by Debra H. Goldstein
Weddings are a time of joy, unbridled nerves, and warm, sweet and catty family moments. Last year, as the mother of the bride, I was the chief wedding planner and put-out-the-fires” behind the scenes person, responsible for keeping everything and everybody balanced so that my daughter could relax and enjoy herself. At the beautiful wedding I attended last week, people kept coming up to me and saying, “I bet you’re thrilled you’re not the one in charge” or “Nice to be a guest, isn’t it?” Smiling, I assured all of them how right they were, but that wasn’t true.
The truth is that I can’t help attending weddings without dissecting them. Rather than simply taking in the beauty of the flowers, I take note of the number and style of arrangements, if they vary in height, whether they are composed of flowers (and if so, what kind) or if they contain cheaper accent pieces like wood or candles. If there is a chuppa or canopy, I look to see if the décor is carried down the support legs or simply greenery wrapped across the top. I also mentally record if the evening is black tie, the bar is open all evening, if the better liquor tiers are served, and whether the menu is multi-faceted or disguised chicken. I also look and listen closely to understand the interaction between the different family members.
My enjoyment of weddings hasn’t diminished, but my approach to them has been significantly altered. My reading habits have undergone a similar modification since I began writing seriously. I bring the same critical approach to works I create and those, written by others, that I read. Although I take the time to rave about books or stories that are well-written and engage me, my level of tolerance for repetitive language, poor grammar, shifts in viewpoint, and plots that don’t work has diminished.
Perhaps my current reaction to weddings and things I read is an outgrowth of the hours of research needed to plan my daughter’s wedding or it could be that it reflects my efforts to improve my writing techniques. The irony is that whatever clouds my perspective when I read is the same thing that is helping to make me a better writer. Technique and fundamentals colored by creativity are teaching me things that work, things to be avoided, and things to be experimented with. The result, I hope, is that although my ability to read for pure pleasure has been forever changed, I have and am growing from the experience.