How much "cheese" is too much?

It's a fine line between crowd pleasing and shameless pandering.

That's why, in choosing which "have to plays" will be queued up at our wedding reception, The Fiancee and I can say we know the pain of J. Geils.

Well, I can, anyway. She doesn't make obscure, barely-strung-together pop music analogies.

If you take a high-minded approach and refuse to play "the hits" — in his case, "Angel in a Centerfold"; in our case, "The Chicken Dance" — people get agitated real quickly. They feel like they're being tricked, or that you've taken a position of being above trying to entertain them.

But giving in means robotically moving through the motions and enjoying almost none of it — in his case, playing the five notes in the chorus a bazillion times; in our case, putting our right foot in, and then out.

The Fiancee and I came up with about 8 songs or dances that seem to get air time at most every wedding we've been to. Then I tried to articulate what I didn't like about every single one, and The Fiancee offered defenses of a few of them.

Basically, she said that without a few token numbers, there's no chance for people to feel that "It's a wedding, it's okay to be silly" feeling, and there are that many fewer incentives for people to get away from their place settings.

We came up with three keepers — the "Electric Slide," the Tarantella, and "YMCA." Last night, however, one of my groomsmen raised doubts as to whether that would be enough.

"There are people out there who would not go to a wedding if they knew 'The Chicken Dance' won't be played," he said. "What were you going to play instead, anyway?"

In a sense, he's right. Left to my own devices, my wedding would probably become more of a listening party for completely un-danceable, cognoscenti-approved deep album cuts than a celebration of two lives becoming one.

So, right now, the matter is officially under review. But I'm going to welcome outside input, because, well, you all have probably attended more weddings (and, more to the point, their receptions) than my two or three.

Here's our list. Tell me which tracks you expect, which are actually fun and which you could live without at

Cheesy Wedding Songs/Dances:

- The Chicken Dance

- The Electric Slide

- The Tarantella

- The Hokey Pokey

- The Macarena


- Conga line (the general concept, but I'm pretty sure there's one standard track played at most receptions)

- That song where some guy drones over a generic bounce track, telling you Every. Single. Step ("To the left ... Now, two times ... Cha-Cha now ...")


DIY requires planning, patience

One Saturday morning about three months ago, The Fiancee and I spent about two hours in an invitation shop in Amherst, looking for “Save the Date” cards.

We flipped through some the largest binders I've ever seen, pointed out interesting designs and wording to each other, and picked out one or two templates we were more than happy with.

Then we got in the car and decided we didn’t want to pay quite so much for fancy frou-frou save the dates -- we’d make them ourselves, using one of those Internet sites we’d heard about.

It’s more than 90 days later, and we’re just getting around to mailing them now. And there are still 13 or so cards we wish we didn’t have to use White-Out on.

We did save a bit of money, although one could look at it as the equivalent of two reception invitations. In exchange, we spent at least a dozen hours proofing, fiddling, trouble-shooting and second-guessing, and revised our send-out dates many, many times -- some of the friends we’ve mentioned these cards to are probably starting to think of them as our own little “Chinese Democracy,” (or our own “Duke Nukem Forever,” if you were hoping for an even geekier reference there).

The thinking behind our decision was that there was no need to pay for envelopes or boutique-priced designs on “save the dates,” as they were really just helpful reminders for certain guests that were out of town or would need to make vacation decisions before the new year.

I spent the better part of a Saturday morning messing around with the Flash-based design program at Prints Made Easy, which I ended up being fairly impressed with. If I had an older computer or dial-up connection, however, I probably would’ve grabbed my keys right after my browser crashed for the second time and stomped to my car, next stop Amherst.

I thought my design — which I thought was impressive, considering my non-existent Photoshop skills — was clean, eye-catching and matched to our “theme,” but when The Fiancee suggested to the coloring on the back side, the site’s limitations meant I had to start all over.

Then there was the process of getting our parents to hand over their lists of definite invites — that’s a whole separate story about Acute Head Count Anxiety.

And the endless proofing and re-proofing of a list that involves input from five or six sources.

And the problems of getting spreadsheet programs to accept that, yes, New Jersey Zip codes start with a “0,” and ... no, wait, don’t strip all the ... Oh, Lord, all the state codes have commas after them now! (Dramatic re-enactment. Actual formatting-based meltdowns may contained more or less drama).

Then, finally, there was the fact that we had about a dozen or so guests who had unknown or changing addresses, or guests we weren’t quite sure we could fit in yet, so we needed “blanks.”

But the site, like most of its kind, is entirely automated to have either static look-alikes or custom-addressed cards, not a little of each. The customer service representative was extremely (she e-mailed a response on a Saturday night) and courteous, but could only offer a solution that left a single comma in the address space.

What to do, or not to do, about that comma was about 30 minutes in itself. It’s not easy to talk away a blemish on something you (hopefully) have only one chance to get right.

As I write this, I’m looking at a lunch break that involves organizing the cards by Zip code, because I’ve heard from a friend that it’s the only way to avoid having to buy all the stamps and apply them myself. I’m putting off calling the post office myself and asking because, well, that’s never a day-brightening call.

Do I think the cards that finally did come out look great? Definitely, and there’s the added pride of knowing that you (kind of) had a hand in designing them.

Could we have been having other wedding-related discussions and planning work if we’d just bought them outright? Maybe, except for the address-compiling, but maybe there would have been another “We haven’t even ...” block to stumble over either way.

Do I think New Jersey has a postal-related ballot initiative to consider? Absolutely.



If you've never been through the engagment process before, you might be surprised at just how soon money comes up in the "Can you believe we're doing this?" conversation.

As soon as you think of the first thing you just have to have at your wedding — a certain photographer you know, a particular cake with white chocolate, bridal party gifts you've already picked out — you guess as to who's going to pay.

It would be really easy if the bride's parents were descended from 16th century British Lords. But most modern weddings require a lot more discussion about who pays what, when and why.

This is where many couples might find themselves talking about their money for the first time.

While looking for nothing in particular (at home, I promise), I found a Wall Street Journal article with 9 questions to ask your future spouse about finances.

Unlike most of those "list" articles promoted on free e-mail sites, this one has some actual thought-provokers.

The conversation about debt, for example, should not be just an argument about who's better at avoiding it:

So ask each other: Do you amass debt in the present, figuring you'll earn more money later in life and can pay it off then? Do you abhor debt and refuse to own a credit card? Either approach could cause marital strife if your partner isn't on the same page.

The Fiancée and I have already seen every single document and figure relating to our assets, liabilities and spending — that's the joyful kind of thing you do when applying for mortgage pre-approval.

But things like discussing our "money history," or how our upbringing has us think about money, is something we probably should take on soon.

Even if you're already tied the knot, it's probably a thought-provoking read. ~ Kevin P.

P.S. — I found the link via LifeHacker, which is a pretty neat repository of all kinds of Doing Stuff Better knowledge.

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