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About NYRM


How Bridal Magazines
Almost Ruined My Wedding

by Laura Johnston

I started planning my wedding in high school. Nearly a decade before I met my fiancé, I knew I wanted lilacs in my bouquet and a lilac-and-sage-green palette for everything else. I kept a list of future bridesmaids in my head, adding and deleting as friendships blossomed and died (my sister and I referred to it as “Bridesmaid Island”). And every time I checked out at the grocery store, I dreamed of the day I’d actually need to buy Martha Stewart Weddings, InStyle Weddings, The Knot, Modern Bride, Bride, Elegant Bride, Bride’s, or any of the two dozen wedding magazines and countless regional publications that had tempted me since adolescence.

Then, last June, after 13 months of dating, Craig proposed on a hot, sunny Sunday in a rose garden in Fort Wayne, Ind., where we both worked as newspaper reporters. Two months later, we moved to New York so I could attend Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Now I’m 26, Craig is 27, and we’re living on loans far away from my hometown of Akron, Ohio, where the wedding is set for September. Fortunately, my parents offered to pay for the wedding and help plan, and last fall my dad even set up an Excel sheet for our $15,000 budget.

I had the ring. I bought the dress. I booked the reception hall. And I was thrilled with my plans. That is, until I started flipping through those long-awaited wedding magazines. I expected that they would ease the daunting burden of planning the most important day of my life. But they only increased my anxiety.

For example, I thought my simple .57-carat diamond engagement ring was exactly what I wanted (probably because I had briefed Craig on my desired specifications—round, six prongs, on a thin Tiffany-style band). And then I bought a copy of the Winter 2006 Martha Stewart Weddings with the taunting cover line “Which diamond would you choose?” I had to compare my $2,000 ring with the perfect ones by Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston and DeBeers—priced from $16,500 to $735,000—that sparkled on the sky-blue cover. This display didn’t exactly give me bragging rights on my perfectly lovely, more modest ring. Thinking that Martha’s ostentation was the exception, I turned to the Winter 2006 InStyle Weddings. Just a few pages into it, I came upon a bright red Cartier ad touting an engagement-ring collection starting at $4,200. “What extraordinary love looks like,” declares the ad, demeaning all us brides-to-be with less blingy rings. I guess our love is just ordinary.

I thought my wedding gown, which was the third dress I tried on at the store where I bought my promdress, was far from ordinary. It fit perfectly, it cost just under $500, and I loved the embroidery and neckline. Inside every single wedding magazine, though, was ad after endless ad of stunning, bouffant-haired models in gowns by Vera Wang, Reem Acra, Monique Lhullier, Carolina Herrera, designer, designer, designer. I have no idea who made my dress, and I didn’t think I cared until the parade of designer choices made me wonder if I shouldn’t have been a bit pickier.

My plan for the wedding day was that before putting on my nondesigner dress, I would have a manicure and pedicure and con my best friend into doing my makeup. Then I read the wedding magazines’ step-by-step beauty regimens. InStyle (“Follow our step-by-step guide and your guests will exchange wows while you exchange vows”) goes allout with a six-month bridal beauty countdown urging brides to visit a brow specialist, cut out processed food, consider teeth whitening, contemplate microdermabrasion and glycolic-acid peels, take yoga classes, get weekly manicures and monthly pedicures, wax, and get a massage. I want to look perfect in all the pictures, of course, but I have neither the time nor the money for all that. I just hope no one whispers, “She really should have had her eyebrows done,” as I walk down the aisle.

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