Search Results for: wedding

Why Is the Wedding Industry So Hard to Disrupt?

Longreads Pick

Each year, the U.S. wedding industry generates $72 billion dollars in revenue, yet Zola is the first startup to succeed in the wedding category since 1996.

Source: Vox
Published: Mar 1, 2019
Length: 10 minutes (2,603 words)

I Shouldn’t Have To Lose Weight For My Wedding. So Why Do I Feel Like A Failure?

Longreads Pick

In this searching personal essay, writer Scaachi Koul conflictedly interrogates her inability to ignore societal pressure and stop wishing she were thinner — along with her inability to get thinner in time for her upcoming wedding, for which her dress is too small.

Source: BuzzFeed
Published: Aug 11, 2018
Length: 14 minutes (3,530 words)

Weddings of the 0.01 Percent

Longreads Pick

The big, expensive wedding isn’t just about an ostentatious display of wealth—it’s about service. The weddings of the ultra-rich are about the the creation of an entire experience, from the moment you step off the private jet onto a flower-covered personal island, to the final sip of Dom Perignon on a a Mediterranean balcony. Throw in enough money, you might get social media coverage as well.

Source: Racked
Published: Jun 7, 2017
Length: 26 minutes (6,600 words)

The Story of a Journalist Turned Wedding Photographer

Just the other day, I received an e-mail from a photographer looking for an internship. His short note almost brought me to tears: “I come from Sarajevo, Bosnia, and my life has put me though many challenges. I am saying this because I have had the chance to see the worst in humans and was lucky enough to survive it. Since then, I have made it my goal to help people record their happiest moments, because those moments are rare and precious, and one never has too many of them.”

Matt Mendelsohn, in the Washington Post (2007), on switching careers from photojournalist to wedding photographer. Read more on weddings from the Longreads Archive.

Photo: Dmitri Markine

The Wedding

Longreads Pick

The story of Will and Erwynn, the first gay couple to marry on a military base:

“At church, Will and Erwynn lead me to a windowless back-room chapel that has been converted from a gym. This is the Sojourn service, a more informal worship than the one taking place in the main hall. They worry that other members of the church might not be comfortable with their presence in the regular service. The morning begins with a band playing Christian soft rock. There are no Bibles here, only thin handouts. Pastor Rick Court’s sermon, leavened with jokes and audience interaction, focuses on loving God and loving your neighbor as the most important lessons of Christianity. ‘You can see why we like this place,’ Erwynn whispers to me. ‘This is exactly what we are trying to teach our kids.’ But when I tell them I’d like to interview Pastor Rick, they pause. ‘Well,’ says Will, ‘I guess that means we’ll have to come out to him.’

“The day before the wedding, I meet up with Pastor Rick at the Red Lion Diner in South Jersey. He was ordained by the conservative Evangelical Church Alliance. He has lived in this area all of his life. Will and Erwynn are the first congregants he’s had whom he knew were gay, but he has heard that there are others at Hope. ‘I sensed that they were a gay couple right away,’ he chuckles, ‘although they think that they hide it pretty well.'”

Source: Slate
Published: Jul 17, 2012
Length: 23 minutes (5,784 words)

On “Art Heroes” and Letting Your Idols Be Human

Sarah Morris / Getty, Markus Schreiber / Invision / AP, Illustration by Homestead

Alex DiFrancesco | Longreads | May 15, 2019 | 8 minutes (2,099 words)

As I type this, the blackened letters tattooed on my hand flash across the keyboard. BAD SEED is inked down my middle finger. It can be read as juvenile; I’m sure it is by many. It’s one of my homage tattoos. I got it the day I signed a contract for my second novel, a few months after I had seen Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in concert for the first time, after more than a decade of fandom and made the decision that I had to, uncompromisingly, unabashedly, dedicate my life to art. Nick Cave’s sprawling career is a testament to such dedication, from his baby post-punk days in the Boys Next Door and the Birthday Party, to his decades with the Bad Seeds. Cave’s music, which vacillates between the aggressively abrupt and the mournfully introspective, has carried me through some of the most intense periods of my life. It’s the kind of music that saves you, if you happen to be the sort of person that music can save. It gives you the ability to grit your teeth and spit on your enemies, or weep while walking down the street with your headphones, as needed. You can play it at a wedding or a funeral (though it’s not a big hit at karaoke); you can lull yourself to sleep with it, or wake up fighting to it. It would be easy for me to call Nick Cave one of my heroes.

