The Magic Room actually is a physical place. It is a room, only eight by ten feet, on the second level of Becker's Bridal in the small, rural town of Fowler, Michigan. In the center of the room, which is softly lit and filled with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, is the carpeted pedestal from which brides-to-be try on their dresses for the folks who accompany them --- often mothers, members of the bridal party, and rarely fathers --- to see for the first time.
"When and if Zaslow becomes a father of the bride, he knows what his role will be. He learned it well at Becker's. It will be to tell his daughter that he loves her."
Although the dress itself is just one facet of the wedding, much time, effort and money are spent in search of the perfect one. As might be expected, many emotions --- some of them conflicting in nature --- are experienced in the Magic Room, such as pride and love, and perhaps a touch of regret that the little girl has grown up so quickly. Many a bride-to-be experiences delight, mixed with a bit of apprehension. Every woman who comes to Becker's in search of her wedding dress has a story --- and a family who is quite emotionally invested in her happiness.
Becker's Bridal is housed in a former bank building, and perhaps it is appropriate that the Magic Room at one time contained the bank vault. The store is filled with 2,500 dresses and has outfitted over 100,000 brides thus far. In the ’50s, most brides were quite young and accompanied by their mothers, who had a large say in the choice of their daughters' dresses. Parents usually paid. Times have changed, though. The brides are getting a bit older. Many have careers of their own, and since they may be purchasing the dress themselves, they choose it. All the women who walk through that door want to find the perfect dress and have hopes of living happily ever after. Sadly, this is not always the case. About one third of the customers purchasing dresses at Becker's Bridal these days are preparing for their second or possibly even third wedding. Some first-time brides bring their young kids to the shop, and stepchildren of the bride and groom often are a part of the bridal party.
In THE MAGIC ROOM, Jeffrey Zaslow follows eight brides-to-be, their families, and their fiances. Each bride has a different story. One young woman is accompanied by her grandmother, which is rather unusual. Both are painfully aware that a generation is missing. One bride has decided to stay chaste and pure; she shared her first kiss with her boyfriend after he proposed. Another is a young widow whose four children feel that their mother is remarrying way too soon. A woman on the cusp of her 40th birthday who thought she would never marry finds herself a customer at Becker's. Just imagine if the walls of the shop could talk. What stories they would tell.
Behind the scenes are the four generations of Becker women who have worked tirelessly, devoting huge amounts of time, energy and capital. Becker's stands out as a successful small business in this era of megastores. This vast bridal chain, where brides can purchase a dress for less because of the high volume of sales, continues to thrive thanks to customer loyalty, a large, varied inventory of dresses, and outstanding personal service.
When and if Zaslow becomes a father of the bride, he knows what his role will be. He learned it well at Becker's. It will be to tell his daughter that he loves her.
Reviewed by Carole Turner on January 5, 2012