May 14, 2014 at 10:07 AM ET
When it comes to weddings, regular attendee Jen Doll has just about seen it all, from drunken behavior to misplaced cakes to tides that roll in and soak the wedding party. And now she’s sharing it all in her new memoir "Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest."
“The kind of standard view is that a wedding is something separate and special and precious and set aside and doesn’t really relate to the rest of our lives,” Doll said, “but in fact, it is part of our lives and we don’t leave anything behind. We are ourselves when we are going to weddings.”
Doll, a 38-year-old Brooklynite, originally wrote an essay about weddings for The Hairpin, which got a great response and prompted her to pursue a full book.
“I find weddings so fascinating. They represent not just the human connection of the bride and the groom but all of the people there. When we act like it’s just the bride and groom’s special, perfect day, it seems to go against this idea that we’re all there for a reason. We’re all there to support each other. The idea of openness and embracing that was really important to me.”
In writing her book, Doll tried to reflect on different relationships as well as the idea of growing up. “When we’re 8 or 22 or 25, these are not the feelings we’re going to have for our entire lives. Things can seem so fraught and dire and awful or so joyous and wonderful and happy. And really, it’s not about one feeling at a wedding, it’s about your whole life, the way you treat your friends, how they treat you.”
The book discusses wedding best friends, who you promise to keep in touch with but never do, and other experiences that make each wedding unique. “While you’re there you’re in this special, temporary beautiful ecosystem,” she said. “Your purpose is to be there for love and support.”
Doll’s goal was not to do an expose of her friends’ weddings or chronicle a bunch of bridezillas gone wild. It’s earnest, not snarky. “I’m a mush writer who I hope has kind of a keen eye for the way we do things culturally.”
Tips for the upcoming wedding season:
If you plan to drink, make sure you eat. “If you’re the type of person who goes to a party and doesn’t ever want to eat anything, you should eat beforehand,” Doll said. “There’s a high chance for disasters to ensue with all the wine and shots and partying — so eat!”
Check your drama at the door. “Everyone brings a lot of feelings we’re facing in our own life to the wedding. They may have nothing to do with the couple,” she said, adding, “allow those feelings to exist on their own in a safe space and don’t bring them ... the best thing to happen at a wedding is for everyone to go home and say, ‘That was really fun.’”
It’s OK to choose what works for you. “If you are invited to tons of weddings in one season, you don’t have to go to all of them,” Doll said. Instead, it’s better to explain to the couple that you can’t afford to attend but explain that you value your friendship. Also if you’re not very close with the couple, it’s fine to decline.
Watch your drinking. See first tip above.
No one needs your opinion. “If you have some issue about who they’re marrying or you feel really concerned, I think it’s fair to talk about those things,” Doll said, “but you shouldn’t do it at the wedding itself.”
Wear something that makes you feel special. While everyone says to wear the same dress to different events or to wear a dress from a wedding you were in, it’s “tainted with that bridesmaid feeling.” She recommends a service like Rent the Runway to try out new fashions without a big investment.
Make a destination wedding a vacation. You’ll have time to do your own thing and spend quality moments bonding with the bride and groom before the chaos of the wedding events begin.