All the Weddings I Have Ever Been to, as I Remember Them

by Jen Doll

There was the one when I was a little girl. It was the wedding of relatives, people I’m not sure I knew then and certainly don’t know now. I wore a lavender dress with four tiers of ruffles and large, round glasses that my straight bangs rested directly on top of. I was more awkward than adorable. My brother, who is three years younger, wore a little khaki businessman suit and was adorable. We alternated between holding a stuffed monkey and dancing and taking pictures of people’s feet until my grandmother brought us to our hotel room and tucked us into bed. Later that night when my parents came in she told us her boyfriend Jim had asked to marry her, and I jumped on the bed and cheered. I was approximately nine years old. Gift: N/A.

There was the wedding I attended as an awkward teen. The daughter of my father’s college buddy was marrying the man who would eventually bear the dubious honor of having been her first husband. We were staying with my dad’s other college buddy, and my brother and I were toted to the reception by the boyfriend of his daughter, in a pickup truck. He was handsome in a rangy, slightly scary way, and I was 13 or so and tried to imagine what it would be like if he were my boyfriend. We arrived at the wedding spot, which was outdoors and covered in a large, white tent; the guests were wearing galoshes, as it had rained the entire day and mud was everywhere. My mom was a bit drunk, and I told her so, which she has never let me forget. I might have been wearing jeans. Gift: N/A.

There was that first wedding out of college, the couple who married early and are still very much together. It was at a resort in the Dominican Republic and the ride on the little plane that carried us there was very bumpy. One of the other wedding guests looked at me and said, soothingly, “Pretend it’s just a gravely road,” which I tell myself on turbulent flights to this day. We arrived safely and drove golf carts around and sat on the beach and danced at the discoteca for several beautiful days, and a man who was the friend of the groom fell in that we’re-at-a-destination-wedding-together kind of love with me, briefly, sweetly. At the end of the trip he presented me with his email address, which was an AOL account. I wore a pink dress with one sleeve and a floral pattern. Gift: Were there even registries back then?

There was the high school friend who had her wedding in our high school town after we’d graduated from college. It was the first time I’d returned since my parents had moved away. It was at the country club, a place reminiscent of high school formals, dark and cool and full of the scent of cedar, and I flirted with a man who’d been my high school boyfriend’s good friend, who’d dated one of my friends, back when we were dating. I was staying with my best friend and her boyfriend (now husband) at her parents’ house, where we returned post-wedding to drink smoky, sweet-tasting things in glasses full of ice chips and talk of how grand it was that we didn’t live in that town anymore, and never had to again. I wore black, strapless. Gift: Can’t remember.

There was another college friend, who’d met her husband at med school. Their wedding was in Vermont, and we stayed at an old country inn, and everything was very green. There was a glassblowing factory nearby, and my boyfriend at the time went with me and we picked out some sort of gift from there, I think. We stayed at the inn and we did not have sex, partly because the walls were thin and you could hear everything, but also because we were falling out of love. Hot water was in short supply. I wore the same blue strapless J.Crew dress that all the bridesmaids wore. On the night of the wedding the bride, who was violently allergic to peanuts, ate a piece of pie not knowing it had peanuts in the crust, and had to be rushed to the hospital. I cried, and everyone said, “Thank goodness they’re doctors!”

There was the one in Boston. It was the wedding of a high school friend and another high school friend went with me. We waited for our bus at the appointed spot on the Upper East Side, but it got later and later and it never came. It was very hot. Finally we called and the bus company said, “Not coming!” and we very nearly gave in but instead rushed to Amtrak and arrived at the wedding just barely in time. Our hotel room was a smoking room and the air conditioner didn’t work. We slept for a few hours after the wedding and then left very early, our hair smelling of Marlboros and mildew, to return to New York. Or maybe we left right after the wedding. I have no memory of the gift I gave, or what I wore, but the table settings were very white, the bride very thin, and I sat next to the mother of the girl who’d dated my high school boyfriend’s best friend.