But this essay isn’t really about Cave’s music, as important as it is to me. It’s about The Red Hand Files.

In September 2018, after the tragic death of his young son Arthur, after his mournful album Skeleton Tree, Cave started a newsletter intending to answer fan questions as honestly as he could. I was elated and a little terrified. The softer, gentler Cave of modern days, any long-term fan knows, is a newer development. Many of us vividly remember Cave’s brief and doomed “ask me anything” that happened on Twitter in 2013, when he responded to every question with condescension and barely contained rage. “What would you recommend for young musicians hoping to be as great as you, Nick Cave?” one fan asked in the experiment. “Lower your expectations,” you could practically hear Cave growl through the internet. What would we learn about the inner workings of my hero through these letters? Would it be a similar (hilarious, in character, and utterly beloved) disaster?

But the Cave of 2013 has been softened by grief, loss, and mourning — he spoke extensively in many interviews around his Skeleton Tree tour of feeling connected to the world around him — and his fans — in a way that he hadn’t before then. In the first edition of The Red Hand Files, he writes, “I kind of realized that work was the key to get back to my life, but I also realized that I was not alone in my grief and that many of you were, in one way or another, suffering your own sorrows, your own griefs. I felt this in our live performances. I felt very acutely that a sense of suffering was the connective tissue that held us all together.”

Cave’s musings on grief are, as they have always been, profound. The Red Hand Files, which usually arrive early in the morning, here in Eastern Standard Time, often feel like letters about all that make being human worthwhile to me — art, love, loss, tenderness, and introspection. I read them at 5 or 6 a.m., often reveling in the gift this artist is giving us all.

Except for when he’s not.

Because there have also been times when I’ve been so disappointed with Cave and the project that I wanted to unsubscribe.

We live in a cultural moment when many fans are (often understandably) “canceling” the work of many artists. In cases like Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein, I think this urge is 100 percent justified. Those who commit crimes against others and use their star status to stay free of consequence are villainous. But the cultural moment we live in also seems to expect perfection from people, lest they be canceled as well. It seems to allow little room for people to fuck up, be messy, or be flat-out distasteful. Cave, in his letters, has proven himself imperfect, often frustrating, not, perhaps, the way people wish him to be. The Red Hand Files has been a lesson, for me, in the intricacies of fighting the urge to hit the buttons that, in the digital world, cut us off from someone else, delete them, disappear them, make them virtual ghosts whose traces we have to look for to find, rather than have delivered to us.

The Red Hand Files has been a lesson, for me, in the intricacies of fighting the urge to hit the buttons that, in the digital world, cut us off from someone else, delete them, disappear them, make them virtual ghosts whose traces we have to look for to find, rather than have delivered to us.

One of the most disappointing moments for me, as a Cave fan, came when he announced that he would play Israel on a recent tour, despite being urged not to by Brian Eno and many other artists promoting a cultural boycott of Israel. Cave’s response, publicized in a press conference on the issue, showed him to be things I found repulsive — arrogant, self-centered, an artist who could appear to claim that the deaths and torment of the Palestinian people were less important than Eno and company trying to “censor” artists like him. I was disgusted that someone I held in such high regard could be that blind to the issues facing the people of Palestine.

