Having liked Kerry Reichs’ recently released What You Wish For, I decided to read her debut novel, The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life, published in 2008. It is a light chick lit novel with an informal first person point of view, numerous pop culture references, and gags straight out of a sitcom, but underneath the fluff lies an important topic: whether the institution of marriage should be a basic unit of society.
The novel stars Kevin Adair Connelly, nicknamed “Vi,” a woman whose parents gave her a boy’s name because it was the only name on which they could agree. She is a die-hard romantic in her late twenties who is waiting for her fairytale romance while her friends enter into “holy matrimony,” resulting in 11 weddings over 18 months. Along the lines of 27 Dresses (2008), Vi is the perpetual bridesmaid, a role through which she encounters a slew of wedding clichés: overbearing mothers of the bride, hideous bridesmaid dresses, silly wedding themes, and bridal parties of comical sizes. Like Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), there is even a brief mention of a Little Bo Peep gown. While these humorous clichés grew tiresome at a certain point, there is an element of truth to them. Most of us who have been bridesmaids probably have a couple of expensive dresses we would never have picked out for ourselves still hanging in our closets. I keep thinking that I might wear them again someday; to what, I have no idea.
Having participated in so many bridal parties for friends who are “settling” into marriage for reasons other than love (such as for money or familial duty), Vi develops a jaded view of the institution of marriage. Relationships in her own family further reinforce her view. With my background in family law, I’ll admit that I tend to share Vi’s skepticism of “holy matrimony,” despite being happily married myself. Marriage is a “big decision” in that it changes a person’s legal rights (bestowing benefits and penalties), but wearing a ring, throwing a big party, and signing a legal document mean little about the strength of the underlying relationship. The law recognizes this fact by making divorce relatively easy to obtain (now that states have “no fault” divorce), lessening the importance of the decision to marry by reducing the repercussions of marrying the wrong person (apart from unpleasantness and legal bills). With whom a person decides to have a child, whether married or not, is a much bigger decision, one that is not as easily “undone” as a marriage, affects a person who never asked to be in the middle (the child), and often requires custody court involvement for many, many years. I wish more people put as much thought into using birth control as they do into getting married.
The picture: It’s my wedding cake. My husband and I got married about two weeks after taking the Pennsylvania Bar Exam, for which we studied all summer to the exclusion of any wedding planning on our part (it’s thanks to my sisters and mother that a wedding ceremony and reception took place at all that summer!). The cakes showed up with plain white icing, and we were very lucky that my sister and our neighbor turned out to be talented cake decorators (using the leftover flowers that didn’t make it into our bouquets and centerpieces). Phew!