Just as my son announced his engagement, I received professional design expert and QVC personality Sharon Hanby-Robie's A SIMPLE WEDDING in the Spirit of Simple Living series for review. Good timing.
Written with the bride in mind, Hanby-Robie has a warm, chatty first-person style that readers will either find endearing or a little too perky. Surprisingly, given the cover and title, this is more comprehensive than just wedding planning, with plenty of advice and ideas geared toward getting a couple's spiritual relationship in order. Some brides-to-be will appreciate the spiritual grounding, while others will want to skip straight to "Premarital Mentors" and get started on the actual engagement and wedding plans.
Immediately, I learned a few things. Throwing rice is out. Eco-fetti (biodegradable confetti) and birdseed are in, as are blowing bubbles and ringing bells as the bride and groom depart the church. Hanby-Robie freely pulls from different authors and their books and websites to make her points, giving readers a sampler of other wedding resources you may want to peruse. I found several web links to send to my future daughter-in-law, with affordable wedding bulletins and other wedding paraphernalia.
A section on navigating the often-perilous waters of what parents want a wedding to be and what the couple desires is required reading (and perhaps, worth sharing with both sets of parents). Hanby-Robie strongly encourages the couple to decide up front what is negotiable and what is not. Another good portion of the book is spent discussing interfaith marriages, divorced parents, second marriages and other challenges that can derail wedding plans.
Her advice on guests is particularly sound. Children? Or no children? "The key is not to make any exceptions or you will surely cause hurt feelings --- it's either no children or all children," she advises. Always include the spouse on the invitation for any married guest. Can single guests bring a date? "Another touchy area…" she admits, before offering different options. "Expect that there will be hurt feelings somewhere along the line," she writes. "This is where temporary amnesia can really help. In keeping things simple, focus on what and who is important in the long run and make decisions accordingly."
In some areas, there is more detail than you might expect. Shopping for engagement and wedding rings takes up a whole chapter, complete with details about sizing ("never finalize your ring size in the morning because women tend to retain salt from the day before") to understanding the four c's of "cut, clarity, carat and color." She even offers advice about safeguarding your rings (engraving, insurance). I also found the photography chapter helpful, from interviewing a photographer, telling him or her what the boundaries are during the ceremony in progress, contracts and cancellation clauses, right down to a checklist of must-have reception photos.
The section on choosing a wedding dress focuses more on high-end dresses than ready-made bridal dresses. More information might have been helpful here. (The cheapest one mentioned is $1,500; in reality, wedding dresses can be purchased for around $350 and up.) More helpful are the practical tips about gowns. How do you transport your gown to a destination wedding? (Hand-carry it, double-bagged, with UPS/FedEx insured as another option). Don't take photos before the wedding in your gown anywhere, as it might become dirty. Beachside wedding photos may leave a gown limp. Strapless gowns may call for some expert adhesive taping for breast support. And so on.
The color photography inserts throughout are lovely but might have been better organized. (The first set of photographs contains a picture of the bride dancing at her reception; the last section has the bride and groom leaving the church). Other topics seem odd together, such as music and flowers. And "Showers, Brunches and Prewedding Parties" don't appear until after a section on writing thank-you notes for wedding gifts.
I also appreciated her short section on the dos and don'ts of calling off a wedding, and distinguishing between real concerns and normal wedding jitters. "The last thing you want is a happy wedding and a miserable marriage." You don't, she reminds readers, owe anyone an explanation.
If you find Hanby-Robie's advice helpful, then you might also enjoy THE SIMPLE HOME and A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS, which are written and organized in much the same style. No matter how "simple" your wedding plans, though, you're likely to need her "proven stress reducers" advice toward the end of this book. Relax. Enjoy the chaos. You'll find plenty of good tips and advice here to have the best wedding possible.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on February 1, 2007