But, I learned through an early edition of The Red Hand Files, that was not the entire case. Cave provided nuance to the discussion in his December 2018 letter when a fan asked about his stance on Israel and the Brian Eno–supported cultural boycott. The Cave in this letter (and perhaps some of it has to do with being a man more comfortable at a typewriter than a press conference?) provided context that coverage of the issue had not. Cave was not quite as he’d been painted in a few broad strokes by the media. He said, in the response to his fan’s questions, “I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies. Nor do I condone the atrocities that you have described; nor am I ignorant of them. I am aware of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian population, and wish, with all people of good conscience, that their suffering is ended via a comprehensive and just solution.” I felt my own activist rage — I am a firm and longtime supporter of the Palestinian-lead Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions [BDS] movement — soften as Cave described his nuanced feelings on the subject via the newsletter. Cave went on to express an ambivalence that had been utterly absent from the arrogant stance in press conferences: “Occasionally, I wonder if The Bad Seeds did the right thing in playing Israel. I cannot answer that question. I understand and accept the validity of many of the arguments that are presented to me.” I felt my anger lessen even more when he described Brian Eno as a force that had taught him to make music, a hero. Cave saying no to his hero, with obvious anguish and deep thought, reinforced what these letters were doing for me in terms of the allowances for our heroes not to replicate our own selves, our own ideals. In letting ourselves disagree with them, be upset with them, sometimes revile them, and still acknowledge that their place in our own patheon is enormous, regardless, is an act of understanding and allowing for nuance in a world that often feels black and white.

I certainly came close to reviling Cave when the letter about women, consent, and #MeToo appeared. “As to the recent ‘cultural sea changes’ affecting women,” Cave wrote, “I feel that they are in danger of eroding those bright edges of personhood, and grinding them down into monotonous identity politics — where some women have traded in their inherent wildness and sense of awe, for a one-size-fits-all protestation against a uniform concept of maleness which I’m not sure I recognize.”

As a lifelong feminist and a transgender person who believes that gender identity is of deep importance to understanding one another, I find it hard to explain how much this particular letter disgusted me. I felt like I was listening not to a hero who had once written a gorgeously vicious song about a woman who was gang-raped, then murdered all of her assailants, but someone’s curmudgeonly old grandfather who was holding forth about women in his day. I almost canceled my subscription to the newsletter. I seethed with rage. I talked to anyone who would listen about how disappointing it really is to see the inner workings of the people who make the art you love. But I hung on.

Ultimately, I’m glad I did. While Cave’s politics and views on gender may not be anywhere near what I wish to see coming from someone I’d consider a hero, there has frequently been reminders of the reasons I adored Cave to begin with. When he speaks of deeply human sentiments — love, loss, art, beauty — there are few who can parallel him. His own recent (and enormous) losses, have provided fodder for many of the more poignant essays. These things, as he has frequently said, are what tie humans together, and it has seemed to me from his music and now from these letters that he had somehow tapped into the epicenter of these human links.

A few months ago, my first love, who had been ill with multiple sclerosis for some time, passed away. I wasn’t quite ready for the enormity of the feelings I would experience around his passing. I kept thinking — this person I once loved, who was gone now — there were so many moments, long ago, that only the two of us had shared. I was the sole caretaker of those moments now. It seemed unfair to hoard them. I wrote a letter to his mother, attempting to share some of them. As I did, I pulled up Issue #6 of The Red Hand Files, in which a fan writes to Cave about losing many loved ones, and Cave writes back his awe-inspiring meditations on grief.

As I wrote the letter to my once-love’s mother, I added the line, from Cave’s letter, “It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is nonnegotiable.”

Becoming softer and more tender by watching that which you love show its cracks is an act of generosity and love in a world that seems to increasingly want to draw strict lines of perfection.

I come from a background staunch in its refusal to allow others slack. I came up as a militant anarchist and activist, I watched people excommunicated from social circles, artists “canceled” all through my formative years. I have gotten older since then, I have softened; I am not the proponent of the one-and-done approach to ideological difference this background might portend. Reading Cave’s series of letters has helped me soften further. I’ve developed the specific term “art-hero” to reflect my adoration of someone who’s work I can find no fault in, yet who is terrifyingly, mundanely human just the same. An “art-hero” is not the same as a hero, sweeping in, perfect, saving the day, sweeping out. An “art-hero” is human in all respects but the glorious works they create. An “art-hero” is perhaps tapped into the divine and inscrutable place that I romantically believe art comes from, but they breathe, they bleed, they are messy, and they are not all the things we wish they could be. The room I allow the creators of the works that move me has seeped into my personal life, as well, giving the people I love more room to fail, to fall, to fuck up. Becoming softer and more tender by watching that which you love show its cracks is an act of generosity and love in a world that seems to increasingly want to draw strict lines of perfection.

