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Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest

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From a fresh and exciting new voice, a hilarious and insightful examination of the search for love and the meaning of marriage in a time of anxiety, independence, and indecision.

Weddings. They’re fun, festive, and joyful, and at a time when people marry later in life—and sometimes not at all—weddings offer endless opportunities to reexamine love and what we want for ourselves, regardless of whether our aim is a walk down the aisle. In Save the Date, Jen Doll charts ...

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Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest

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From a fresh and exciting new voice, a hilarious and insightful examination of the search for love and the meaning of marriage in a time of anxiety, independence, and indecision.

Weddings. They’re fun, festive, and joyful, and at a time when people marry later in life—and sometimes not at all—weddings offer endless opportunities to reexamine love and what we want for ourselves, regardless of whether our aim is a walk down the aisle. In Save the Date, Jen Doll charts the course of her own perennial wedding guesthood, from the ceremony of distant family members when she was eight to the recent nuptials of a new boyfriend’s friends.

There’s the first trip home for a childhood pal’s big day, in which she learns that her first love has eloped to Hawaii. There’s the destination wedding attended with little baggage beyond a suitcase of strappy sandals and summery party dresses. Regrettably, there are weddings that mean the end to a valued friendship. There’s also the wedding that offers all the promise of new love.

Wedding experiences come in as varied an assortment as the gowns at any bridal shop, and Doll turns a keen eye to each. Funny, honest, and affecting, Save the Date is a fresh and spirited look at the many ways in which we connect to one another.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Rebecca Traister
Jen Doll is Emily Post's worst nightmare…her first book…[is] called Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest, and its wedding-cakey cover conceals a secret. It's not about marriage at all, but rather its inverse…Contemporary heroines are not necessarily brides; they are also the friends, colleagues, classmates of brides, and their stories do not want for depth just because they're not the ones wearing white. Doll's own story—a good one—lays out a disruptive new path, even if it's wrapped in a traditional package.
Publishers Weekly
Freelance writer and editor Doll has a love-hate relationship with weddings, of which she has attended more than 20, recounting with humor and honesty the highs and lows of each. While successful in her professional life, Doll dates a series of boyfriends while she tries to figure out what she does and doesn’t want from relationships, how to achieve it and whether she even wants to get married in a very modern era where more people get hitched later in life or not at all. Looking for wisdom and inspiration, she examines her parent’s long union, which has survived moves around the country and countless absences, with each evening bringing the two of them together for martinis. Her parents give her common-sense answers—share the same values, have fun together—that leave her feeling like there’s more to it than just those basics. The weddings of her friends provide their own lessons, such as when she sees and hears how the couples are getting along and knows what’s lacking in her relationship with her boyfriend and is finally compelled to break up. And, after too many weddings with too many drinks consumed and tales of bad behavior (like drunkenly making out with a groom at his bachelor party) she takes note and tries for a more adult approach with a little less drama and wine. In the end, Doll offers a refreshing take on society’s evolving ideas on marriage and the importance of knowing oneself. (May)
Library Journal
It's the era of mega-weddings, and Doll has been to dozens of them—for childhood friends, for friends she's then lost, all the way to Jamaica. I've heard nothing but raves about this compendium from Doll, who's made her name as a smart, sassy observer writing for venues from the Atlantic to Vice.
Kirkus Reviews
A debut memoir chronicling the author's feelings about the many weddings she has attended. Doll is an established writer and editor who has been to more than 20 weddings since she was in diapers. Throughout the book, a bewildering mass of anecdotes, incidents, musings and emotions whirls past, blurring together and leaving little lasting effect. The author is always attentive to the details of clothing, decorations and environments, but her powers of description are limited, with a heavy reliance on lists and clichéd phrases. One of the most engaging parts of the book is the story of her parents' courtship and marriage, and her lively mother may be the most vivid and sympathetic portrait. Doll raises all the persistent difficult questions about how to pick the right person, how to make it work, how much work is a reasonable amount, but most of her advice is predictable. She covers the usual anxieties of the single person whose friends are all getting married, as well as many questions about the place of marriage in modern life, but Doll skims the surface of them, as she does her own emotions. Her preoccupation with weddings seems to come down to lingering childhood fantasies, a love of parties and a niggling sense of missing out, despite her overall satisfaction with single life. As the narrative progresses, Doll's lighthearted charm fades as she repeatedly laughs off and rationalizes her own volatile and damaging drunken behavior. In one rock-bottom episode, she combines material display with titillating dysfunction by informing us of the exact cost of the shoes she flung down the street as her friends tried to subdue her. Party-loving singles with an anxious interest in the weddings of friends may find a kindred soul here. Those looking for emotional depth or original insights may not.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594631986
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/1/2014
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 188,656
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jen Doll has written for The Atlantic, The Atlantic Wire, Cosmopolitan, The Hairpin, New York magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Toast, Vice, and The Village Voice, among others. She has attended dozens of weddings and had pretty much every possible feeling about them. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***

Copyright © 2014 by Jen Doll

Allow me to begin by saying, I am very, very happy for you.

Allow me to begin by saying, Once upon a time there was a girl who met a boy, and they fell in love and wanted to be together forever, and she wore white, and he wore a tux, and they walked down an aisle strewn with rose petals into their bright, shining future. That girl was not me. Congratulations! Or is it best wishes? Here is your KitchenAid. Le Creuset Dutch oven. Kate Spade stemware. Crate& Barrel flatware. Highball glasses. Crystal paperweight shaped like a heart. Hundred- dollar gift card to that furniture store you like. “Informal pasta,” whatever that is; you had it on your registry, so it must be good! Four tea towels, a stainless-steel garlic press, a “Love” coaster set, a pack of organic coffee filters, and a butter knife, because I didn’t have a moment until just before this grand event to go online and buy you anything and that was all that was left. Your family sure is proactive. How can you stand them? Oh, here is your bowl. Yes, I bought you a bowl. I realize it wasn’t on your registry, but I got it for free when I bought the same bowl for myself. I guess that doesn’t mean I bought it so much as acquired it, but, wait, I’m talking too much, aren’t I? You look amazing! Cheers to the gorgeous couple! Yes, please, a refill would be excellent.

