ourselves with tiny invisible shields. With the millions of people living on top of each other, it would be entirely overwhelming to engage with every person and every situation — many that are less than ideal (Yes, I’m talking about you guy who threw his pee at passing pedestrians last month). But in this protection we often disconnect from one another as well.

Last week, as the larger world felt like it was burning to the ground (wait, hasn’t that been all year?), I kept bumping into tiny moments of kindness throughout the city. My yoga teacher giving me a huge hug last night for no reason other than it was Tuesday. My neighbor calling to me across the playground to introduce me to his granddaughter. I saw strangers go out of their way to hold doors for strollers and neighboring yogis lean across their mats to hear how my day was going. It was almost like I was suddenly more aware of all these acts happening around me, and more determined to replicate them.

These things weren’t huge or groundbreaking, but they have been mighty contagious. Watching others make these brief, kind connections with others has inspired me to find ways to do the same throughout my day. I’ve become more bold offering directions to people clearly lost, and made it a habit of asking cashiers about their days. I’ve opted to shop at local bookstores and chat with the owners instead of defaulting to the Amazon. I’ve written just because notes to friends and coworkers, and spent five extra minutes chatting with a grocery teller about being a cat parent. Not only have these tiny acts made me feel more comfortable going out of my way for people, but they’ve honestly (and selfishly) made me feel more connected to the people in my neighborhood.

My third grade teacher once told me, “If 1000 people were doing what you were doing now, would it be okay?” I forget why she’d decided to share with me this little nugget of wisdom, probably I was opting out of math problems to read “Harry Potter,” but over the years this nugget burrowed deep into my subconscious. In situations when it would be easier to be lazy or detached, Ms. Orr’s voice will chime in, propelling me to walk the extra feet to the recycling bin or spend ten extra minutes re-wedging someone else’s clay at the end of the pottery. Why? Simply because it is always the right thing to do.

While sometimes it can feel like I’m not doing enough, this week reminded me that we do not need to be doing huge things to make a difference. Sometimes all it takes is a tiny gesture of compassion to make an entire day. So here I am, spreading the bug to you! Go forth, phones down, chat with a stranger! And if nothing else, just buy more muffins. That’s just a personal form of kindness that cannot be replicated.

Damn You Writer’s Rut

I believe myself to be in a bit of a writer’s rut and let me tell you, there are many things I can handle with grace and poise, but a writer’s rut is not one. When the writer’s rut starts to seep in from the edges, I’m like that crazy old woman who grabs her cats and yells at the sky, “What the hell am I supposed to do now?! This is it. THIS IS THE END!”

Neither my neighbors nor cats appreciate it.

In my opinion, writing inspiration is a mixture of hard work and perseverance. I rarely sit down and feel like the words just magically flow from my finger tips. Actually, I don’t know if that has ever happened. The majority of time, I’m just sitting at my desk, listening to the serenades of Billie Holiday, and hoping anything I’m putting down is coherent. To me, the most important thing about that is setting up the routine of writing and showing up to do it multiple times a week. That way, when I’m feeling particularly lack luster or overwhelmed by the enormity of my to do list, I can hopefully push through the initial wall of procrastination and get my articles or pitch letters written.

But this past month, I’ve just found myself in a bit of a rut. I’m excited to write so many ideas, but feel on where to start or even if anywhere will take them. I’ll put aside entire nights to write and in the end, come out having watched too many of useless YouTube videos and completely frustrated with myself.

So this post is more of an inquiry into what you do when you’re in a creative rut? Should I start taking the Ernest Hemingway approach and move to an island with only my cats and all the pens I’ve stolen from YouTube? Should I buy a typewriter so I can’t keep editing each line before I’ve had a chance to write the entire piece? Should I delete Instagram, my procrastination enabler?

At the moment, I’m viewing this time as the period in which I’m meant to consume, rather than create, art and writing. I’m taking more time to read, try new bakeries in my neighborhood, visit exhibits around the city, sweat all over my yoga mat, write letters to friends, and dare I say it, go to bed at a decent hour. I’ve also had many dance parties to Whitney’s “Dance With Somebody” around the house.