I’m talking about the prickly, the imperfect, the difficult. I’m talking about letting your heroes fall — and fail — and still hold the unique place in your heart where they were before they revealed themselves as all too human.

There is, in art and, I suspect, life, a richness in letting people be themselves, as flawed or different in ideology as that person may be. I’m not talking about forgiving the willfully hateful or obtuse (we must still draw lines). I’m talking about the prickly, the imperfect, the difficult. I’m talking about letting your heroes fall — and fail — and still hold the unique place in your heart where they were before they revealed themselves as all too human.


Alex DiFrancesco is a writer of fiction, creative nonfiction, and journalism who has published work in Tin House, The Washington Post, Pacific Standard, and more. Their first novel, an acid western, was published in 2015, and their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their second novel All City (Seven Stories Press), in 2019. Their storytelling has been featured at The Fringe Festival, Life of the Law, The Queens Book Festival, and The Heart podcast. DiFrancesco is currently an MFA candidate at Cleveland State University. They can be found @DiFantastico on Twitter.

Editor: Krista Stevens
Copy editor: Jacob Gross

Lengua Tacos

Getty, photo collage by Homestead

Feliz Moreno | Longreads | May 2019 | 24 minutes (6,008 words)

I am 26 and I haven’t been back to México to visit my dad’s extended family since I was 5 years old, and this isn’t because of financial or legal obstacles. When my youngest sister, Belén, finishes her undergraduate studies and announces that, in celebration, she wants to take a family trip to Michoacán, México, I am not enthusiastic about the idea. When plans for the trip solidify and I request time off from work, my boss asks me if I speak Spanish. “I understand more than I speak,” I tell her, as I fill out the time off request form.

I don’t remember much about the trip we made when I was 5, but I know that my language habits were already solidified at that point, that my understanding of the world had already been shaped by the hard ‘j’ consonant sound found in words like ‘juice’ and ‘jump rope.’ And it is tough for a 5-year-old to rationalize the inability to communicate with other children in a Spanish-speaking country. “Nobody here speaks English,” my 5-year-old self complained to my Dad. This, along with the fact that I got extremely sick from being exposed to México’s tap water, didn’t leave me with any desire to ever return.

The upcoming trip will be 10 days, with time split between the Jacona-Zamora region of Michoacán, where the majority of my dad’s family is based, and la Ciudad de México, México City. My two younger sisters, who took the time to study abroad in Central American countries during their undergraduate careers, are excited about the approaching trip. My dad calls me a few times in the weeks leading up to it to inform me that Michoacán has the highest murder rate in the country right now, and that we need to be vigilant and smart when we travel. I add this to the long list of anxieties I have about the trip, the primary one being my Spanish deficiency.

What is it Edward James Olmos — cast as Selena’s father — says to a young Jennifer Lopez in the 1997 film about the young singers’ life? “You speak it a little funny.” “It” being Spanish. The Quintanillas are in the car discussing the possibility of touring in México when Olmos launches into a frustrated rant.

“Being Mexican-American is tough. Anglos jump all over you if you don’t speak English perfectly, Mexicans jump all over you if don’t speak Spanish perfectly. We gotta be twice as perfect as anybody else…our family has been here for centuries, and yet they treat us as if we just swam across the Rio Grande. Anglo food is too bland, and yet when we go to México we get the runs. Now that to me is embarrassing… we gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans — it’s exhausting!”

In the scene, the Tejano singer laughs and brushes off her father’s frustration with humor. She reassures him that she’s been singing in Spanish for ten years. But the reality Olmos’ character identifies is real, and as we sit in the airport preparing to board the plane to Guadalajara, my anxiety is palpable.

