Whose Wedding is it Anyway?
The lesson of this book is clearly, “Pay for your own wedding, even if you can only afford to walk to City Hall.” There are five married or about to be married women in this book, and the only one who doesn’t develop a Tums addiction is the one who just goes down to the justice of the peace. The others are held hostage to a variety of wedding underwriters, and the amazing thing to me was what they put up with for free catering.
Eloise Manfred, associate art director at Wow Weddings magazine, has just gotten engaged to her boyfriend, Noah. Her co-worker, Phillippa, is also newly engaged, and as they are admiring each other’s rings, their boss walks by and has a brainwave. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to share their wedding joy with millions of other people? If they open their wedding planning to the Wow Wedding photographers, the magazine will foot the bill for everything: rings, receptions, honeymoons, the whole works. Actually, they’ll do more than pay the bill, they’ll help the brides choose everything. Dazzled by the word free, Eloise and Phillippa can’t say yes fast enough.
The awful boss, Astrid, decides to do a study in contrasts, the Modern Bride (Eloise) and the Classic Bride (Phillippa). In a venal display of advertiser appeasement, she presents the brides with bad choice after bad choice, not even close to their personal tastes. It’s clear by the bridesmaid dress selection that the brides are switched, but no one says anything for fear of being fired, and they all press on.
There’s a reality show sorts of like this, called For Better or Worse on TLC. The couple gets free money for their wedding, surrendering any say in the arrangements, but at least it’s their family and friends arguing over which bargain-basement dress to buy; they want to please the couple if at all possible. Astrid and the advertisers make every decision here, and the choices are presented in a way that suits them: choose one of our least popular vacation packages, says the honeymoon travel planner, to stoke demand for it. Also, there’s modern style, and then there’s Goth Slut, which seems to be Astrid’s goal. Brown rubber bridesmaid dresses? Metal paneled reception halls? With such appallingly bad options, it was quite a mystery to me why Eloise stayed with the program as long as she did – are the free wedding photos worth it if you can never bear to look at them?
Around all the wedding insanity, Eloise has to deal with some family history. Her mother is dead, her father left them decades ago, and she hasn’t seen her brother in a year. When she’s told to hire a stand-in family if she can’t present her real family for the photo shoots, she tracks down her brother, Emmett, who appears to be following the feckless path blazed by their father even as he hates and resents the man. A great deal of the story is spent on questions Eloise (and Emmett) has always had about her family, including what happened to her father. On top of that, Eloise is starting to wonder if she really wants to get married. Her friends tell her it’s just nerves, but is it? She seems to know it’s her, not Noah – he’s wonderful, even about the wedding from hell being foisted on him – but she can’t seem to answer the question, Why am I marrying him? And she worries, Will he leave like my father did?
Eloise was hard to get to know. She’s a bit prickly about her family, which was understandable, and the circumstances of the wedding really put the screws to her feelings about getting married. But Noah is almost without flaw (aside from having a too-sexy co-worker), and he is there for Eloise every single time she needs him. Psst…he’s a prince, Eloise! What more do you want in a man? Her friends are loyal and supportive, even to the point of agreeing to be photographed wearing the rubber dresses, and her grandmother is a stable, loving force in her life. Her focus on her missing father, whom she doesn’t even really remember, filled the book with more angst than is typical in Chick Lit. The wedding arrangements were mostly too painful to be funny, and the writing, while smooth and clear, didn’t have an intrinsic sparkle that could have taken an outrageous story over the top.
Part of me says I should recommend this book for trying on some more serious themes and getting deeper into more complex characters’ heads. The other part of me says that what I like about Chick Lit is the zany humor and wry writing, not self-analysis about abandonment issues. You’ll have to make your own call, depending on which part more describes your own preferences.