A bouquet of wedding books
"Simple Stunning Wedding Etiquette: Traditions, Answers, and Advice from One of Today's Top Wedding Planners," by Karen Bussen (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2007, $19.95)
Wedding etiquette has always been a tricky landscape to maneuver. But this handy manual will bring you up to speed on the many rules and guidelines of planning your big day.
Bussen, a wedding planner who's been featured in Modern Bride and InStyle Weddings, covers everything from announcing an engagement to hosting the perfect reception party and beyond.
Warning: The list of "do's and don'ts," is enough to make your head spin.
Some good do's: Expect to be the center of attention at an engagement party, wedding shower and bridesmaids' party, all taking place before the wedding.
Some bad ones: Good etiquette apparently means giving up any ambitions of saving the environment or simply saving the trees. You are expected to print an engagement announcement, save-the-date card, wedding invitation with reply card, escort card, place card, program, menu card, and — well, you get the idea, the list goes on and on.
Nothing, of course, is written in stone, and a bride-to-be can toss some of these guidelines with the same abandon as her bouquet. In the end, the best tips are the ones based in common sense, such as: "If it's against state law, it's generally considered a breach of etiquette."
"Real Simple Weddings" (Real Simple, 2008, $12.95)
Produced in partnership with Crate & Barrel, this is a photographically stunning, supremely streamlined planner for brides-to-be. What do you get? Checklists and worksheets, but not page after obnoxious page of them, just enough for the on-the-go bride-to-be, whose war cry is, "Make it simple, real simple." The guide also offers tons of great ideas, sweet wedding tales and smart tips galore.
"One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding," by Rebecca Mead (The Penguin Press, 2007, $25.95)
When it comes to weddings, a keeping-up-with-the-other-brides' mentality is about as common as a drunk uncle at a reception: Everybody is aware of the problem, but you'd be hard-pressed to get them to admit to it.
That is everybody except Rebecca Mead.
Mead, who's honed her reporting chops as a staff writer for The New Yorker, explores the wedding industry — the good, the bad and the ugly. And there is plenty of ugly.
Brides-to-be have a virtual smorgasbord of goods and services at their disposal, and most have no problem expressing their own personal style through fancy dresses, multi-tiered cakes and other wedding "necessities." They're encouraged to spend, spend, spend by the wedding industry, which grosses around $39 billion annually.
"One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding" raises questions about one of our most enduring institutions — perhaps the most important being: "What is a wedding really for?"
"Fete: The Wedding Experience," by Jung Lee and Kathleen Boyes Stewart (Tabori & Chang, 2008, $45)
Weddings coordinated by Manhattan-based Jung Lee and her party-planning company, Fete, have been featured in Modern Bride and Vogue magazines. Now she's published the details of nine such affairs in "Fete: The Wedding Experience." The elegant hardcover book is filled with beautiful photos and honest, refreshing advice. (See, for instance, "Why a single entree can be a smart choice.") The book thus makes a suitable planning tool for an engaged couple — and a fitting accoutrement for their newlywed coffee table to boot.
"Bad Bridesmaid: Bachelorette Brawls and Taffeta Tantrums — Tales From the Front Lines," by Siri Agrell (Henry Holt and Co., 2007, $15)
Almost every woman has been enlisted to serve as a bridesmaid. Whether you were a "bad bridesmaid," as was the author, a writer on cultural trends for Canada's National Post, probably depends on how much you're emotionally invested in the traditions of the whole Getting Married scenario.
Agrell shares not only her own attendant transgressions, but those of others who have had equally bad — or worse — experiences, in this quick read that is short on valuable lessons but, nevertheless, an amusing piece of fluff for those who commiserate with her point of view.
"The F Word: A Fiancée Shares Her Story from 'I Will' to 'I Do,'" by Kelly Bare (Citadel Press, 2007, $12.95)
Dirty minds or not, it's hard to pass up a title like this, especially when it's in the wedding section of your local bookstore. But is the book just as interesting? For the most part, yes. Bare guides brides-to-be through the minefield of getting married by writing about her own experiences. With candor and a deft wit, she tackles less common subjects, such as extramarital affairs, caring for a sick partner when you don't want to and bickering over just plain nonsense. While some of her chapters don't resonate (the one on etiquette is disappointingly dull), most of "The F Word" holds up as candid, fun and instructive — a much-needed counterweight to bridal books that paint marriage as a fairy tale.