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Having assigned brides responsibility even for that one chore traditionally given the bridegroom, one almost expects an editor’s tip advising the bride to dispense with her fiance entirely — he can sign the marriage license, of course, but surely a body double could be found whose features complement her blue eyes better for the photographs. Does a wedding so conceived truly celebrate the union of two souls?
The advice column penned by Peggy Post redeems the publication for a few pages, restraining certain reader impulses toward bridal excess. At the same time, merely printing a question lends normalcy to its bizarre assumptions. “My fiance’s father died many years ago, and his mother has not remarried,” one bride writes. “She’s insistent that we include her late husband’s name on the invitation, a notion that greatly concerns me. Isn’t there some other way to tastefully honor his memory?”
Another questioner illustrates what happens when every detail is thought to be subservient to, obsessed over by, and thus a reflection upon the bride. “I love my mother dearly, but I’m often mortified by the things she wears,” she writes, “so I’d like to steer her choice of wedding-day attire without offending her.”
It is natural, if beside the point, that bride and groom should want to look their best on their wedding day, but has there ever been a groom who fretted about the suit worn by his father or the wrist watch on his best man? And might that change, were the groom given dictatorial power over the event, and made to feel that its aesthetic stands in for his essence and its every flaw reflects upon him?
Our bride has weightier worries, of course. Literature, couples counselors, and even television sitcoms assure us events as significant as weddings trigger cold feet, questions about how best to begin a marriage and other stressors that concern the day’s substance rather than its style. In Style Weddings’s exclusively stylistic focus sells ads, but it hardly serves the bride, a realization that, for one jarring moment, occurred to its editors: “What with the hectic schedule of menu tastings, dress fittings and florist appointments, it’s easy to lose perspective on why you’re getting hitched in the first place.”
The helpful tip-as-solution? De-emphasize the material aspects of the wedding, and refocus the engagement around strengthening the marital relationshi — ha! Just kidding. The magazine actually advises that “Whether for yourself or as a gift to your groom, Other People’s Love Letters, a new collection of real-life missives, offers a fun way to refocus on the love part of ‘love and marriage.’”
EDITOR SARAH GRAY MILLER’S magazine is neither better nor worse than most of its competitors. None invented the worst aspects of our wedding culture, though all transmit and magnify them unnecessarily. Lest brides-to-be hungry for reading material call me a spoil-sport, however, I might add that Brides Noir, “the fashionable choice for brides of color,” published a recent issue that proves a less flawed bridal magazine is possible.
The cover story, noting that “weddings often are all about the bride,” hopefully suggests that men take “a more active role in the planning process,” and gives tips for “the Guy’s Big Day.” Says Editor-In-Chief Dana Powell in her letter, “As for this issue, you asked for more plus-size fashions, menswear and real weddings — and you got it.” (Did I fail to mention that In Style Brides displays dress styles beyond the metabolism, and weddings beyond the price range, of its readers? But you knew that.)
How refreshing to read the questions submitted to the Brides Noir advice columnist, for none seeks a well-mannered way to be rude. “I am overjoyed to have found not only the perfect man, but also the perfect pair of shoes for my wedding,” a representative bride writes. “I wonder how my dress will look once it’s hemmed. Will you even see my fabulous shoes?”
Though celebrity weddings are featured, so are the celebrations of regular couples, each offering earnest advice. Says Accounting Manager Candice Lockhart, “Know that things may not be perfect and some things are out of your control. Just enjoy the day and most of all enjoy each other.” The advice of Karla Evans: “Spend more time making sure the foundation of your relationship is set, than worrying about minor wedding day details.”
Most radical is Jacqueline Cofield’s advice. “Let your fiance help with some creative aspect of the wedding planning. It’s much more romantic to realize the vision together on your wedding day,” she says.
Brides Noir has a feature on environmentally conscious weddings, reminds readers not to buy a conflict diamond and even offers advice for strengthening ties between families prior to new unions (a feature that begins by noting that “whoever said the wedding is just about the newlyweds must have eloped”).
Yes, the magazine gears itself primarily to women, and offers plenty of photos of gowns and cakes and flowers. But most pages are conscious that the wedding isn’t all about the bride, or the spectacle, so that were a Messiah to appear at the nuptials of its readers, multiplying sea bass and dinner rolls and pairing them with a Chardonnay or Sancerre, one suspects these brides would feel blessed and grateful, even for a miracle not of their making.
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