Read an Excerpt
Better Off Wed Chapter One
Planning a wedding can be murder. Planning weddings for a living is nothing short of suicide.
"Is there a patron saint for wedding consultants? Because I think after this wedding, I just might meet the requirements." I stood near the top of the wide marble staircase that swept down the middle of the Corcoran Gallery of Art's central foyer. Below me, dozens of tuxedo-clad waiters scurried around the enormous hall filled end to end with tables and gold ladder-backed chairs. After having draped ivory chiffon into swags on all forty tables, I massaged the red indentations left on my fingers by the heavy pins.
"Annabelle, darling, I may be a lapsed Catholic, but I'm pretty sure you have to be dead to qualify for sainthood." Richard Gerard has been one of my closest friends since I arrived in Washington, D.C. three years ago and started "Wedding Belles." At the time, he'd been the only top caterer who'd bother talking to a new wedding planner. Now I worked with him almost exclusively.
"The wedding isn't over yet."
"At least your suffering hasn't been in vain." Richard motioned at the room below us. "It's divine."
The museum's enormous hall did look magical. The side railings of the staircase were draped with a floral garland, leading to a pair of enormous white rose topiaries flanking the bottom of the stairs. Amber light washed each of the three-story limestone columns bordering the room, and white organza hung from the ceiling, creating sheer curtains that were tied back at each column with clusters of ivory roses.
"I just hope the MOB is happy." My smile disappeared as I thought of the Mother of the Bride, Mrs. Clara Pierce. I started down the stairs to double-check the tables.
"I don't think she does 'happy.' " Richard followed, his long legs catching up to me quickly.
"If I'd known she would make my life so miserable, I wouldn't have taken this wedding." I brushed a long, auburn strand of hair out of my face and tucked it back into my tight bun. I wore my hair up to make me look older and more experienced, but it didn't make me feel any different. I still got butterflies in my stomach at every wedding I planned.
"You must be kidding, darling." Richard lowered his voice as we reached the floor and a waiter walked past us. "This event is your ticket to all the big, society weddings."
"If society weddings mean more women like Mrs. Pierce, then I'm not interested." I leaned over the table closest to me and smoothed one of the organza bow napkin ties.
"Well, sure, she's been difficult ..." Richard came behind me and fluffed the bow back up.
"Difficult?" I narrowed my eyes at Richard and picked up another napkin. "I had to drive her fifteen-year-old, incontinent poodle to the church this afternoon."
"Her dog was a guest?"
"Not a guest. The ring bearer." I watched as Richard began to shake with laughter. "Turns out there wasn't enough room in the limousine for the wedding party and Muffles, so I got the honors."
"Look at the bright side." Richard ran a hand through his dark, choppy hair. "You're barely thirty, and you beat out all those older consultants for this wedding."
"Probably because I charge less than they do. The first thing I'm doing on Monday is raising my rates." I picked up an unlit votive candle, and Richard produced a long, butane lighter from his suit pocket.
"Then we're going shopping." Richard gave me the once-over and shook the flame of the lighter at me. "If I see you in one more pantsuit, I'm going to cry."
"But they're so practical for working." I looked down at my "lucky" navy blue suit. "Lucky" because the long jacket covered up the fact that I'd been eating way too much take-out. "And this one is silk."
"It's a blend." Richard shook his head as he rubbed the fabric of my jacket lapel between his fingers. "If you want to be an A-list wedding planner, then we're going to have to dress you like one."
"Fine. As long as you promise not to go overboard."
"When would I ever go overboard?" The spread col-lar of Richard's fuchsia and green Versace shirt peeked out from underneath his black four-button suit.
My eyes darted to his neck, and I cleared my throat.
"You don't like the shirt?" Richard extended his arm so I could see the French cuffs. "It looks just darling with my white linen suit. I'd have worn that tonight but I never wear white before Memorial Day."
"Thank God for small favors."
"Speaking of doing favors, I'm also going to take you to the makeup counter. What's the use of having great cheekbones if you don't accentuate them?"
"I appreciate the flattery, Richard, but I don't like to wear lots of makeup."
"No kidding." Richard studied my face. "I'm amazed you look half decent with that drugstore garbage. Imagine how great you'd look if you used a designer line."
"I'll think about it."
"It would be cruel to tease me." Richard formed his lips into a pout.
"If there's any teasing to be done, I should be the one to do it." My assistant, Kate, came down the staircase behind us, her high heels clicking on each step. Kate always wore heels to weddings to show off her legs and make her look taller. She said you never knew who you might see at a wedding, and I was pretty sure she didn't mean old family friends.
"How's it going upstairs?" Richard asked. The nearly four hundred guests were being served cocktails on the upper level of the museum, which overlooked the foyer.
"Well, the sushi chefs almost quit because Mrs. Pierce timed them and took notes on their presentation."
"That damn notebook again." I rubbed my temples with my index fingers ...Better Off Wed. Copyright © by Laura Durham. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.