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Books to help plan your wedding

The cover of "Signature Sasha" Magnificent Weddings by

The cover of "Signature Sasha" Magnificent Weddings by Design," by Sasha Souza. Credit: Handout

Planning a wedding? Here are some books that can help you get started.

THE PAPER BRIDE: Wedding D.I.Y. from Pop-the-Question to Tie-the-Knot and Happily Ever After, Esther K. Smith; Potter Craft, 2010, $24.99

Read on only if you're a serious, card-carrying Do-It-Yourselfer - although, even if you spend weekends at daylong scrapbooking parties, it seems unlikely your boyfriend would make a "Secret Hidden Ring Box Book" for your proposal. (I'd take that old cliche, a ring at the bottom of a bubbly-filled Champagne flute, anytime.)

Other than that, there are some projects here that seem like they could be fun, relatively easy - and could lend an individualistic air to the whole shebang. And save a few bucks, to boot.

There's a Save-the-Date Postcard, a Message-in-a-Bottle for shower invites, table runners, some quite lovely paper flowers and more - though I doubt many would attempt the paper bridal dress.

On the other hand, you could just make a trip to the local discount paper store.

PLANET WEDDING: A Nuptialpedia, by Sandra and Harry Choron; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April, 2010, $14.95

How can you tell if you're a Bridezilla? Why shouldn't you go on a diet before your wedding?

Sandra Choron, writer/editor/literary agent, and husband, Harry, a graphic designer, will answer these questions and more.

There's a long section on the history of weddings and on different cultural traditions - in traditional Greece, for example, a bride had to share her wedding night with her (gulp!) in-laws. And there's a lot on celebs - did you know Charlie Sheen bought his latest bride a $550,000 ring? (We all know how well that worked out.)

There are lists galore: 10 Things to Include on Your Wedding Web site; 6 Tips for Planning the Multi-Faith Wedding Ceremony; 9 Ways to Involve the Groom. . . .

Not to mention, 25 Ways to Save Money on Food and Beverages. (Catering by Costco, anyone?)

INVITING GOD TO YOUR WEDDING: And Keeping God In Your Marriage, by Martha Williamson; Three Rivers Press, 2010, $14

This unusual guide to a spiritual wedding is by someone who knows a bit about spirituality - Martha Williamson was executive producer of the hit TV series "Touched by an Angel" (1994- 2003). It includes a chapter for men by her husband, director Jon Anderson, whom she met on the show.

Many weddings seem to have turned into the Oscars, she writes. But "Instead of planning for a wedding, start planning for a miracle." She suggests writing down answers to questions about what's in your heart:

Do you need to break "soul ties" with old flames so you can start anew? Are there people with whom you have "unfinished business"? What will you miss about being single?

Williamson suggests reading a few pages of this book each night. It may be a calming influence after dealing with caterers and wedding planners, and. . . .

REAL SIMPLE WEDDINGS 2010, by Real Simple Staff, 2010, $13.95

Real Simple Weddings is back with its third wedding plan-zine, a must-have for brides looking for bright, creative and, of course, real simple wedding ideas. The information is pretty much the same as in earlier editions, which is good, because great wedding advice never goes out of style. The best part, though, are the new couples featured, such as Cynthia Etonga and Les Andrew, who did their wedding for only $9,000. Etonga was resourceful (she got lots of tips from and tough with vendors (meet my budget!) and creative (her place cards were paper flags stuck in lemons). Holly Curtis and Billy Vreeland designed almost every element of their wedding, which included invitations on vintage handkerchiefs and antique bells for the guests, who rang them whenever they wanted the couple to kiss. This new edition offers a bigger pullout guide and a free one-year subscription to the magazine - a good deal, despite the dollar increase in its price. --Tania Padgett

SIGNATURE SASHA: Magnificent Weddings by Design, by Sasha Souza; Beaufort Books, 2010, $50.

What's not to love about a coffee table wedding book by a famous planner? There are pages of lush photos, weddings rendered in heart-stirring prose, ideas that make the imagination swoon.

Sasha Souza's "Signature Sasha: Magnificent Weddings by Design" does that and more. This book will make you salivate. The award-winning wedding designer and celebrity events planner offers a how-to wedding book that is fresh, dramatic and invigorating. She covers weddings from soup to nuts in 256 pages and does so with great style. Her photos are stunning, and her wedding ideas are modern, fun and just plain smart. Bring color to your special day, she advises, using words that create a picture in the mind: lettuce, strawberry, peach. Be creative and thoughtful with your menu, she advises. Many people have diet restraints. Think outside the box when it comes to desserts, she says. Couples can delight guests with baby cakes - "smaller than six bites but include all the flavor of a larger wedding cake." Groom cakes also declare your unique style, she says. Indeed. The photo of the groom's cake made to look like a filled cigar box looks startlingly real. Souza shows her range by featuring eight couples whose weddings have been designed by her. "Signature Sasha: Magnificent Weddings by Design" is one bridal book that won't collect dust after the wedding is over. --Tania Padgett

WEDDING HAIKU: Three Short Lines for Your Two Important Words, by Eugénie Olson, with illustrations by Nelle Davis, GPP Life, 2010, $14.95.

