By: Daniel Reynolds
One of our illustrious editors, Dan Grant, is getting married this weekend. For his birthday last year his soon-to-be wife, Emma, gifted him with a bound copy of all the columns he’s written for the Same Page. She’s that kind of gal.
So, while I am far from an expert on what it takes to make a wedding work, I’ve decided to lend a hand anyway by recounting the lessons that movies have taught me on the subject. If film truly is a reflection of life then these tips should help Dan and Emma enjoy their first day of marital bliss.
Lesson #1: Make Sure You have the Right Kind of Entertainment
We start our wedding plan lessons with a basic tenet of general party etiquette: make sure your entertainment doesn’t suck. Me personally, I’m a fan of an unobtrusive DJ. You know the type: a dude who plays good jams, anticipates the vibe of the room and generally stays out of the way. I can do without all the chatter. Yeah, we get it, guy, you’re excited to have a microphone.
Still, if you decide to go with live music, The Wedding Singer has some pro-tips to keep in mind. While the film does have some of the usual stupid things we can lambaste Adam Sandler for, it also has some genuine, non-mean spirited, heart. It also offers a pretty clear indication of what it takes to be prime time wedding entertainment: don’t be weird and creepy like late-period Jon Lovitz. Do be fun-loving and ready to go with the flow like vintage Sandler. And while I usually roll my eyes at the “just play the hits” mandate of most wedding entertainers, I understand the value of giving the people what they want (which can include Billy Idol if need be).
Lesson #2: Only Crash a Wedding if You Have a Plan
I know what you’re thinking. He said ‘crash’, this is where we get the Wedding Crashers lesson. No, forget that movie. We’re gonna kick this one old school (not that Old School, for God sakes). If you’ve seen The Graduate (or, umm, Wayne’s World 2), you know that in the finale the titular hero, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), bursts into the church to profess his love for the bride, Elaine (Katherine Ross). It’s been a rocky road for young Ben. He doesn’t know what to do with his life and he – how do I put this delicately? – may have been seduced by the bride’s mother (the Mrs. Robinson). It’s a tenuous position.
But I digress. The climax of the film puts us in the church as Elaine is getting ready to say ‘I Do’ to Carl Smith (Brian Avery, a.k.a who?). That is of course until Benjamin shows up, they run away together and, despite what the happy ending of the Wayne’s World 2 spoof will tell you, we get that last tremendously ambiguous shot. The two eloping love birds, who moments ago seemed destined for a future of happiness and love, share twin thousand yard stares, thinking hard on the hazy, complicated life that glares back.
Lesson #3: Try Not to Stress About the Guest List
From what I’ve been told by prospective brides- and grooms-to-be, determining the appropriate guest list and seating plan can be an arduous task. You have to figure out who’s in and who’s out, you have to make sure not to sit this uncle next to that cousin, you try to group your single friends together somehow, and good lord don’t put those two at the same table, they broke up three months ago!
See what I mean? I just broke into a sweat thinking about it.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, but I’ll tell you what I’ll always remember about it. The film involves a huge, complicated Indian wedding with guests coming from all over the globe. The bride and groom hardly know each other, their family and friends are essentially strangers. Yet, in the film’s memorable final sequence, all of the wedding guests, drenched in the rains suggested by the title, are on their feet passionately dancing and toasting to a truly joyous occasion. If only we can all be so lucky.
Lesson #4: No Hugh Grant
No, wait, that’s too specific. Give me a second here…
Lesson #4: Prepare Yourself to Eat, Drink and Be Merry
I admit The Deer Hunter is probably not the first film brought to mind when the notion of marriage is proposed. But lest we forget, the opening third of the film shows a sizeable slice of life of some Pennsylvania steel workers as they prepare for their friend’s wedding (to his pregnant girlfriend; hooray small-town living!)
Yes, I’m describing another party scene, but what I’m really trying to get at here is an appreciation for all the food and libations that will be at hand. A wedding day is, by its nature, a traditionally long day. It usually includes a couple of meals (and maybe a midnight buffet), endless lines of toasts and shots, and the couple is expected to be out and about, glad-handing with scores of guests. Consider some level of moderation and balance. Heed the advice of The Deer Hunter: you wouldn’t want to spill a drop of wine on the wedding dress and symbolical doom an entire marriage.
Lesson #5: Make Sure You Are Marrying the Right Person
And finally, we come to the most significant lesson to be learned here. It’s an obvious one, but you’d hardly be amazed to learn how often it goes awry. Quite simply: when you are ready to stand in front of all your friends and family and make extremely public declarations of love and commitment, make sure you’ve got the right partner. Case closed.
Naturally, leave it to Quentin Tarantino, a true romantic at heart, to provide the perfect summary for why this is important. His Kill Bill two part opus begins with what may be the worst wedding of all time. Everything is black-and-white, Samuel L. Jackson is slumped over in the church, and then the groom, Bill, shows up with his gang and kills everybody. The Bride, Beatrix Kiddo, miraculously survives (leading to, you know, the next four hours of film) but the matrimonial damage is done.
This is a grim note to end on. All I can picture right now is a honeymoon filled with anguish and bloodshed that eventually ends with a Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique. Fortunately, Dan is not graceful enough for that (sorry, pal!).
ANYWAY, a bonus lesson!
Bonus Lesson #6: Enjoy the Day
Ideally, your wedding day is supposed to be a one-time thing. And if you manage to keep cool, enjoy the company and pick the right person, it should be truly special.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is not a perfect movie (or a particularly tolerable one), but it was a big, feel-good success at the time. While I’d loathe to watch it now, I still enjoy some of the lines (“Is he a nice Greek boy?”) and its hopeless can-do spirit. Still, heed the lesson of Nia Vardalos’ film: do the party up right, enjoy the day for all its worth, relax and put any and all petty stresses aside.
Because while marriage is for life, a wedding – much like Vardalos’ film career – will be over shortly.