ADRIAN TOMINE opens up about SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE during radio interview

“Wedding Planner Tips For The Commoner” / WBUR & NPR / Michael Martin / April 28, 2011

Britain's royal couple has a wedding planner, but what about everyday people who aren't as fortunate to have a fancy wedding planner? Graphic novelist Adrian Tomine offers comic relief in his pre-nuptial memoir, Scenes from an Impending Marriage. Host Michel Martin speaks with Tomine about those "special moments" that capture the humor and absurdity of planning your own wedding.
Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Tomorrow, British cultural officials tell us, an estimated two billion people around the world are expected to watch Prince William marry his longtime love Kate Middleton.

Until now, most details of the royal wedding have been kept under wraps. But one thing is certain; the happy couple has had plenty of help and centuries of tradition to help them plan the big day. What about the rest of us?

Back in the day, perhaps the bride's family, especially her mother, did most of the heavy lifting. But that is a nonstarter for most modern couples today. The groom is invited - no, expected to weigh in. And when you mix that along with the different cultures that many couples bring to the table, well, wedding planning can be a fairly stressful experience.

So says graphic novelist and illustrator Adrian Tomine when he married his love Sarah Brennan. And he decided to chronicle some of those special moments and turn it into a wedding favorite. The result is the book Scenes from an Impending Marriage.

And Adrian Tomine joins us now from our NPR studios in New York to talk about his book and also perhaps his tips for planning the special day.

Adrian, thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. ADRIAN TOMINE (Author, Scenes from an Impending Marriage: A Prenuptial Memoir): Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Now I have to be honest, in the spirit of full disclosure, I approach this conversation with some skepticism about your role. I see, for example, on the title page there's an illustration where Sarah is seated at the desk with the phone to her ear calling, how to get some information about the wedding, reading a book, How to Plan to a Wedding. The picture of you sitting on the couch chomping some popcorn, watching the tube.

Mr. TOMINE: That's right.

MARTIN: And I kind of think that captures the scene for many couples. Am I right?

Mr. TOMINE: Yeah. That was I think the starting point for the story of this book. And as you read further you'll see that that dynamic didn't last for too long.

MARTIN: How come?

Mr. TOMINE: I guess mainly because I have an annoying personality that feels the need to be involved in every little detail and...

MARTIN: You just couldn't help yourself.

Mr. TOMINE: Yeah. Despite all my intentions, I got swept up in the whole process.

MARTIN: Well, you know, there is some fairly hilarious scenes in the book where, you know, you're taking dancing lessons. And at one point you even go to her hair consultation with her...

Mr. TOMINE: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...hairdresser to talk about how she should wear her hair on the - did you really do that or were you taking some liberties there?

Mr. TOMINE: No, no. That's - if I took any liberties it was to make myself look better than I actually behaved in real life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TOMINE: You know, in hindsight I think the hair salon thing might have been a misstep on my part.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You think?

Mr. TOMINE: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Well, in the book the hair consultant, she's giving you the benefit of the doubt. She's like oh how sweet. You know, this is the first fiance who's ever come to a consultation. And Sarah is quoted as saying the truth is he's just a control freak.

Mr. TOMINE: That's right.

MARTIN: So...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Now they're all kinds of preparations that you went through. You know, exercising, learning how to dance. The best one is Sarah plucking your eyebrows. But you say at one point in the book we're getting sucked into a black hole of nuptial narcissism.

Mr. TOMINE: Right.

MARTIN: What is it about weddings that you think seems to bring this out in people?

Mr. TOMINE: Oh, I mean it's definitely a cultural thing. I think, you know, having grown up on so many books and movies that dramatize the wedding process in such a way, you can't help but let some of that seep into your mind.

MARTIN: Well, you know, girls are raised with this at least I was. You know, I think at least girls of my generation were raised with this like what's the wedding going to be like and, you know, fairy tales, happily ever after, that's kind of the endpoint of a lot of romantic novels and so forth. But boys aren't. At least they have not been.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: What I was wondering is and, you know, because you're kind of a culture guy, do you think that now that we live in this reality show world where it used to be that we really weren't privy to elaborate weddings, that now that we've become so much more exposed to it it's something that everybody thinks they have to do?

Mr. TOMINE: Well, I don't know. I think some of the increased media exposures actually might have a little bit of the opposite effect. You watch some of these programs that the focus seems to be on people behaving badly, beating up at the wedding, and we certainly watched some of those shows during our preparations and at least consoled ourselves into thinking we're not as bad as these people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're speaking with graphic novelist Adrian Tomine. His new graphic novel is actually a prenuptial memoir. It's called Scenes from an Impending Marriage. It's about the funny and some of the not so funny episodes he went through with his then fiance, now his wife, Sarah Brennan, as they were planning their wedding.

