The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest (I dropped “Save the Date” from the beginning of the title because I think it’s stupid, and poorly represents the book) was purchased on accident. Yes, on accident. I was rather indiscriminately purchasing books on the topic of life while planning a wedding. Not that I am planning a wedding, or expect to be doing so soon. But as a wedding photographer, I have to relate to those people frequently and why not take advantage of all that knowledge out there in books?
Throughout the first chapter, I was still deciding whether it was going to be useful to read this book. By the second chapter, I was uncomfortable with how much I was relating to the author’s tales of wedding-guesthood-ery and mixed emotions. Then, it was necessary to finish reading in order to know for sure that the author is just totally crazy.
Yes, the author might in fact be crazy. But in an endearing and embarrassingly relatable way.
Jen Doll goes to lots of weddings. She opens her book with her first wedding as child. She described the event in a kind of poetic prose that could only be suiting for a world through the eyes of a child at a big fancy party. The chronological story telling continues into her 20’s and 30’s, watching close friends marry off and move away. She struggles with the question of ‘why not her’, but also battles with the ‘why should it ever be her’ question just as fiercely.
The author puts a great deal of emphasis on the contrast between her life as a single person and her life as a person whose one in a couple. These are the chapters where the assessments she’s made, and the lessons she learned are challenged, sometimes overturned and sometimes reinforced. These are also the chapters where she finally gets to peak out at the wedding from closer to the wedding situation than anywhere else.
Her observations are not generally humorous, though the book kind of implies that they would be. They are insightful. For someone in their mid-20’s, there’s a lot of me-too moments in there, which are always nice.
One thing did frustrate me as the pages of the book passed. Almost all of the weddings in her adult life end in approximately the same way: in tears, drama, life-lesson. Drunken escapades do make for some serious life-lesson moments. But it’s interesting that she never seems to make the connection between the alcohol and the shockingly similar outcome of almost every wedding. Even though she seems to paint the picture quite clearly, I just can’t quite understand why “Alcohol’s probably not worth it” never came up.
I binge-read the last five chapters of the book. They were quite good. As an adult asking my own questions about marriage and partnership, her stories from weddings as an adult were compelling and optimistic, but also kind of sad. In the final chapter, I felt she missed a valuable lesson from her broken relationships and her friends who, she believed, were married to the wrong people. She takes away a message that we all have to take care to find happiness for ourselves. But I think the lesson is more clearly that we all have to choose happiness for ourselves.
I’m not sure who I’d recommend this book to. But I did enjoy it. Perhaps it was the reflection of my own sentiments, or an insight into the other gender. Maybe Doll is just a really compelling story-teller. Whatever the case, the book prompted plenty internal questions for a person my age. And by my standards, that generally makes for a good use of time.