In looking at it a bit positively, this rut has given me time to rewire my desire to do everything at once. While I love to be ambitious and try all types of pitches and articles, my standards for what I can get done in a week — while also working full-time — aren’t realistic. So how do I remedy a desire to keep growing as a writer with the need to find a more balanced existence? I’m currently on the hunt for some answers and until I get to the bottom of it, at least I have three seasons of “Doctor Blake’s Mysteries” to keep me company.

^^ Also, my favorite video this week. Sorry mum, it has some “language” as you would say. ^^

27 Hopes for 27

Whenever I tell people I was born on May 24, the inevitable question of signs come up. “I’m a Gemini”,” I reply, always proud to be the twins. But without a doubt, the next thing out of everyone’s mouth is, “So you’re two-faced then?” Gemini’s just can’t escape the reputation some charming horse theft gave us millions of years ago (*I’m guessing here) and now, much like Scorpios, people are a little cautious of us late May and June babies.

But the other day, my yoga teacher started talking about yoga being a balance of opposites. In each pose we’re drawing forward and backward to find balance, pushing and pulling to stay steady. Much like life, yoga is a blend of relaxation and strength.  This really struck me as I started to see all the ways contrasts and opposites play out in my daily life: Routine vs. spontaneity, Staying driven vs. taking time to relax, Needing to be alone vs. loving being around people. It’s not that Gemini’s are two-faced, I think instead we’re are a strong collision of opposites trying to find a balance. As a Gemini, I can be anxious and then unusually relaxed; calm and then stressed; curious and open, then immediately decide something isn’t for me; loving until a button has been pushed to far and then not into it. In a way, I like to think we all have a little Gemini inside of us as we attempt to carve our own little niches in the world.

So today is this Gemini’s official 27th turn around the sun. My family helped me celebrate over the weekend with a trip to the Brooklyn Street Fair on 5th, empanadas, delicious beer, book browsing, and movies. We also sat around my TV and yelled at a British house hunting show. It was my perfect birthday celebration so today is really just icing on top of an already delicious cake.

Last year, in the wake of turning 26, I wrote a letter about the 26 life lessons I’d learned for 26 years. The act of documenting birthdays has come to mean a lot to me on this blog. It’s shown me how I’ve grown and come into my own. It’s provided me portals into past moments with my loved ones and has given me time to reflect on what I hope the next year will entail. This morning I spent my third birthday in a row with Alfred my yoga mat and together, we created this list of 27 hopes for 27 because no birthday is complete without a good list.

27 Hopes for 27

Land my first yoga handstand.

Take more meandering walks and dessert breaks throughout the city.

Build an herb garden on my fire escape and plant succulents in my pottery pots.

Learn a song on ukelele so I can finally stop writing this in every post.

Be able to make and share pottery presents (vases!) with loved ones.

Laugh until my crinkly-eyed smile might burst.

I deeply hope I will always be confident and enjoy the person that I am. Compassion, it turns out, is much better than comparison with others.

Pitch and publish two more articles from my writing wishlist.  (And hopefully many others in-between!)

Send more just-because mail, drop off more just-because baked goods, and plan more just-because moments for friends and family.

Hike the trail to June Mountain ski lodge.

Spend long afternoons reading in different cafes around the city.

Learn how to make scones and invite people over for tea.

Continue to be an attentive and present cat mum.

Travel outside of the country and take another solo trip somewhere in the U.S.

Allow myself to enjoy downtime.

Respect but don’t surrender my time to writer’s block. Keep focused and keep writing.

Visit Governor’s Island and the Cloisters.

Enjoy a day at Disneyland.

Take the time to understand and care for Voices.

After being on this listserv for close to a year, it’s time I actually went to the Graphic Novel bookclub in Brooklyn.

I can only hope my community continues to deeper and expand in New York.

I become better at calling people back. This might take a miracle but hey, this could be the year!

Continue be open to new people and not overthink interactions.

See two new Broadway musicals and a new play.

Begin volunteering at a local shelter or animal rescue.