Massachusetts author Olson has mixed up the order of her books: first came "Pregnancy Haiku," then "Wedding Haiku."

Well . . . lots of people are doing that nowadays.

"A girl who's getting married needs some laughs, and she needs them in a hurry," Olson writes, citing "fussy bridesmaids" and out-there DJs.

Hence, "Wedding Haiku" - a compact, fun read that might help cool bridal jitters.

Haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry, three lines and 17 syllables long - an elegant frame for Olson's amusing take on the wedding process.

Engagement: "Did you see my ring?/I'll just casually sit/with my hand right here."

Shopping: "First bride in my way/gets an elbow in the face/at the one-day sale."

Fights: "One more argument/and I swear I'm calling the/Jerry Springer show."

Davis' delightful pink-and-white drawings highlight these bon mots.

THE KNOT BRIDESMAID HANDBOOK: Help the Bride Shine Without Losing Your Mind, by Carley Roney and the editors of, Clarkson Potter, 2009, $15.

Co-founder of the wedding Web site The Knot, syndicated advice columnist and author Roney says to consider this book "a referee that brings both sides, the bridesmaid and the bride, together."

A bit ominous, no?

Well, not when Roney breaks it down - you'll learn how to master all bridesmaid functions: "therapist-on-call, social director, personal assistant."

She explains a bridesmaid's financial responsibilities (ranging from $900 to $4,000); how to steer the bride away from choosing the bridesmaid's dress from hell; how to throw a perfect shower - and how to meet wedding day challenges (give the bride "a hand to hold and a shoulder to lean on").

You'll find helpful tips and true stories to make you chuckle - or shudder (an ice-cold main course). Plus, there's the all-important "bachelorette" party question: "Are strippers a do or a don't?"

THE BUBBLY BRIDE: Your Ultimate Wedding Cocktail Guide, by Natalie Bovis-Nelsen; GPP Life, 2010, $16.95.

If you really, really like to drink, this could be the book for you.

Or, if you entertain friends who really, really like to drink, then it definitely is.

Bovis-Nelsen - author of "Preggatinis," nonalcoholic drinks for pregnant women - walks you through setting up a household bar, including stemware. Unusual cocktail recipes dominate the book - from "The Sazerac," New Orleans' "official" drink, to "Miss Charming's Garden Party Punch," made with elderflower liqueur.

Chapters feature drinks for "Boys' Night Out" and "Bachelorette Party Shots" ("The Male Stripper Made Me Sin," made with vodka, cinnamon schnapps, cream and . . . red hots!).

Claire Barrett's color photos are very nice. And there's helpful info on low-cal, low-alcohol cocktails you can "sip along with your friends while avoiding the calorific little suckers that sabotage your shape-up efforts," Bovis-Nelsen writes.

Especially if you really, really like to drink.

THE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE WEDDING: More Wedding and Fun, Less Fret and Debt, by Sabrina Rivers, GPP Life, 2010, $16.95.

Couples who have elaborate weddings sometimes find, to their shock, that they're in tremendous debt afterward.

That's when "wedding bliss often turns into marital blues," writes Rivers, a Maryland marketing and health-care professional, in this surprisingly useful book.

She shows how you can deduct many wedding expenses: Did you know a museum, nature preserve - or even a zoo - might be a deductible wedding site? Or that you can donate your gown, leftover food, flowers and more?

Want to deduct your honeymoon? Build a Habitat for Humanity house instead of broiling on a beach.

Rivers shares lots of other money-savers - rent the wedding cake; seek sponsors "a la Star Jones' wedding," even if you're not a celeb.

Just be sure, she writes, to check with an accountant before taking the tax-deductible plunge.

PLANNING YOUR WEDDING: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Perfect Day, by Blair deLaubenfels, Christy Weber and Kim Bamberg; Knack: Make It Easy, 2010, $19.95.

The authors are West Coast wedding photographers and friends who created, a site featuring photos of "Real Weddings." They've color-coded this book - pink ("Zoom," for details), Red Light ("Stop!," give it some extra thought) - in order to "Make It Easy" (orange).

The book even looks a bit like a Web site - two pretty photos on each page surrounded by snippets of info ("If your guest list is large, look to a hotel ballroom"). From a first chapter on Wedding Style (red . . . think about it) to one on Parties and Events (green . . . "Great ideas and eco-friendly wedding practices"), there are, perhaps, too many little snippets to absorb.

And a bit too much to do. (Will you really find time to "Bake some cookies or make a cake for a person who gave you nice things for your kitchen"?)

Maybe it's not so easy after all . . .

