Saturday, September 24, 2011

“Father of the Bride” and Losing a Daughter/Gaining a Son

“Father of the Bride” is a comedy in which George (Steve Martin) discovers that his daughter (Kimberly Williams) is engaged to her boyfriend of only a few short months. Although everyone else, including his wife Nina (Diane Keaton) and wedding planner Franck (Martin Short), are giddy for the upcoming nuptials, George is having trouble marrying off his little girl. The 1991 version of “Father of the Bride” is a remake of the 1950 film of the same name. The two films have the same plotline, differing primarily in the addition of shtick comedy for the later production.

I watched this film right before my wedding with my dad, who rented both versions as a laugh (we ended up only watching half of the original since the two films were virtually the same, word-for-word). Here are all the ratings:

Bride – 7/10
Groom – 4/10  “Fun but predictable”
Father of the Bride – 4/10 “Pretty lame”
Brother of the Bride – 6/10

Clearly, my brother and I have a soft spot for this film, and for the Steve Martin/Martin Short duo. I can remember watching this film when it first came out, and picturing my own wedding just like Annie’s (for reference, my wedding ended up being the polar opposite of the one from the film). Although my dad felt it was “pretty lame”, the movie was enjoyable and had a lot of heart. It’s also an extra perk for brides to watch it with their dads, and promises to create a couple of awkward moments (I speak from personal experience).

*Spoiler alert! – but c’mon, you saw it coming* George spends the large majority of the film coming to terms with the fact that his little girl is “all grown up”. During Annie’s wedding, George contemplates his daughter’s marriage and how that will affect his family. This voice-over monologue caught my attention, and resulted in a great deal of time spent reflecting over the relationship between my then-fiancé, myself, and my dad:

“’Who presents this woman?’ This woman? But she’s not a woman, she’s just a kid, and she’s leaving us. I realized at that moment that I was never going to come home again and see Annie at the top of the stairs. Never going to see her again at our breakfast table in her nightgown and socks. I suddenly realized what was happening: Annie was all grown up, and leaving us.  And something inside began to hurt.”  Courtesy of “Father of the Bride”, Touchstone Pictures

Like Annie and George, I grew up playing sports with my dad in the backyard and exchanging inside jokes at the dinner table. Although my dad got the chance to meet Brandon before we got engaged, watching this film with my dad and hearing this monologue at the end of the film left me thinking: “Oh [expletive] I hope my dad doesn’t feel that way.”

The role of a father in his daughter’s wedding day is traditionally to walk the bride down the aisle, and present her to be married. In most religious ceremonies, the officiant will ask something to the effect of “Who gives this woman to be married?” for the father to respond “I do.” This custom dates back to when wives and daughters were owned by the family patriarch, and the father would arrange for his daughter to be married off for a price[1]. In a more modern sense, this tradition symbolizes the father’s blessing on the marriage.

Reviewing the dialogue from the film, however, it’s incredibly sad to see the pain that this father goes through because he is “losing” his daughter. Obviously I wasn’t around to witness marriage unions in 1950, but this mindset seems to fit in better then than it does now. The friends that I’ve seen get married are not housewives, and they are certainly not owned by their husbands as the tradition of giving away one’s daughter would imply. These married women are just as professional, smart, and independent as they are caring, loving, and devoted. So much has changed in society and in marriage since the days of Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. So are fathers still losing a daughter, or are they gaining a son?

The month before Brandon and I got engaged, he was visiting me at university for the last couple of weeks before the end of term. My parents also came out to visit to enjoy the rare Seattle sun, and one night while I went to a study session for my Philosophy final, my dad took Brandon out to a local sushi restaurant with incredibly authentic and amazing food (at least, that’s what I’ve been told). My brother and I were always picky eaters, and refused most foods outside of our comfort zone. So when Brandon and my dad returned from dinner, after a night of flash-fried shrimp heads and quail egg sushi, my dad was so ecstatic that Brandon had tried (and loved) all the foods from that evening that he proclaimed, “FINALLY, I have a child who will EAT SOMETHING!”

Fast-forward three years to our wedding day, in which Brandon finished up his vows by saying “I’m so proud to be your husband, and to officially be a member of your family.” My parents never lost me as a daughter, but they gained Brandon as a son. Marriage is no longer about ownership and dominance, but is instead about merging two families together in to one big weird mess of chaos and love.

