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  1. Book ImageWedding Toasts I'll Never Give

    Ada Calhoun

    Seven essays celebrating the beauty of the imperfect marriage.

Discussion Questions

  1. The marriage rate has been on the decline since the 1970s. Do you find marriage relevant in society today? And do you think this book helps or hurts the institution’s image?
  2. The introduction’s epigraph by W. H. Auden reads, “Like everything which is not the involuntary result of fleeting emotion but the creation of time and will, any marriage, happy or unhappy, is infinitely more interesting and significant than any romance, however passionate.” Which do you find more interesting to read about, infatuation or married love?
  3. “Parties are better on rainy nights,” the author, Ada Calhoun, writes in her discussion of how marriage can change a relationship. “I think it’s because bad weather weeds out the ambivalent, the uncommitted.” Do you see differences between domestic partnership and marriage, beyond the legal benefits? If so, what are they?
  4. The priest who married Ada and her husband says that he considers it “a cultural crisis” that people spend more time thinking about the wedding than about how they’re going to stay married. Has planning for weddings replaced planning for marriage? Why, or why not?
  5. By telling us the toasts she would never say out loud, Ada is taking us into her confidence. She has said that when a version of the first toast was published in the New York Times, she received many emails from people wanting to share their private stories and personal feelings about marriage. Are there stories or feelings that you felt moved to share?
  6. When Ada’s husband makes a costly error, Ada engages in “marriage math,” a generous method of accounting by which she rationalizes having to pay for his mistakes. What strategies do you use to negotiate rough times in your relationships?
  7. One married man says in the book that he feels like the boredom of monogamy and sameness forces him to be creative. What value can you find in the boring parts of your own life—“the pages of plot development required to move the plot along”?
  8. Ada says that everyone who leaves the house has an open marriage—it’s just a question of how open. She suggests a scale from 0 to 5, with 5 being many sexual and romantic affairs with other people and 0 living in a bunker. She says she’s by nature a “somewhat flirty but reliably faithful 1–2.” Do you agree that monogamy is a spectrum, not an open or shut door? And if so, where do you fall on this scale?
  9. While people often leave their marriages to seek variety, the author says that over time if we stay we find variety in each other. She says that she’s been everywhere from “a size 4 to a 14, the life of the party and a drag, broke and loaded, clinically depressed and radiantly happy. Spread out over the years, I’m a harem.” How would you describe the various people you’ve been in the course of your adult life?
  10. The author takes issue with the concept of the “soul mate.” How would you define “soul mate”? Do you think people have “soul mates”?
  11. Ada talks frankly about the taboo subject of infidelity. She says that wanting other people is inevitable and not necessarily a sign that a marriage is doomed. The author also says that crushes can be great when they don’t ruin your life. Do you agree, or do you think extramarital feelings or affairs must always lead to divorce? How do you know?
  12. Ada says, “Just once I would like to hear someone say this in their marriage vows: How much do I love you? I love you so much that I will pass on having coffee with someone handsome and fun who I know wants me.” What are some vows you think people should make when they marry?
  13. At the end of the book, the author attends a wedding where she thinks of a toast she might actually consider saying out loud, though she still stays quiet. Do you see what she describes in this toast as “grace” at work in your own life and relationships? In what ways?
  14. If you were going to give a toast at a wedding, what would you say?

About Ada Calhoun

Ada Calhoun has written for the New York Times, New York magazine, and the New York Post. Her book St. Marks Is Dead was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a Boston Globe Best Book of the Year.

Books by Ada Calhoun

  1. Book CoverSt. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street

    A vibrant narrative history of three hallowed Manhattan blocks—the epicenter of American cool.More

  2. Book CoverWedding Toasts I'll Never Give

    Seven essays celebrating the beauty of the imperfect marriage.More