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Real Weddings, written by Sally Kilbridge and photographed by Mallory Samson, addresses all of those questions and many others with its profiles of 16 couples. This book succeeds in giving you clever ideas for planning a "My Best Friend's Wedding"-style event. Many of the book's weddings are big, but there is a wide range of styles.
The "Gathering of Clans" wedding, for instance, features a couple marrying on Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. The groom, who was from Scotland, chose to don a kilt, as did the Scots and American groomsmen. The Scottish theme was carried out through the entire wedding, from the flower girls' tartan dresses to bagpipe music. The couple also took advantage of what the island had to offer by serving freshly caught fish and having a raw bar of oysters and clams.
Maybe a large, all-out wedding isn't your thing, and you're hoping for an intimate occasion with fewer than ten people. One couple chose to have a small wedding because this was not their first marriage. But that, as Real Weddings shows, is no reason not to have a grand wedding. They had four guests -- their kids -- but all the fixings that go with an exquisite wedding. They had romantic readings, plenty of flowers, and a beautiful cake decorated with a sugared tree, which was symbolic because the bride had given the groom a copper beech tree as a gift. At the end of this profile -- as Kilbridge did with all of the profiles -- there are tips on having an intimate wedding, like not succumbing to the pressure to invite more people at the last minute and planning things in advance, such as getting the marriage license and finding someone to officiate.
Another integral component of this book is the professional advice pages from a baker, photographer, florist, and many others. Hairstylist Salvador Calvano III, for example, provides questions that every bride-to-be should ask a stylist, suggests bringing in a picture of the way you would like to wear your hair, and urges you to consider a natural look that doesn't involve too much hairspray.
Where Real Weddings fails is with prices. Kilbridge neglects to provide the total cost of each wedding, leaving you (and me) asking, "How much does this shindig cost????" How affordable is a reception with lobster as the main course? Do brides in Vera Wang dresses (there are several in this book) have the same financial concerns as budget brides? How realistic is it to hire Imani dancers to perform for the bride and groom?
But if the idea of being a spy at 16 weddings appeals to you, Real Weddings definitely lets you do that. You learn about the make of the brides' dresses, what the invites looked like, and what the cuisine was. The writing sticks to the facts, and because the stories are so good, there are no superfluous adjectives. The photographs are also excellent; journalistic in nature, Samson's pictures tell the compelling stories of these featured couples almost as well as Kilbridge's prose. Real Weddings is the must-have invite when looking for how-did-they-ever-swing-that wedding info.