Bottom Line: “Father of the Bride” is funny and enjoyable, and is such a sweet film about a father-daughter relationship. However, dads should not lead by the protagonist’s example – instead, they should accept that their family is just getting a little bigger, and hopefully make the most of it.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wedding Cake

The bride and groom may look forward to practically every event on the wedding day, but guests plan ahead for one particular classic wedding custom – the cake - that tall, tiered, tasty cake. The wedding cake is an essential part of the joining of two lives in marriage, and who doesn’t love celebrating with slices of sweet bread covered in sugar? The cake is an integral part of a wedding, but brides and grooms can play with the idea, and their guests’ taste buds, by substituting other sweet treats for dessert.

The wedding cake dates back farther than most wedding traditions: to the Roman Empire, when a groom would taste a freshly baked loaf of bread and then break the bread over his bride’s head[1]. This was meant to indicate dominance over his new wife, and although bread is no longer broken over anyone’s head, brides and grooms still smear icing on their spouses’ faces (connection?). Bread evolved into cake, and a small cutting cake turned into a multi-layered piece of art.

A modern wedding cake is typically vanilla with white frosting and decoration and has tiers stacked on top of one another.  Why white? Like the dress and all other wedding-related décor, white is synonymous with weddings due to the purity of the color and how it represents a blank canvas for the bride and groom to paint a new life together (I just came up with that - corny, I know, but I write about weddings, so sue me). For chocolate lovers, the groom’s cake was introduced – a chocolate on chocolate creation frequently surrounded by chocolate-covered strawberries (the groom? Really? Bride can haz?). But the cake is not just for eating; it also is a significant part of a new union.

When it comes time to cut the cake, the bride and groom are meant to cut the first slice together. This symbolizes the first chore that the new husband and wife share. Subsequent slices of cake can be enjoyed at the reception, or single ladies can take slices of cake home and put them under their pillows as they sleep so that they will dream of their future husbands. The top tier of the wedding cake is saved to be eaten by the bride and groom on their one-year anniversary - the “why” is the creepy part. As wedding cakes gained popularity in the 19th century, so did Christening cakes. Since it was common for newlyweds at that time to start a family right after their wedding, Christening ceremonies were frequently held around the time of a couple’s one year wedding anniversary. Saving the top tier of their wedding cake would save money on buying a Christening cake, and that just makes economic sense.

As the wedding cake has changed over the centuries, trends continue to come and go. Brides and grooms should not feel constrained by the white wedding cake, and should feel free to play around with the cake or other dessert of choice. Wedding cakes can be vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, or even fruit cake (if you really hate your guests). Different layers can have new flavors, or you can have multiple one-layer cakes with many options for guests to choose from (as pictured).
Image courtesy of Hannah Pertalion and Darcy Sherwood

Cupcakes are a great alternate to cakes since they can be made of different bases, have different icings, and are easy to distribute. Since many caterers or reception locations will charge a cake cutting fee to slice the remaining pieces of cake and distribute them to guests (much like a corkage fee), this charge will be waived if the cake is already fashioned into adorable little mini cakes. Since it would be difficult for a bride and groom to cut in to a cupcake, many bakers will create a matching cutting cake for the ritual. To the left is a picture from my own wedding, in which we had vanilla cupcakes with two different kinds of icing, dyed to match our color scheme, complete with an equivalent cutting cake. 
Cupcakes provided by Cupcake Royale, Capitol Hill - and yes, they were as incredible as they looked.

For those thinking outside the cake box, there are other options that do not involve icing. To quote our current President, “I like pie”. Pies can be stacked to create the same imagery of a tiered cake, and there are so many more options for filling. An extra benefit to this dessert choice is that most pies will last longer in the freezer when saving the top tier for the one year anniversary. Quick tip for single guests: Don’t sleep with pie under your pillow.
Image courtesy of The Knot

Bottom Line: The wedding cake is as rich in tradition as it is in calories. It may be surrounded by history, customs, and anticipation, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t play with it! The classic white wedding cake, deconstructed cakes, cupcakes, pies, and many more dessert choices and are all great options for wedding 'cakes'. Whatever treat you end up choosing, remember that wedding cakes are just like newlywed couples: sweet, pretty, and made with love (okay, I need help).


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Children at the Wedding

One of the (sometimes major) decisions that needs to be made when creating the guest list for the wedding is the debate over whether children will be invited to the wedding ceremony and reception. Children can be a lively and joyful addition to any party, but can also create problems for parents, guests, and staff. Individual details of the wedding, the family and friends invited, and the children in question can help determine if children should be invited to the wedding.