There was the one I just couldn’t bring myself to believe in, having counseled this friend through a number of, shall we say, “red flags” on the part of the man who would be her husband (now they have two kids and, to their credit, seem very happy). I put on my best face at the wedding, which took place on the beach at precisely the moment tide started to rise, and to which an ex (a friend of the groom) had brought a date in a tacky neon green Marilyn Monroe-type dress. Ocean water submerged our feet, but we smiled and laughed and moved our folding chairs to higher ground, and later we went to the country club and the single women were forced into a line for the ritualistic bouquet toss. When the flowers — hydrangeas, I think — plunked down in front of my feet, I did not pick them up. Attire: White sundress with floral embroidery and a lavender belt. Gift: KitchenAid?

There was the one in New Orleans, to which I wore a silky purple dress and a large black belt, topped with a black jacket with a fur collar. We sat at a rotating bar and drank adult Shirley Temples before the wedding, which took place at the St. Louis Cathedral. After the ceremony we second-lined to the Board of Trade, where, to everyone’s great dismay, a number of the wedding gifts were stolen. I got very drunk and had words with the husband (still unforgiven for red flags) of the friend who’d had the beach wedding, and one of the groom’s friends took me back to my hotel room where he may have held my hair back as I vomited, and cried. The friends I was sharing the hotel room returned and took pictures of me, which they thought were pretty hilarious, though I did not agree. Gift: Something that had to do with cooking.

There was the longest-sustaining best friend, a girl I’d met in seventh grade, who was married in Nashville. I brought a date, my boyfriend of going-on two years, a man with whom I was finally working up the courage to break up. He was miserable the entire time. At the rehearsal dinner I gave a toast, and the bride and I wept joyful tears, and then I did Jack Daniels shots with her father, who counseled me that I should dump the mopey boyfriend, who was hiding in the corner. We got on the bus that drove us back to the hotel, and I yelled something jokey about the bride being a bitch, and most people laughed, but my boyfriend shushed me and looked mortified. That night he put a trashcan next to my side of the bed in case I needed to puke, but I didn’t. To the wedding I wore a brown strapless dress from David’s Bridal, because I was a bridesmaid and, I am proud to say, the maid of honor. Gift: Le Creuset Dutch oven.

There was the one at a resort in Virginia, the wedding of the friend I’d met when I lived in Boston for a year, who was marrying a dentist. I had to show ID to get a drink, and there was a boy there who I’d kissed before on Cape Cod, but he had a date and told me he’d wished he’d come alone. There was another boy there, a blonde guy who lived in Providence who wanted to hang out after the after party. He didn’t have any coke, so I told him I’d go back to my room to get Red Bulls and vodka and meet him at an appointed bench in 15 minutes, but instead I went back to the room and fell asleep. It was not to be. I wore a flowered Tracey Reese halter dress. Gift: No idea.

There was the wedding in Jamaica, where I went for a week despite being unemployed. My father said, “You’re going to go despite not having a job?” And I said, “What better time is there?” I sat by the pool by day with the bride and groom, and then I went to the bar, where there was wireless, and I wrote blog posts and leaked information about my former employer to a media gossip website and drank refreshing, weird concoctions out of coconuts. One of the male guests had defeated me in a debate competition in high school, so I made it my point to seduce him as a way of “getting back at him.” On the night of the wedding I wore a silky turquoise halter dress with a string of large beads that tied at the neck. There was a tequila bar, and after my second shot I puked on the cliffs that overlooked the ocean (neatly, elegantly) and later went back to the straw-hutted villa of my onetime debate competitor, who handed me a toothbrush and toothpaste. Gift: Plates?

There was the one on the Jersey Shore, in early May, when it was still cold and rainy. I had been involved with someone who’d decided to move to another state and therefore dump me, so I went to the wedding — which was of a former roommate of mine, who’d met her British vegetarian husband in New Orleans — alone. I proceeded to make out with two different men in three nights: one on the first night, the second the following two. The first was married and I felt terrible about it, even though I hadn’t known he was married at the time and we didn’t sleep together, we didn’t. The second is now married, which I know from Facebook. I wore a magenta-colored silk wrap dress, and vintage earrings, which I lost, I believe in the hotel room of the second man. Gift: A bowl.

