Scenes from an Impending Marriage

By Adrian Tomine
56 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

The fact that there is a television show named Bridezillas is, perhaps, an example of just how weddings can bring out the crazy in people. They’ve got that power. Everyone says they’re going to start simply, keep things from spinning out of control, but 9 out of 10 times, sooner or later… pow! The craziness kicks in, even if just for an hour. It’s with all of that in mind that I’m terribly amused about Adrian Tomine’s Scenes from an Impending Marriage, a short comic originally created as a wedding favor for his and Sarah’s guests. Because if you’ve ever planned a wedding, been near someone planning a wedding, or even thought about planning a wedding, this will ring ominously true.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage is divided up into a series of short stories as Adrian and Sarah go through the various stages of wedding planning; figuring out the guest list, creating the invitation, finding a venue, figuring out what to wear, and so on. Like most couples, they’re not always on the same page about everything. And even more so, just because the two of them are in agreement on something does not mean that the rest of the world will be. One person’s crowning glory is another person’s mark of shame, and that’s doubly true when it comes to weddings.

The conflicts that arise are never serious—after all, this was initially meant as a way of saying thank you for coming to the wedding—and in doing so, Scenes from an Impending Marriage has a light-hearted feel. You aren’t going to see Adrian and Sarah stomp away from one another muttering that this was a bad idea, or explaining that their new in-laws are hideous monsters. It’s not the tone that Tomine was aiming for, and rightfully so. Had Tomine created a complete work of fiction around a couple planning a wedding, there’s no doubt in my mind this would have been a much bleaker creation. For long-time Tomine readers, though, this brings to mind some of his earliest works that were collected in 27 Stories, with a fun, cheeky twist to most of the chapters.

When Tomine does get harsh, it’s over failed attempts to find something for the wedding, never with his and his wife’s comic book alter egos. They learn that just because a DJ can talk the good talk (even if he professionally goes by the name "DJ Buttercream") doesn’t mean their musical tastes are going to even remotely coincide, or what happens when they ask a park employee (while checking the area out as a possible wedding location) what would happen in the event of rain. The comic is still good-natured even then, but you can catch just the edges of a deeper frustration, where clearly the process of planning everything was starting to wear on the pair. And ultimately, when Tomine is a critic in regards to himself and his wife, he (wisely) makes himself the butt of most of the jokes. It’s his freak-outs, his complaining, his controlling nature that are the punch lines to the different situations.

Tomine draws Scenes from an Impending Marriage in a slightly more stripped down style than his recent work, perhaps because of the light-hearted nature of the comic. It’s cute, using mostly nine-panel grids and illustrating himself and his wife in a fun manner. I was impressed at when he switched over to the single-panel, Family Circus illustrations, as well as his depiction of the Peanuts "Aaaauuuggghhhh!!" (complete with noses straight up in the air); they’re both cute little nods to those classic strips.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage is a slight but fun book, an entertaining change of pace from Tomine. As someone who’s both watched friends and family members plan their weddings, and also is beginning to think about what to do for his inevitable own ceremony, it’s a fairly accurate depiction of the process. If you’re looking for the perfect engagement gift, Scenes from an Impending Marriage is the new gold standard.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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