In the states, when Spanish speakers ask me if I speak the language my response varies. I will say “más o menos,” when I am feeling more practiced in my ability to communicate. “Entiendo más que yo hablo” I will say, stumbling over the words, hoping to diffuse any expectations of my responding in Spanish. “Cuando era niña, hablo más Español,” which translates (roughly) to, “When I was a little girl, I spoke more Spanish.” My mother tells me that some of my first words as a baby were “agua” and “leche,” but even so, I’ve always felt apprehensive about my Spanish.

Derek Owusu, a writer and podcaster from Tottenham, London, speaks of the cultural limitations of not speaking Twi after his mother emigrated from Ghana to the United Kingdom. In his article “Mother Tongue: The Lost Inheritance of Diaspora” he writes:

“For as long as I can remember, whenever I’ve been asked…whether I can speak Twi or not, my response has always been ‘I can understand it, but I can’t speak it.’ In that moment it’s hard not to feel only half Ghanaian…”

I can relate to this sentiment. In the U.S., I have made myself relatively comfortable with the fact that people see me as an outsider among the middle-class white communities I often find myself in. The discomfort that comes with being an ethnic minority in the U.S. is familiar to me now, even if it remains traumatic. At least I have some language — cold, academic words like “microagression” and “oppression,” — in which to communicate the trauma; I have a wealth of resources I can access that validate my experience in this country. In México, being an outsider hurts more for some reason. Being called a “pocha” by the people that are supposed to be your raza hurts more, or maybe it just hurts in a different way than I am used to.
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A Dispatch From the Fast-Paced, Makeshift World of High-End Catering

Chris Hondros / Getty

Matt Lee & Ted Lee | An excerpt adapted from Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World’s Riskiest Business | Henry Holt and Co. | April 2019 | 19 minutes (5,059 words)


I have one job — building the Pepper-Crusted Beef on Brioche with Celery Root Salad, an elegant little bite to be passed during cocktail hour at the Park Avenue Armory Gala, a black-tie dinner for 760 people. In theory, it’s an easy hors d’oeuvre, a thin coin of rosy beef on bread with a tuft of salad on top. It’s 4:50 now and the doors open at 6:30, so I’ve got some time to assemble this thing. The ingredients can be served at room temperature — any temperature, really — and they were prepared earlier today by a separate team of cooks at the caterer’s kitchen on the far West Side of town, then packaged on sheet pans and in plastic deli containers for a truck ride to the venue. All I have to do is locate the ingredients in the boxes and coolers, find some space to work — my “station” — and begin marshaling a small army of beef-on-toasts so I’ve got enough of a quorum, 240 pieces or so, that when serve-out begins I’ll be able to keep pace with replenishment demand through a forty-five-minute cocktail hour.

Jhovany León Salazar, the kitchen assistant leading the hors d’oeuvre (“H.D.”) kitchen, shows me the photo the executive chef supplied that reveals the precise architecture of this bite: a slice of seared beef tenderloin, rare in the center and the size of a Kennedy half-dollar, resting on a slightly larger round of toasted brioche.[1] On top of the beef is a tangle of rich celeriac slaw — superfine threads of shredded celery root slicked with mayo, with a sprinkling of fresh chives showered over the whole. This is New York–caliber catering intelligence at work: take a throwback classic — the beef tenderloin carving station — to a higher, more knowing plane in a single bite. Here, the colors are lively, the scale is humane, the meat perfectly rosy-rare and tender, its edge seared black with ground pepper and char, the celeriac bringing novelty, though its flavor is familiar enough. It’s a pro design that satisfies the meat-’n’-potatoes crowd without talking down to the epicures.

