Deborah Solomon
Cary Tennis
Best Covers Critiqued
What Are They Reading?


Charting the Masthead
And the Award Goes to...
88 Magazine Uses
The Year In Magazines
NYRM X-word Answers

Short Takes Goes Glossy
New Moon’s Girl Editors
Name That Partisan Rag
Highs of the Lows, ’05-’06
Overheard in the Industry


Gay Talese’s Basement
Radical Art Mag vs. the IRS
Why Magazines Won’t Die
Radar’s Neverending Story
Davidson on His Photos
The ASME Curse
Wartime in the Glossies
An Ex-Con’s Legal Mag
Essence: Behind the Music
(Un)covering Athletes
My Beef with Bridal Mags
E&P Goes to War
The Price of Truth


Hispanic Magazine
Los Angeles Magazine
Men’s Vogue
National Geographic
The Walrus
Women’s Health


About NYRM


And I hope no one finds my wedding dull. It’s a legitimate fear after browsing through photo spreads of real weddings, a magazine staple I love but also loathe, because I can’t dismiss the marvelous touches as impractical suggestions dreamed up by editors. InStyle’s celebrity soirees are less intimidating, since I don’t really care whether Christina Aguilera’s friends threw her a three-day bachelorette fiesta in Cabo. But I swoon over the details in Martha Stewart Weddings and Modern Bride. Martha Stewart has Amy Baker and Andrew Fried, whose coconut-flavored cake slices were drizzled with peach sauce and garnished with a speckled dendrobium orchid, and Sheri Koetting andMarc Levitt, whose gift bags included major league baseball tickets. The hefty 674-page February/March 2006 issue of Modern Bride features Wendy West and Andy Stein’s March 2005 ceremony in the garden of the Beverly Hills Hotel. The couple created an aisle from pink rose petals, hung chandeliers from the trees, and hired a lighting specialist to project their names and bouquets of flowers onto the dance floor.  “… But what guests really loved was an artist who painted a portrait of the reception as it was happening.”

With our $15,000 budget—which initially seemed huge (almost a semester’s tuition at Columbia) but is actually $11,000 less than the average wedding cost, according to the Fairchild [Magazines] Bridal Group—Craig and I are planning a buffet of roast beef and chicken for 200 guests in the renovated barn at my parents’ golf club. It’s not one of those sweet, rustic, lovely barns with chandeliers and romantic touches photographed for Martha Stewart. Its ballroom, if you can call it that, has a pink-and-green-patterned carpet and gold fleur-de-lis stenciled on the walls. I’m imagining pink dahlias and green ranunculus arranged in mason jars on the round tables and escort cards fronted with newsprint, since Craig and I met at a newspaper. Whatever we decide, the reception can’t possibly live up to the “101 New Ways to Personalize Your Day” in the March/April issue of Bridal Guide, supposedly one of the most realistic wedding magazines. No. 19: “Make the bar spectacular… How about having one carved from solid ice, with bright poppies frozen inside for a dash of vibrant color?” No. 26: “Want to be really over-the-top? Conjure up some 1940s glamour with a fountain that gushes champagne.” And then there’s No. 45: “For a picture-perfect memory, place your guest book on a table beside a rented photo booth. Guests can paste their snapshot in your book along with their good wishes for your future.” Great. Maybe we could rent a clown and pony too.

Even more frustrating are the honeymoon suggestions. Craig’s and my idea of a romantic, out-of-the-ordinary honeymoon is Montreal. Perfect, we thought, since he speaks fluent French, I was born in Canada, and we both love big cities. But then I am captivated by InStyle’s spotlight on the Society Islands of French Polynesia. The cobalt-blue water looks divine, and, needless to say, the prices are out of range for mere mortals like us. In Tahiti, the Sheraton Hotel will arrange a private dinner on the beach for $345. In Bora Bora, above-water bungalows with glossy yucca-wood floors at the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa are $830 a night, including breakfast delivered by canoe. And in Taha’a, couples are invited to take a catamaran cruise in the lagoon for $1,050. Craig’s and my only planned extravagance is to stay somewhere nicer than a Days Inn, and our budget is somewhere in the range of that catamaran cruise—well below the average honeymoon cost of $3,700 per couple, according to Bride’s magazine. The pretty pictures tempt me to reconsider our sensible destination and splurge a little. Then I remember all those student loans.

Of course, I realize that like fashion and beauty magazines, wedding publications are aspirational, and so they present the high end, the crème de la crème of wedding gowns, reception sites, cakes and jewelry. But unlike Vogue and Glamour, which I rarely read and can easily dismiss with a quick no-way-can-I-afford-this glance, wedding magazines prey on every little girl’s fantasy of that one idyllic day. They disguise themselves as service-oriented guides, necessary resources to plan a wedding.
In general, the magazines cater to women in their late 20s (that’s me) with annual incomes above $50,000 (not me). Someday I hope to be in the average demographic for the National Magazine Award-winning Martha Stewart Weddings—28-year-old women earning $76,800, according to Echo Media, a direct-response advertising company. Like I said, someday. Elegant Bride raises the bar higher—it caters to a 36-year-old average reader who earns $96,000 a year, according to the Condé Nast media kit. About 20 percent of Elegant Bride’s readers are men, though, a departure from the typical all-female audience. The only men’s wedding magazine, the British bimonthly Stag & Groom, folded last fall after nine issues because of financial problems.

But where’s the budget magazine for real-world brides who don’t have endless quantities of money, or who would rather save thousands for a down payment on a house? Budget Travel, the realistic answer to high-end travel magazines, exists. So why not Real Bride? A magazine that tells naïve brides how to arrange their own flowers, find bargain bridesmaid dresses and make a veil out of craft-store netting would be incredibly helpful.

I did find some useful advice in the existing magazines, including answers to wedding etiquette questions (such as what to do when you don’t know who gave you which gift) and detailed instructions on how to word invitations (for a formal, religious ceremony, write “request the honour of your presence”—yes, honour). I owe a debt to InStyle for the pair of strappy, metallic, affordable ($62) heels I bought two days after I saw them in the magazine. And I learned from a Modern Bride first-person feature on couples living together that just because Craig and I, who share a 500-square-foot Harlem apartment, squabble over which songs to play at the wedding, we’re not necessarily headed for divorce.

Still, plenty is missing amid the pages of stunning gowns and dazzling honeymoon destinations. Should Craig and I sleep together the night before the wedding? (Yeah, I know, probably not.) Do I have to provide transportation back to the hotel for drunken guests? Should I tell my dozen single, college-age cousins that they can bring dates? Those are the kinds of practical, itty-bitty questions I need help with. The magazines do not address such mundane issues, though. Nor do they suggest how to merge your own ideas with iron-clad wedding traditions or empathize with the notion that planning a wedding is horrendously hard—“a minefield of expectations,” as a classmate calls it. (After a half-dozen fights with my mom and sister over pink bridesmaid dresses, I wanted to elope.)

Wedding magazines exist because their readers—young women engaged for the first time—have no idea where to begin. They provide dizzying arrays of advice, along with forbiddingly expensive options, most of which only increase the level of stress. Here’s my advice to other brides, for what it’s worth: Instead of consulting magazines that flaunt what you can’t have, ask your mom and friends, and then go with your gut. 

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