‘Children’ is a very broad term, covering any individuals from age 0-20. If you consider a ‘child’ to be any individual under the legal drinking age, then you may be making a broad generalization about underage guests that could cause complications.  Since a common way of ruling out any children from attending a wedding is to put “Adults Only Reception” on the invitations, then guests in the approximate 16-20 age range may be confused as to what constitutes an adult. The age cut-off may alienate friends, cousins, and other guests who are mature young adults, but are not of legal age. This is why, if you are debating whether or not to invite children to a wedding, take the time to evaluate who would bring children and the style and size of your wedding.

Think about the friends and family members that you plan on inviting to the wedding: How many of them have young children? Are any of your cousins underage? What are the ages of children that might be invited? Answering these questions early-on can help narrow down an invitation list and determine how specific you need to be when inviting or not inviting families with children. For instance, one small child at the wedding may not cause any distractions, and is actually a great opportunity to include a flower girl or ring bearer in your wedding party. On the other hand, if you anticipate that there will be a large number of small children attending, then you are risking spills, screams, and so much more.
If you invite a family from out-of-town and exclude one of the children based on their age, then there is a good chance that the entire group will decline the invitation since they probably wouldn’t want to travel a long distance and leave their child at home or in the hotel room. If you have a young cousin or family friend, consider their age and whether you really need to exclude them. Their absence could determine the attendance of the entire group.
The age of children attendees is very important. Although babies cry at any time of day and toddlers are constantly moving, most children at an elementary school age will able to sit quietly for a short period of time. Tweens and teenagers will be able to interact with adults and wedding guests and will understand and respect your wedding wishes. Specifying “Adults Only”, as previously mentioned, might rule out adolescents perfectly capable of acting respectful and ‘grown-up’, able to participate in each wedding activity (save for the champagne toast). Of course, deciding which children are mature and responsible enough to be able to participate in the wedding day activities is at the discretion of the bride and groom.

For our wedding, our youngest guest was age 14, but this was not because we excluded younger guests. Since we had a small wedding and we were the first of our friends to get married, there were not many children to be invited. Here are some pros and cons about inviting children to a wedding:

Pro: Flower girls - totally adorable.

Con: Crying children during the ceremony - not so adorable.

Pro: Kids can be pretty entertaining when they're in a good mood...

Con: ...but when they're in a bad mood, they can cause destruction and distraction.

Here are few more general pros and cons to inviting/excluding children at a wedding:

Pro: Parents without their children get to enjoy the wedding without being distracted by their kids…

Con: …if they even make it to the wedding. Inviting parents sans children means that the parent has to hire a babysitter or get someone to watch the children while they go away. If plans fall through or if they can’t find someone to watch the kids, then they won’t be able to make it to the event, either.

Pro: Without the distraction of children, adults can enjoy uninterrupted conversation, dancing, drinking, and general wedding activities…

Con: …as previously mentioned, kids can be very entertaining and can lighten the mood. If conversation lulls or no one dances to the music, a kid bouncing around can get everyone back to enjoying themselves.

Inviting children or not inviting them does not have to be so black-and-white. There are ways that the engaged couple can take the pressure off of parents while still maintaining a certain style of wedding. One idea for if you don’t want to rule out children entirely, but also don’t want to risk a large distraction, is to make a certain part of the wedding kid-friendly.
To save parents the hassle of finding a babysitter, but allow them to have grown-up time, create a space for children to play during the ceremony and reception. If your wedding is at a church, see if you can also use one of the Sunday School or nursery rooms for young children to play during the ceremony. At the reception, have a kids’ table for older children, or a playpen for the younger ones. Consider asking a friend(s) to serve as a babysitter for the kids while their parents enjoy the party, or even hire a paid babysitter to watch over the children in the nursery room or playpen. Fill the area with toys, crayons, or maybe even a television to keep the kids occupied.

If you create an age cut-off for your wedding, and decide to invite some parents without their children in tow, then you should be sure to format your invitations in order to clearly state who is invited and who is not, so there is no confusion on or immediately before the big day. On an invitation where the entire family is invited, you can simply write “The Smith Family” on the invitation. However, if only the parents are invited, then you should specify “John and Jackie Smith” so that it is clear that you have requested the presence of these two individuals alone. Be prepared for some parents to write-in the name of their child if you do not include it on the invitation. In this case, you should talk to the family personally and explain that it is an adult-only wedding. Hopefully the parents will understand, since it’s your big day, and they will have plenty of time to find someone to watch their children.

Bottom Line: Deciding whether or not to include children at your wedding depends on the style and size of the event, as well as the priorities of you and your fiancé. There are many ways that children can be present without causing too much of a distraction, but if you decide that it should be an adult-only event, be sure to tell parents early so they can make other arrangements. No matter your decision, you can still enjoy this cute video: