What Happens When The Honeymoon Is Over?
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It's summer, and that means many brides across the country are preparing - or let's face it - panicking as they put those final touches on plans for that special day. And, if you've ever planned a wedding, then you know how easy it is to get swept up in picking just the right flowers and place cards and cake, but after the wedding and the honeymoon are over, a lot of people start asking themselves, now what?
The new collection of essays, "Wedding Cake For Breakfast," follows the ups and downs of 23 brides in the year after they say I do. Here to share some insight about that is Wendy Sherman. She co-edited the book. And Andrea King Collier - she contributed an essay to the book. She's also a journalist and author of several books, including "The Black Woman's Guide to Black Men's Health."
Welcome to you both. Thank you both so much for speaking with us.
ANDREA KING COLLIER: Hi.
WENDY SHERMAN: Thank you.
MARTIN: So, Wendy, how did you get the idea for this collection of essays, as you put it, on the unforgettable first year of marriage?
SHERMAN: Well, the idea came about over a typical publishing lunch with two agents and an editor and we were doing what women do, which is not talking about work, but talking about men and relationships. And, as we were talking about the first year of marriage and how marriage is so not what people expect it to be, we suddenly did the publishing thing of - there's a book in this.
MARTIN: Andrea King Collier, you contributed an essay for the book titled "Faith and Fairy Tales," so what do you remember most of your first year?
COLLIER: It was an interesting year and, some days, it was like walking through hell with gasoline underwear on and then, other days, it was really wonderful. And it was a decision every single day: Are we going to stay married? Yeah, today. OK. Well, we'll revisit this tomorrow.
The only thing that held us together, I think, was the faith that we probably should stay together and the fact that we really loved each other.
MARTIN: I was going to mention that, reading that essay, I think it might shock people to know that you are coming up on your 30th wedding anniversary. Congratulations.
COLLIER: Thank you.
MARTIN: How did you make it through? Talk a little bit more about that. I mean, because you had it all. You know, job loss, moving, very different families of origin, like you were an only child. Your husband had a big family.
COLLIER: After we got past that first year, then it got a little easier and my mother-in-law gave me a really good piece of advice. It was, once you get to five years, you just sort of get tired of being sick and tired and so that was our milestone. At five years, it was like, OK. We can do this.
MARTIN: Wendy, you had all kinds of different scenarios in the book, as you might imagine. You had a couple whose husband is, you know, part of this long 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the wife talks about that dreaded phone call when you know that he's being deployed. Were there any common threads that you saw?
SHERMAN: I think the most common thread was the idea that people sort of woke up on their first day of being married and either felt different or didn't feel different and that moment of, oh, my God, this is my husband laying next to me in this bed. Or moving into your first apartment together the next week after you're married and suddenly realizing that this is your husband and that you're a wife and so many of these women talked about how, suddenly, they felt that they had a different identity and how that felt to them.
MARTIN: You know, a recent survey by the wedding planning site TheKnot.com found that the average wedding cost was more than $27,000 in 2011. I mean, that's - you know, that's a lot of money. That is a lot of money. How much of a role do you think money played in the ease with which people were able to adjust to their new lives?
SHERMAN: Well, we didn't see that in these stories. I can honestly say I think Andrea was one of the few writers who wrote about having a big wedding and so it seemed as though the focus was really on the friendship that existed between this man and woman and I thought that was very touching.
MARTIN: Andrea, what about you?
COLLIER: Well, we had a wedding extravaganza and it didn't have anything to do with my wishes or my husband's wishes, but we symbolized for my folks their rising to affluence, so we had one of these big Prince Charles, Princess Diana weddings. And, later, when I look at it in hindsight, everybody that I know of our friends that had one of those big extravaganzas, the marriage can never live up to that. I think that, of our friends, we're the only ones that had a big wedding that are actually still together.
MARTIN: Andrea, one of your pieces of wisdom that you pass along in your essay is that newlyweds should never talk to other newlyweds. They should only talk to people who have been married for, like, 100 years, so I mean, it hasn't been quite 100, but I don't know. Did you think, in a way, that your participating in this book was kind of a way of kind of gently passing on some things with, you know - while allowing the newlyweds not to violate your don't talk to other newlyweds about your business because they really don't know what the hell they're talking about?
COLLIER: You know, I just wanted the people to keep it real with me and so that's what I tried to do in this essay. You know, some days it's good, some days it's bad. Some days, it's like, whoa, Nelly. But, on the flip side of it, if you really love each other - and this is me looking at this in hindsight - he is my absolute best friend. He is the love of my life and, every day, I am so grateful that we got past that first year to get on to the good stuff.
MARTIN: Wendy, what about you? You know, the divorce rate in this country is very high, still. I know you didn't think of it this way. This wasn't your intention. This was a collection of essays by women who were great writers and had something to say, but do you think you found any clues in the course of putting this collection together about why the divorce rate is so high?
SHERMAN: Well, absolutely. And I think one of the things that we looked for when we were putting this book together was we intentionally wanted women who were married five years so that they had a real perspective on things and we wanted women who were still married. So we didn't see that in this collection, but clearly, it's out there.
And I think there's just so much pressure on the wedding. I mean, I just see this when you talk to 26 to 35-year-olds who are getting married. It just feels as though everyone is trying to one-up themselves because everybody's going to the same weddings. They're all friends and they each need to find a way to make their wedding stand out. And when you talk about $25,000 weddings, that's a lot of pressure to figure out how to make that sort of an extravaganza. And it takes the focus away from each other.
MARTIN: From the wedding to the marriage...
MARTIN: ...which is the point of the whole thing. OK. Well, I'll just confess right here that one of the producers of this segment is engaged and I somehow feel that we're scaring her. So give her some encouragement before we let you go. Andrea, do you want to start? I think you got the most miles on you, right, in this conversation, I think, in terms of the...
COLLIER: Yeah. I'm a little...
MARTIN: ...marriage. Right?
COLLIER: I'm long in the wedding teeth.
COLLIER: I recently sent one of my friends the letter to the Corinthians and it doesn't really matter what your religion or your ethnicity is. Love is patient, love is kind. And so I encourage anybody, when stuff gets rough or the pressures of the wedding start to cave in on you, go back and read that. It really tells you a lot about how you can get through the rough times and how you can enjoy and embrace who this other person is who is not perfect, but neither are you.
MARTIN: Wendy Sherman co-edited the collection of essays called "Wedding Cake For Breakfast" with co-editor Kim Perel and Wendy was kind enough to join us from NPR studios in New York. Andrea King Collier contributed an essay to that book. She's also a journalist and author and she was kind enough to join us from WKAR in East Lansing, Michigan.
Ladies, thank you both so much for speaking with us.
SHERMAN: Thank you.
COLLIER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.