I recently spent several subway commutes reading True Prep: It's a Whole New Old World ($19.95, Alfred A. Knopf) in which author Lisa Birnbach (with Chip Kidd) glorifies and skewers the preppy stereotype with hilarious accuracy. I think this would be a delightfully tongue-in-cheek holiday gift to give to someone who is marrying into a preppy family (not because he or she is an outsider who needs to be educated on how to "fit in"—um, ewwww—but because the book will explain the peculiar behaviors/customs that are part and parcel of what it really means to be preppy in the modern age). In reading the book, your fiancé will soon discover that the canned 1980s version of preppy that's portrayed in movies like Pretty in Pink or Trading Places (or dissected in The Official Preppy Handbook, the cult classic parody with the madras-print cover that Birnbach published in 1980) may still exist, but is more likely to resemble what, for example, you get at my mother's house: 1) Triscuits or Cape Cod potato chips; 2) magnums of bargain pinot grigio from Costco); 3) Emma Claire (named after the Jane Austen heroine and John Edwards' youngest daughter), who is the family dog but also a local celebrity we fawn over and gossip about at all times. (And you better bring a sweater—or a Polar fleece—because the heat is perpetually turned down very, very low.)
True Prep will also explain why there's a jar of orange marmalade purchased in the 1980s in the pantry (p. 160), or why no one in the family plays the piano but there's one in the living room currently serving as a display for family photos (p. 134), or why the guest room bed is so uncomfortable: "Preppies are not bred to cosset others. We have been raised as if at scout camp: cold showers, threadbare blankets, lumpy pillows, dry toast" (p. 129). You will be saved from having to explain all this stuff yourself, except to point out that they're symptoms of a longstanding cultural phenomenon—one that may deserve a certain amount of eye-rolling and ridicule, but sure isn't unique to your family. I recommend highlighting the parts of the book that are most relevant to your preppy background, and if you're traveling a great distance via automobile, let your fiance drive while you read these bits aloud. —Amy Elliott
Did somebody say seersucker? Check out this preppy wedding style inspiration story and three of our favorite preppy real weddings: Kristin and Chad in New Canaan, CT; Jessica and Jay in Chatham, MA; Kara and Joel in Clarendon Hills, IL.