Become a morning yogi.

Stop worrying I’ll forget or miss the little moment that would chance my life either professionally or personally. Like the red string of fate, I like to believe that the things that are meant to be will happen. No matter which direction I sail, or the side trips I take in between, I will eventually land where I need to be. I won’t forget and neither will Time.

^^ 27, I’m already feeling like you’re going to be a good one. ^^

My First Printed Article

^^ Taken in the toy aisle of Montauk’s only drugstore after I finally stopped crying. Please excuse my bangs, it was really windy next to the beach. ^^

Okay, this blog’s title is technically a lie. My actual first published article was for a limo and bus magazine in 2010. I wrote about a company’s new inclusion of LED lights in their party buses and while I don’t doubt the piece rocked 15-35 peoples’ lives, there is a high chance it was enjoyed mostly by bunnies whose owners used it to line their cages.

I’ll be the first to admit, this post is a bit self-indulgent. I just didn’t want to lose any of the photos and notes people sent me after seeing my article.

I originally started pitching this piece about a year ago. It was rejected by eight other magazines before my cold call to Psychology Today caught an editor’s notice and after a few up and downs, I got assigned the piece (Huzzah!) … to have filed in two weeks (*begins chugging wine directly from the bottle*). Thus began one of the most stressful, frazzled weeks of my life that eventually ended in what is now on newsstands. I didn’t expect to run into the magazine in Montauk. I had walked in to buy sunscreen because, well, just take a good look at me, and spied a corner of Psych Today tucked behind an avalanche of bridal magazines.

Seeing the artwork for the first time, my little photograph under the author introductions and dedication to my dad, I pretty much spent the first couple hours of my Montauk vacation crying in their town square. I’m so proud of this piece. Every time I see it out in the world I get a little choked up, both because of this specific piece and the five years of work it represents.

I used to fearfully think, what if I had never randomly signed up for that introductory journalism class? It was such a whim choosing that class, it wasn’t in my major and I’d never written any type of journalism before. But I’ve come to believe, like all great love stories, writing and I were always meant to find each other. Pulled along by the red string of fate, that class then lead me into a double major and later, my first job at a magazine in Orange County that coincidentally wrote about YouTube. The last piece I wrote before they were shut down, a piece I wasn’t even supposed to publish, was the piece Earnest found and propelled him to hire me on YouTube Nation. That lead to New York and YouTube, but along the way, I just kept writing. And writing and growing and writing and somehow here we are.

^^ My former journalism teacher shared my article on her social media and my heart pretty much exploded. She’s the most badass lady writer I know so to get this little notification was pretty surreal. ^^

The thing is, when I first started out, I was NOT a good writer. Hell, I read stuff from last year and cringe. In the beginning, the process of starting a story often felt clunky. My classmates would blow me away with their vivid descriptions and metaphors, and I was still trying to figure out what to report on. For a long time I felt like an imposter. There were the real journalists and then there was me, just kind of chugging along with no idea of what I was doing. But in the end, I loved talking to people so much. Like my favorite lady detectives, journalism allowed me to dig into the motives and stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things (or extraordinary people doing ordinary things!). Who isn’t curious to sit inside someone’s brain and heart for a day? Or a week? Or a year!

As my teacher Erika Hayasaki once told our class, writing is 90 percent hard work and 10 percent talent. You know what? She was so right. She was a thousand percent right! I want to go back and tell my younger self, “IT WILL ALL WORK OUT, THIS ADVICE REALLY WORKS! STOP BEING SO STRESSED!”

(Though yelling at a stressed person rarely works.)

The only reason I’ve continued growing as a writer is because I’m too curious to mind my own business and too stubborn to stop pitching. That’s the big secret. That’s my Big Magic.

This post is a big thank you to all of you for reading and sending so much love these last couple weeks. But mostly this post is my way of saying that it’s entirely possible to accomplish your biggest, wildest dreams. It’s a ton of hard work, gumption, and some thick skin, but all great love stories started with one tiny step.

Hell, if a kid who can’t do phonic can write an article for a major magazine, you better believe your dreams are possible.