The kitchen tonight — like every night, no matter the venue — is as makeshift as a school bake sale, a series of folding tables covered with white tablecloths and fashioned into a fort-like U. Since there are two warm hors d’oeuvres on the menu, our crew has a hotbox standing by — the tall, aluminum cabinet on wheels that both serves as transport vehicle for food and, once it’s on-site and loaded with a few flaming cans of jellied fuel (the odor-free version of Sterno is favored), becomes the oven. Imagine the most flame-averse venues — the New York Public Library, City Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art — even there, the ghostly blue flames in the hotbox pass muster with the fire marshal. In fact, this one fudge, this unspoken exception to the no-open-flames rule, is the secret to restaurant-quality catering in New York City. Read more…

The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez

AP Photo/Matt York

Aaron Bobrow-Strain | The Death and Life if Aida Hernandez | Farrar, Straus and Giroux | April 2019 | 28 minutes (5,637 words)


Since the move to Douglas, Arizona, Jennifer had spent less and less time at home. She was distant and irritable. Her anger encompassed her mother, her mother’s abusive boyfriend Saul, American schools, and the whole United States. At the nadir, she started lashing out at her sisters Aida and Cynthia. And then, in 1998 or 1999, she left for good.

The morning Jennifer ran away, Aida was the only other person home. She watched her sister dump schoolbooks from her backpack and replace them with clothes. She knew what was happening without having to ask and figured it was for the best. On the way out, Jennifer said that a friend would drive her across the border. After that, she’d see what happened.

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Edible Complex

Getty, Alberto E. Tamargo / AP, Collage by Katie Kosma

Jen Doll | Longreads | April 2019 | 18 minutes (4,598 words)

According to those jaded but constant belief systems that keep the worst romantic comedies in business, the third date is the make-or-break one. In these busy times, the idea goes, by date three you’ve spent enough time together to determine if either of you is a serial killer, or hiding something very bad in your closet (metaphorical or otherwise), or has the tendency to type “hehehe” when laughing by text. And if the relationship by date three veers toward make rather than break, well, finally the “rules” have lifted: It is THE MOMENT to get naked (not at the restaurant, please). The thinking is based in some combination of propriety and sexual policing and also sheer time management: You haven’t put so much energy or effort into this budding romance that uncovering an in-the-sheets incompatibility ruins your entire life — but it’s also not so soon it’s considered “rushing in,” which, when applied to women, of course, means “being too slutty.”

No matter that “slutty” is an outmoded, sexist concept and that you should sleep with a person if and when you feel like it (and if and when they consent), I grew up with “the third date’s the sex date!” pressed upon me as, if not law, then at least a kind of informed ideology: Do it then to uncover any latent micropenises or irrecoverable technique problems; do it then to get it over with because would you look at that elephant in the room?; do it then to get the rest of your relationship started; do it then because by the third date, what else is there to do?

So, when it came time for the third date with a man I’d been seeing — a guy who lived in upstate New York, which meant our third date would be more of a weekend visit; did each night count as a date, I wondered, or was it the whole package, a kind of Club Med situation with dinners and entertainment included? — there was a certain amount of buried internal stress and anticipation related to the event. Not that I was going to go get a Brazilian, or anything. I was in my 40s. Those days of paying a stranger to rip large swathes of hair from my nether regions had blessedly gone by the by. (Yes, I said “nether regions.”) But in my brain, a place far more difficult for strangers to reach, my thoughts were going a little bit wild. I’d been dumped earlier in the year, I’d gotten back up and shaken myself off, I’d tried again, and I’d actually met someone. But how many rounds of the dating game was I prepared to endure? If things went in the direction of “break” — what next, not only for me and this guy, but maybe for me and anyone? This is what rom-coms never really tackle: What happens when you get so tired of dating, so disappointed by all the prospects, you just give up?

In the absence of answers, I sought to occupy myself. I took a train to Beacon, New York, a town about an hour away from where my date lived — he’d pick me up there the next day, and our third date would begin — and met some friends I was just getting to know. We watched a poet read from her impressive collection in a garden, surrounded by trees and flowers and sunshine. I wasn’t even so sure how I felt about poetry readings, but I liked this version of me, trying new things, with different people. I bought several of the poet’s books, and had her sign one, even though I’d not known much of her work until that moment.
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