There was the one in L.A., the wedding of a girl I’d gone to college with and her on-again/off-again boyfriend, now husband. It was at the top of a building downtown and we were almost late, being fairly clueless about L.A. traffic. There was a cute bartender who kept refilling my wineglass, and we all danced madly in the out of doors to amazing views. I wore a black wool minidress with buttons down the back and felt very chic. I was with a group of girls from college, and all was well until the after party, when I said something I shouldn’t have in the elevator of the Standard Hotel to one of them, which led to a fight, and the entire evening went downhill after that, ending in tears. The next day, feeling bleak, I got up early and went to the airport and flew back to New York, never really speaking to the girl I’d argued with again, except for polite hellos and goodbyes when we meet out of necessity. Gift: Something we all went in on together.

There was the wedding of the couple that met after she and I helped paint a school for charity. We’d gone to a bar after our charitable work (of course), and then another one, where he happened to be, and after they bonded over Thailand and running, she gave him her number. Later, when he called, she thought he might be short and Asian (he was neither). They had a wedding on the Lower East Side, and I brought a date who did not own a suit and instead wore black jeans, which I was somewhat embarrassed about, even though what I should have been embarrassed about was the PDA we exposed everyone to at the table. (I am sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry!) I wore a Diane Von Furstenberg dress, and we left before the after-party. Gift: Unknown.

There was the one in Connecticut that my friend and I arrived at, through a torrential downpour, in a red Mini. This was stressful. In response I got drunk and kissed, one at a time: the bartender, a wedding guest, and a stranger at the local bar where the after party took place. I was wearing a purple dress with ruffles down the front that I’d bought in Paris. The bride’s mother tried to separate me from the last guy, and I became irate and threw my high-heeled shoes down the road, where they had to be collected by someone … the bride’s brother? I was driven back to my hotel room by a male friend, and when I threw my shoes at the window of his rented town car, the limo drivers in the hotel parking lot, who thought I was a paying customer, flocked to him to commiserate about his “Bitch Fare.” Later I convinced him to come to my room, where I got in bed with him and cried, violently, on his shoulder. Days later I found a Missed Connection posted by my final liaison at the bar, who compared me, perhaps not unfairly, to Amy Winehouse. This is not something I am proud of. Gift: Did it have a rooster on it?

There was the one I worked, when Mayor Bloomberg officiated the ceremony of two of his (male) staffers at Gracie Mansion. It took place on the first Sunday that gay marriage had been legalized in New York City. It had rained that day, but the sky was clear by the time the guests began to arrive, at which point I was still waiting between two bored journalists in a press line that ran through the Mansion’s gardens. The grooms had two little girls, each dressed in white lacy dresses and gold ballet flats. I confess I got a bit weepy when they all hugged after their two fathers were pronounced married. Matthew Broderick was there, too, in khakis. I wore a sleeveless blue dress with darker blue horizontal stripes, and I carried a phone and a notepad and tweeted incessantly. I was kicked out before the reception began, with the rest of the press, and so never got to partake of the ice cream truck, though I ended the evening at an Italian restaurant with a cold glass of wine. My gift, I suppose, was the post that ran about the ceremony the next day.

There was the one in Brooklyn, at a restaurant with views of the Brooklyn Bridge. I wore a steely purple dress with cutouts at the shoulders that my dry cleaner has since ruined and shiny patent leather Mary Janes. There was one single man there, and I was seated next to him (purposely, says the bride), even though she had told me beforehand that I would fight incessantly with him. I immediately lied about my name even though it was right there on the card in front of me; I claimed I’d snuck in through the side door and was a wedding-crasher. Later he gave me some of his steak and I gave him my chicken, and we went around pretending to be each other’s dates, his arm around my shoulders, protectively. We haven’t spoken since. Gift: I have a year, right?

Jen Doll is a senior writer for The Atlantic Wire.

Photo by Karen Grigoryan, via Shutterstock