The book jacket for Jen Doll’s Save the Date — with the image of a woman’s strappy sandals beside a slice of buttercream cake suggests that this memoir will be a Sex and the City-esque madcap comedy in which a woman marches tipsily through a parade of lavish weddings where she’s forever the bridesmaid but never the bride.
To be fair, there are splashes of Carrie Bradshaw in this memoir by Doll, who, like the Sex and the City heroine, is a New York-based writer. She relishes a good cocktail and has been known, on at least one occasion, to spend $450 on a pair of platform pumps. But this book is more introspective than its light-as-marzipan cover suggests. Doll is a veteran of the nuptial circuit, which has taken her from modest New York City courthouse ceremonies to elaborately planned destination weddings in the Dominican Republic, and she uses her extensive experience to reflect on the way weddings serve as personal milestones in the lives of those who are tying knots and those who aren’t.
“While one might assume a wedding is about them — the couple getting married — a wedding is about everyone,” she writes in what essentially is the book’s mission statement.
In the chapters that follow, Doll revisits weddings. These include one where she physically backed away from the bridal bouquet — the “flat sack of impending floral decay,” as Doll calls it — that a soon-to-be ex-best-friend tossed at her toes, and the one where she got so blasted that she had to be yanked out of the after-party. There also are the plus-one chronicles, in which Doll recalls the relationship cracks that turned into full-blown fractures when she dragged boyfriends along on her ongoing wedding world tour. “There was love there once, and then there’s not,” she says wistfully after spotting one of those boyfriends, post-break-up, on a subway. “I wonder where it goes.”
Doll, who remains unmarried, is a sincere, highly detailed writer. Her attempt to explore contemporary weddinghood from a place of intelligence, as opposed to relaying another blizzard of Bridezilla stories, is admirable. The problem is that reading Save the Date is occasionally like thumbing through photos in a stranger’s wedding album: As lively and bright as each image is, the exercise can get tiresome after a while. Doll gets so mired in the minutiae of each affair — the color and cut of each dress she wore, which friends from college were on the guest list — that she sometimes forgets to make the wedding stories relevant to her audience.
By the end you may have trouble remembering what happened at the many, many ceremonies and receptions described here. (Well, except the one at the inn in Vermont where the bride suffered a nearly fatal reaction to a peanut allergy.) Weddings are, indeed, “about everyone.” But they also tend to blend together in a haze of registry gifts, “I dos,” hors d’oeuvres and stories that sometimes, but not all the time, are worth publishing.
Jen Chaney reviewed this book for The Washington Post.