But let’s backtrack.


Sometimes they come once a year and seem like a good excuse to go on a vacation to a predetermined destination, a place with built-in friends and a legitimate purpose and even a prepared schedule of activities, a wedding gift basket waiting for you in the hotel room, packed with granola bars and locally derived tchotchkes and miniature bottles of sunscreen. Sometimes they come like migrating birds or wolves, in flocks or packs. When you glance behind your shoulder, there’s another one gaining ground, and you can’t seem to stay ahead of them no matter what you do. They’ve got their eye on you. Sometimes it seems every weekend is a wedding. On the odd occasion, one weekend brings two, forcing the invited into a perilous decision-making scenario that has grave, long-lasting consequences: Which couple will be anointed friends forever, and which will descend slowly but surely into the status of “mere acquaintances,” their big day having been forsaken? Intrepid guests who don’t want to choose will go to both, driving for miles, taking red-eye flights, swapping out dresses and shoes and jewelry and handbags and itineraries as if actors in a play or models in a fashion show, which is a not entirely inaccurate depiction of a particular State of Wedding Guesthood. This is just what’s happening to us right now, the wedding guest of a certain age will think, gasping for breath but shrugging it off, going along. We’ve reached that stage in life. It’s only temporary. This, too, will pass! At some point, surely, the perpetual wedding dance will cease, and we will be able to sit back in the comfort of our wedding guest retirement and possibly even save a little money by not going to so many weddings. But while we’re going to weddings, we should try to have fun at weddings. They only happen how many times a year? Well, we really have no other choice.

And oh, there is fun! There is plenty of fun. There’s fun even before you get to the chapel or the reception hall or the rented suite of the fancy hotel or the country club or your best friend’s parents’ backyard. The weeks and months preceding each wedding will inevitably involve secondary parties— bachelorettes and bachelors and showers and engagement celebrations and whatever else is deemed necessary to get the crowd pumped for the headliner. Do not be fooled by these seemingly casual add-ons: They are the octopus tentacles of the ultimate party, stretching farther in all directions, part and parcel of an event that in most cases, when all is said and done, guests will have shelled out rather a lot of time and energy and cash to attend. We do this willingly, even joyfully, because not only are we often actually quite happy to be there but also this is an algorithm we’ve been brought up to believe in. Tit for wedding tat; eventually it will be our turn, too, and we’ll get back everything we’ve given and possibly more. You go to my wedding; I’ll go to yours. I’ll buy you a heart-shaped waffle maker (in stainless steel, per your request); you’ll eventually return the favor with an enameled stockpot in Marseille blue. There’s little time to consider whether this formula will resolve as promised, who’s getting a better deal, or if we even want our turn in the wedding lineup of the ages—and if we do, how and when and why—because we’re already on to the after- party! The fun never stops.

To a single woman, a lifetime of weddings can begin to seem like a nuptial-themed Groundhog Day; we guests behaving slightly differently each time within the same basic framework as we strive for the ending that will put a stop to the unremitting weddings, or at least to the way we’ve been methodically acting our way through them. The story of a serial wedding goer is rarely the impeccable scenario depicted in the brochures and magazines or promised by the wedding planner, nor does it align with the aspirations of a pushy mother of the bride, an entitled groom, or one of those so-called bridezillas (such an awful word). The dream-wedding-in-the-bubble, the “perfect day” meticulously constructed to suit the whims or long-held fantasies of the marrying couple or their kin, is all too easily punctured by wedding guests who don’t share quite those same goals and aspirations. Or who get drunk and then decide they don’t. A “perfect day” becomes an entirely unrealistic concept when you start to let in the riffraff, not least because “perfect” is a matter of opinion. There is no “perfect day.” There is only the day upon which two people are married, for better or worse.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2014

    I bought this after seeing it highlighted in People magazine. B

    I bought this after seeing it highlighted in People magazine. Blah - kept waiting for the funny parts and never found them. Lots of loose ends, as well. (her mother? the "one" from Seattle?) Difficult to connect to any of the characters - just overall very disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2014

    Save Your Money

    The book cover states "The Occasional Mortifications of a Wedding Guest." The writer has an obvious problem with alcohol. Her mortifications are weddings are based upon her drinking to excess. After reading half-way through this book, I thought perhaps the writer would have gained some insight into her drinking which clearly affected her relationships with others. No insight here and the writer likely believes the reader will find it amusing. We all know that one person who we dread will get out of control at a wedding because they drink too much. The writer is such a person. As you read further in the book, your realize this is written by an alcoholic that needs an intervention. Sad. Save your money and don't buy this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2014

    Wow. This is a book about someone with a drinking problem, as we

    Wow. This is a book about someone with a drinking problem, as well as some profound behavioral/narcissistic issues. A virtual stranger describes the author as "a little bit Amy Winehouse." I'd say that's apt, except that this isn't some magnum opus washing over the world in spite of that tragedy. The book isn't even very insightful because the relationships are treated so cavalierly. And that is pretty much the premise of the book. This is more navel gazing of the most embarrassing sort. Jen Doll can write, but the subject matter, in this case

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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