[Alice is looking at the invitation to her half-sister’s wedding]
Her phone buzzes … “So, how much?” It’s Paul, her brother.
“Hold on.” Alice scrolls down the website for a stationery company called Bella Lettera that she heard a coworker gushing about yesterday. Buried below a hundred pictures of dainty thank-you cards and save-the-dates, she finds what she’s looking for: a pink-and-white pricing table for wedding invitations…
She skims down the table’s columns: foil, no foil; card-stock type; multiple colors. “Let’s see. We think it’s two-ply paper, right?” Alice picks Eloise’s invitation up off her desk. The paper is full and cottony, halfway between papyrus and a quilt, she thinks. And if she looks closely enough, she can see details she missed last night: wisps in its pulp, places where it’s been hand pressed—all sorts of little irregularities that add up to a hefty price tag. “How many colors are we dealing with?”
“I was just going to ask that,” Paul says. “I count three: gold, silver, and that terrible, shitty English-seaside blue.”
Alice liked the blue when she first opened the envelope; it had reminded her of the peonies her mother used to grow in their garden in St. Charles. “Right,” she says. “Three colors. Do we think it’s letterpress or foil stamping or what?”
“So, Mark and I were talking about this last night. He originally thought it was letterpress. But, I mean, if you look closely, you can pretty obviously see the foil.”
Alice closes her left eye and squints at the name of the groom: Oliver. The elegant O glints under the office’s fluorescent lights. “Definitely foil,” she says. “And we estimated how many?”
“I’d say two hundred fifty. That bitch knows a lot of people.”
“I think that’s probably reasonable.” Alice reaches for a pen and a Post-it, jots down a few numbers, and performs a series of mental calculations. “So, we’re looking at about eighteen hundred, but that just covers the invitation, program cover, and program panel.” She scrolls down to the site’s next table. “For response cards, and the save-the-dates we got a few months ago, and menus, and all of that shit, we’ve got to consider another … looks like about fifteen hundred.”
“So we’re up to about thirty-three hundred.”
“… and then envelopes are going to run another seven hundred, at least.”
“Okay, so four thousand. Anything else?”
Alice does a quick inventory. “No, I think that’s it.”
“We’ll throw in an additional five hundo, because it’s Eloise, which brings us up to forty-five hundred dollars,” Paul says.
commentary: First of all: Best Title Ever. Apparently Ginder was on the way home from a wedding celebration, on a train with a group of friends, and one of them opened a bottle of wine and said ‘People we hated at the wedding: Go’. I hope he has since given the friend a bottle of champagne.
I bought the book on the strength of the title, and the opening chapter - the extract above is part of it, long because I found it so hilarious - seemed to justify it. I loved the siblings stalking their sister’s shopping choices: ‘We knew it would cost [that much]. We just wanted to be justified in our disgust.’
Once we get on the wedding trip, heading off for the ceremony in England, the book picks up to become mightily entertaining again, but - how can I put this? - there is 40% of the book in between these two points, and it is dull and all-too-familiar: three characters vary the chapters, they have work problems, difficult relationships, they drink or take drugs too much, they think about past grudges. None of it is new or unfamiliar, it is all carved out from the usual world of modern American novels. The book to me reads as though Ginder had written a modern life novel, then got hold of the wedding idea, and interleaved the two. I think he should have written a much (much) shorter book dealing only with the wedding. I also had a problem with the character whose flaw is that he tells long boring stories. Note to author: don’t tell us the stories, they ARE boring.
The later section is much more enjoyable, partly because everyone is very human, full of failings and not terribly likeable. Often that annoys me in a book, but this time it is so wholesale as to be refreshing, and there are some very funny scenes and moments.
I like the casual comments on the characters’ lives and acheivements -
his thesis—an exploration of the use of eating utensils in Jane Austen’s earlier work—remained a constant source of anxiety and wonder for Paul; he could scarcely pick up a fork anymore without thinking of the Bennet sisters.
She had a memoir being released that week (after reading Around the World in Eighty Days in the wake of a messy breakup, she spent a year traveling the world, trying to find eligible men in foreign cities with untapped dating pools, like Accra and Vilnius. She’s still single)And there is a date for an older couple which I think is an object lesson in what not to do: do not take your potential love interest kayaking in a wetsuit. It is a hilariously horrible worst first date.
There are a few problems with the English setting - I’d love to know at which point on the M4 from Heathrow you can see
A council flat, a dusty cathedral, an old television antennaNo-one in the UK, ever, has ever said ‘There’s a pub about two kilometers down the road’ or ‘You’re going to take a left in about four kilometers’. And young Brits did not read the Hardy Boys as schoolkids.
Also - and this is just a difference, not a problem - in the UK someone with ‘ropy’ arms and legs is someone with pretty bad arms or legs, which is plainly not what Ginder means, he means gym-toned.
I would say to anyone reading this book – if you’re finding it dull or hard-going, then persevere: It will get better. And the funny bits are worth it.
Disappointingly, there wasn't much about wedding clothes - surely such great possibilities for jokes - so I made do with general pictures. And, if I hadn’t already known that modern day weddings were ready for a takedown, wandering round Pinterest looking for the pictures above would have convinced me. However I mean no offence to the happy couples whose photos I have borrowed – all these pictures look tasteful and charming to me.