Be my guest

A recent groom reminisces about the joys and terrors of the wedding day and the guest list

I got married last year. Sorry, ladies. Off the market. Usually, at weddings I’d attended in the past, I’d always been more interested in the reception than the ceremony. Forget the sappy shit, let’s get it over with and get to the partying. But when it’s your own wedding, weirdly enough, the ceremony is the best part. Sara and I wrote our own vows, something that, to me, is totally essential. If you’re pledging your life to another person, and that pledge really comes from your heart, it should be in your own words.

I was nervous and jittery before the ceremony, on the verge of wetting the pants of my rented tux. I was also fairly certain I was going to cry like a baby. Either way, It was going to be a very wet ceremony. My hands were already as clammy as New England chowder.

That headshrinker crap about “men have trouble expressing their emotions” has never really held with me. I’m pretty goddamn demonstrative—quick to laugh, quick to anger, quick to cry. I sputter and blubber like a broken sprinkler at Pixar movies and Otis Redding songs, so I told myself that if I felt the need, I would cry.

But during the ceremony, I felt no such need. Sara, much to her own consternation, cried. The bridesmaids, and at least one of my groomsmen, all the parents and aunties and sensitive, smiling folk on both sides of the aisle, shed joyful, sloppy tears.

But not me. I felt invigorated and strong, like what I was doing was righteous and just. I felt like a man. I felt like a champion. I felt like Muhammad Ali.

I’m not trying to brag. Those strong emotions caught me totally by surprise. So much of the wedding industry is directed toward women. Brides are brought up to be fixated on their wedding day, reading magazines, fussing over details, spending exorbitant sums. The groom is just supposed to stand where he’s told to stand, repeat some words, hand over the ring, and look forward to the honeymoon night. The whole event is generally presented as a lacey, flowery occasion.

So it was surprising to me that, in the heat of the moment, the wedding ceremony felt like one of the most masculine things I’ve ever done.

Me and you and everyone we know

It’s now six months later. How has my life changed since getting married? It didn’t change too much about day-to-day life for me and Sara. But my life has changed in at least one quantifiable way: I will never, ever be offended about not being invited to somebody’s wedding. I don’t care if you’re my best friend or my grandmother, if you decide you don’t have room for me at your wedding, it’s totally cool. I’ll understand.

Your wedding is such a big deal, you want to invite everybody you know. But, unless you’re gold digging a Beatle, that’s probably not feasible. You got to feed these people, liquor ’em up, and pack ’em on a dance floor. The whole thing gets pricey. So, if you’re working with a modest budget, like we were, you’ve got to start cutting people.

This is a series of heartbreaking decisions. Our initial draft of guests was nearly 400 people. We had to trim that down to about a quarter of the size. We started moving people to a B-list.

It’s very dehumanizing to divide your friends and family into tiers. It’s like deciding who gets to go on the spaceship and who has to stay on the exploding planet. Who gets milked and who gets eaten. We kept the first cousins, but cut the second cousins. Some of these decisions were founded on faulty logic, but when you’re making tough decisions, you use whatever logic is available.

After we finally whittled the list down to a semi-manageable number, we sent out the invitations. A few people said they wouldn’t be able to make it. So I did something that might be considered tacky, but that I don’t regret in the least. Less than a month before the wedding, I started calling the B-list.

“Hey, it’s Brad. … Fine, yeah. I have a weird question. … Uh, would you like to come to our wedding? … Yeah, it’s next week. … Crazy, huh? You probably would have preferred a real invitation, like, in the mail, but, uh, yeah.”

Some of these guests graciously accepted the half-assed invite, and we were happy to have them there.

At a local bar, a few weeks after the wedding, I bumped into a good friend who we had cut.

“So,” he said, with a smirk, “where was my wedding invitation?”

I launched into the same spiel I had already given to a few other people: “Man, I’m sorry. We really wanted to invite you. You were on our original wish list guest list”—I said this even when it wasn’t true—“But we had to trim our original list down from nearly 400 to just 100 or so, and it was really rough, and—“

He started laughing. “Dude, it’s cool. I’m just teasing. I know how it is. I’m married.”