Now one of the things that you wanted to do is balance cultural differences. Because you are Japanese-American and Sarah comes from an Irish Catholic background. And there's one thing that involved like the music that each of you wanted.

Mr. TOMINE: Right.

MARTIN: Could you tell us a little bit about that - or at least your mothers wanted.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TOMINE: That's right. That might be a little more accurate. We got a phone call from my mom who suggested the idea of having some Japanese Taiko drummers perform at the wedding. And if you're not familiar with Taiko drummers, they're generally fairly scantily-clad musicians and pounding very violently on these gigantic drums and chanting and shouting along. So my instant reaction was that there was no chance that that was going to be part of our wedding.

MARTIN: I don't know that sounds kind of fun, but maybe that's me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TOMINE: It would have been fun. It would have been fun for...

MARTIN: I don't know, we can kind of - my family would've gone for the loincloth guys making a lot of noise but that's, you know, maybe that's us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But anyway.

Mr. TOMINE: Well, then Sarah reminded me that her mom had suggested the idea of having bagpipe players at the wedding. She wanted to have them surprise everyone by marching up the street and entering into the ceremony or something like that. And we told her that we didn't want that either.

MARTIN: You say in the name of cultural sensitivity and harmony we'll have neither.

Mr. TOMINE: Right.

MARTIN: Is that how it really went down?

Mr. TOMINE: Yeah. Disappoint everybody instead of favoring one side or the other.

MARTIN: But, you know, on a more serious note, you do say that actually planning a wedding is in fact good preparation for marriage. How so?

Mr. TOMINE: I thought so. I guess I'm always surprised when I hear people who are having sort of a contentious wedding-planning process and they're just thinking well, we've just got to get to the big day and then everything will be fine. And I'm always thinking like well, I'll check in with you in a year and see how that's going, you know, because it's the process - at least in our case involved, figuring out how to communicate and disagree without being hurtful to the other person or the other family, which has actually served us well in our marriage.

MARTIN: Yeah. You had to learn to negotiate, discuss.

Mr. TOMINE: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I mean...

MARTIN: Yeah, kind of put everybody's stuff on the table. Work it out.

Mr. TOMINE: I think I had to do more learning in that area than Sarah did. But, yeah, we both benefited and you know...

MARTIN: Well, how did it turn out?

Mr. TOMINE: It was great. Everything that we had worried about, you know, there's the gag panel about the seating chart where I'm just saying it wouldn't hurt to have a buffer zone between the quiet West Coast Asians and the drunken East Coast Irish or something like that.

MARTIN: I'm not saying that. I'm not - this is you saying that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Send him the letters, not me.

Mr. TOMINE: A fictional version of me in the book is saying that.

MARTIN: Yes, exactly. So did you wind up having a buffer, maybe put the buffet table in the middle? But you didn't have to do all that.

Mr. TOMINE: No. No. And any kind of concerns that we might have had were unfounded. And the main thing is just that a lot of the things that we got hung up on and wrung our hands about, you know, six months or a year later it's like a distant memory.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, you know, the big day for Prince William and Kate is tomorrow. And I'm assuming that they've had no shortage of advice on planning their day. But if they should happen to hear this and you wanted to offer some advice on getting through the big day tomorrow.

Mr. TOMINE: Right. Well, I'm sure the chances are pretty good that they are listening to this and that they're looking for advice from me. From my perspective, the only advice I'd have would be to tone it down. I mean I would...

MARTIN: Wait, wait, wait. You're telling - he's the heir to the throne.

Mr. TOMINE: Well...

MARTIN: I'm sorry I...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TOMINE: That's, you know...

MARTIN: Okay.

Mr. TOMINE: I'm coming at it from an American perspective, perhaps.

MARTIN: Okay.

Mr. TOMINE: I'm just thinking $32 million or whatever the equivalent would be that it's going to cost and take 90 percent of that and give it to charities and you'd still have an extremely lavish wedding.

MARTIN: I was thinking something along the lines of have the caterer put aside a plate for you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: No, we wanted - I think it might be too late to un-invite the 200 heads of state.

Mr. TOMINE: I think so. I think...

MARTIN: Maybe it's me.

Mr. TOMINE: I think it's a bit late.

MARTIN: Adrian Tomine is a graphic novelist. He's the creator of the acclaimed comic book Optic Nerve. He's also a contributing illustrator for The New York Magazine. His most recent work is called Scenes from an Impending Marriage: A Prenuptial Memoir. And he was kind enough to join us from our bureau in New York.

Adrian, thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. TOMINE: Thanks very much.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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