In too deep
A best man’s tale of his best friend marrying his sister
When my best friend, Owen, picked me to be the best man at his wedding, I thought it would mean a speech, a rowdy bachelor’s party, and that was about it. I knew the dynamics of my role would be different since his bride is no ordinary fiancé—she’s my little sister. But I had no idea I was about to be sucked into The Vortex.
My first clue that this deep, dark place existed was when I went with Owen’s family to visit his parents’ friends. I didn’t really know the couple, but when the wife heard that I was the best man, she rapaciously pulled out a bridal magazine and tore out a page with a list of tasks for the best man—a long list. I wondered why she had it. Her daughters are still in elementary school, and she’s been married for a while.
From there, things just escalated. Soon, my sister gave me a word count for the speech, and then my mom requested a copy of it to make sure it was appropriate and of traditional length and format. (I still don’t know what that means.) The bachelor’s party planning was also governed with an iron fist: It had to occur within a four-day window and couldn’t involve strippers.
Yes, The Vortex is a vicious place no man should be exposed to for long. Now that the Jan. 16 wedding date is rolling in, all I can say is: “Thank God it’s almost over.”
One day, I saw Owen sitting next to my sister on the couch while she looked through items on Crate & Barrel for their wedding registry. She had been there for hours salivating over pots, pans and serving dishes of various patterns and colors, the whole time asking Owen what he thought was nice. I watched the lifeless expression on his face and the dullness in his eyes. It was torture for both of us, so I suggested he and I take the dog outside. From then on, my role was to remove him from heavy wedding situations and carry him to a safe area, kind of like a bodyguard.
Since then, we have gone on a week-long backpacking trip on the Tahoe Rim Trail with only one rule: No wedding talk. Owen’s dad came along, and we learned from him that we shouldn’t feel guilty about not being totally immersed in the wedding planning; we are not made for such things.
Staying out of The Vortex is not easy. I have been asked how menus, invitations and engagement photos look, and I have learned to say good, because, it turns out, my opinion doesn’t matter. That role, in our case, is reserved for the ranking women. Like when I suggested that one of the registries be at outdoor recreation store REI for Owen’s sake, the idea was not even entertained by my sister.
Before this, my experience with weddings was very limited. I had been to one, and it was more of a small gathering in a backyard. It was simple and efficient, with friends filling the roles of musicians and photographers. It was pretty much the opposite of my family’s plans. I have now seen what goes into the complicated and sometimes ridiculous details of wedding planning.
My mom has taken on the roll of full-time wedding planner. She removed a friend from being the DJ and replaced him with a professional. Instead of me doing the photography, she hired a prized Romanian photographer. She supplemented the caterer with a choice of her own. She replaced my sister’s homemade table name holders—yes, the tables have name placards and specially-designed holders for them—with deer-shaped holders. She has collected pinecones of every size, shape and color to add to the floral decorations. She has gone to all lengths to make the wedding perfect. But when she told me that the details would make things perfect, I had to tell her I thought the devil was in the details.
I have seen family and friends fight, cry and become enraged over the most inane things, so I hope that all who read this, if they encounter The Vortex, will take a step back and realize that two people have found love, and that’s the most important detail of a wedding.