A Groom With a Clue: Peter van Dijk '82
Getting married? If you’re the bride, take center stage.
But what if you’re the groom? Is your only significance to be the slightly inebriated guy in a powder-blue tuxedo who slips the ring on the bride’s finger and then is ignored for the rest of the reception?
Well, yes, says Peter van Dijk, author of The Clueless Groom’s Guide: More Than Any Man Should Ever Know About Getting Married(McGraw Hill/Contemporary Books, 2003). Van Dijk, a former advertising man whose work has won many awards, calls himself a “battle scarred veteran of a joyful wedding.” He started jotting humorous essays when he got engaged to the former Susan “Suki” Hamburger ’85, and they planned their Maine wedding in 1993. (His wife isn’t his only SLC connection; his mother is Beverly van Dijk Nalven, former director of alumnae/i relations.) When Van Dijk later shared the essays with newly engaged friends, they encouraged him to find a publisher.
He sent some pages to an agent, who was immediately interested. “She said, ‘Send me your manuscript,’ and I said, ‘Oh, my God!’” He laughs. “I had only about eight pages. But that’s where my advertising background came in handy. I’m used to writing on deadline.”
The Clueless Groom’s Guide, illustrated by Taylor Lee, has led to van Dijk’s signing on as a spokesperson for Sears. He will be advocating more groom-friendly bridal registries during a national media tour in late May. “You can pick out guy stuff! Guys want consumer electronics or a George Foreman grill. They get these hand-held scanners and shoot what they want.” He and Lee are also in negotiations for a line of greeting cards based on the book’s illustrations.
“The book is written as a supplement to traditional wedding guides. It covers the same territory, but from a humorous guy’s perspective,” he says. “I see the reader as sort of a clueless doofus. It is kind of weird to be the ‘groom expert,’ but it’s also fun and unlikely.”
The guide deals with every topic, from the proposal to the honeymoon and “happily ever after.” At the end of the book there is even a helpful list of Las Vegas wedding chapels for those who feel the whole thing is too overwhelming.
“People get so crazy about this stuff,” van Dijk says—and he knows whereof he speaks. The planning for his own wedding was, he admits, contentious. Most of the fights were between Suki and her mother, with Peter and Suki’s father “watching on the sidelines.”
“I was Episcopalian, Suki was Jewish, we were married by a justice of the peace. Suki’s mom had this sort of…selective kosherism and wanted to keep up the appearance of a proper Jewish wedding for her friends. For instance, it’s Maine so you can have lobster; but you can’t have ham. So there’s Maine kosher, and there’s kosher kosher!”
But by far the biggest battle was over what names would be printed on the matchbook covers. “Suki was known as ‘Suki’ to all her friends, but her mother wanted ‘Susan,’” he says, laughing the way you can when it’s all been put to rest. (For the record, they went with “Suki.”)
The author of The Clueless Groom’s Guidemay be amused by nuptial foibles, but he’s no cynic. “Let’s dispel one myth here,” van Dijk writes. “Your wedding will not be the most important day of your life. It probably won’t even make the top five. The day you were born, the day you met your fiancée, the day she said yes, and particularly the birthdays of any present and future children will rank way higher. Your wedding is a celebration. So chill out, keep a smile on your face, and enjoy the ride…it’s all worth it in the end.”
Children? It could happen to even the most clueless of grooms. The father of Miranda, 7, and Jake, 6, van Dijk is now considering writing The Clueless Dad’s Guide to Parenting.
— Elisa DeCarlo