DONNIE BROWN WEDDINGS: From the Couture to the Cake, by Donnie Brown; Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010, $35.

The wedding planner to stars (Emma Thompson, LeAnn Rimes) and a host of The Style Network's "Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?," Brown has written a practical, beautiful book.

From after the engagement to a "post-honeymoon checklist," he covers all aspects of planning: when to do what; whether - and how - to hire a wedding planner (natch, Brown's in favor of this step); how to develop a budget - and what costs are commonly overlooked (do you know the difference between a "consumption" and a "package" bar?). And much more.

Meanwhile, enjoy the yummy color photos - and Brown's tips. "Don't put on your dress hours before walking down the aisle," he advises. "The longer you're in your gown, the more time you have to spill something on yourself or wrinkle the fabric." Not to mention, wedding gowns "are a bit cumbersome in the ladies' room."

PRESTON BAILEY CELEBRATIONS: Lush Flowers, Opulent Tables, Dramatic Spaces, and Other Inspirations for Entertaining, by Preston Bailey, text by Karyn Gerhard, photographs by John Labbe; Rizzoli, 2009, $60.

In late-18th century France, Queen Marie-Antoinette may never have said "Let them eat cake" - but her celebrations of wretched excess at Versailles led to a very bad end. "Preston Bailey Celebrations" probably won't inflame mobs. But wretched excess? He's got it!

Canopies of crystals, flowing ribbons and flowers in Bali. A 25-foot-tall tree "dripping with thousands of crystals and flowers" in New Delhi. Words like "enormous" abound in this, uh, enormous coffee-table book.

But my late Yiddish-speaking grandma would've had a better word: ungapatchka (pronounced OYN-ga-potch-ka), or ridiculously overdecorated. Just too, too - like some of Bailey's clients, Donald Trump and Joan Rivers.

Could you find ideas (to tone down) for your wedding? A few - like the elegant hand-painted Plexiglas tree arches reflecting a Tiffany-style skylight at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Mostly, you'll marvel at a truism pre-dating Versailles: Money can't buy taste.

YOUR WEDDING ASTROLOGER, by Karen Christino, Adams Media, 2009, $9.95

First things first: if you're not remotely interested or amused by horoscopes or astrology, "Your Wedding Astrologer" book will only try your patience. But readers who cast the occasional eye over the back of a beauty magazine might glean a nugget or two of wisdom, even if that advice is dubiously organized by birth month. Christino tells Virgo brides to "keep things in proportion" and not to freak out over tiny details - useful advice for all times and occasions. The book has some howlers, also, including the suggestion of astrologically appropriate cities: Pisceans, your nuptial bliss will only be completed with a visit to Abilene, Texas or Provo, Utah. The book concludes with warnings about choosing the right wedding date, including a cautionary tale about Britney Spears marrying Jason Allen Alexander when Mercury was in retrograde - truly a coupling doomed by the heavens.  --Sophia Chang

STAG NIGHT, edited by Christopher Measom, designed by Timothy Shaner, Welcome Books, 2009, $19.95

Ominously subtitled "A Bachelor's Last Night of Freedom," this lively and raunchy book attempts to lure men into the wedding book industry by way of comic book aesthetics and Pop Art palettes, pin-up girl photos and quick graphic hits of checklists and instructions for pranks and drinking games. The book helpfully features sample best man toasts: "Marriage is a romance in which the hero dies in the first chapter" and posits Las Vegas as the center of stag party universe. Make no mistake: this is no marriage counseling or wedding planning book, what with the "vintage pulp"-both visual, of the explicitly Bettie Page-esque type, and literary, featuring a story by Paddy Chayefsky. The book makes bachelorhood and that last great party look like so much freewheeling fun, a reader might wonder why bother to get married? A bride-to-be book would benefit from such cheeky treatment.  --Sophia Chang

FLOWER GIRL A to Z and RING BEARER A to Z, by Penelope Colville Paine, Paper Posie, 2009, $10.95 each.

There's always plenty of books advising brides, grooms and other bridal party members. But what about advice for the flower girl or the ring bearer? Penelope Colville Paine has come to the rescue with two delightful pint-sized, how-to books for weddings' smallest participants. "Flower Girl A to Z" and "Ring Bearer A to Z" each boast 32 pages of colorful photos and fun sing songy prose. The books praise kids for looking good, inspire them to do their best and even teaches them on the importance of good manners. For example, "Q is for quiet while the ceremony takes place. R is for rings tied with ribbons and lace," says Flower Girl A to Z.

Both books make great gifts for participating kids, as well as parents who might need some help calming their own wedding day jitters as their tots head down the aisle.  --Tania Padgett

THE WHITE DRESS: Fashion Inspiration for Brides, by Harriet Worsley (Laurence King Publishing Ltd., $40).

Ten chapters of gorgeous black-and-white and color photos in this sumptuous paperback show the history of the wedding dress from 1900, when only the rich wore the white dress, to now, when weddings sometimes become "an orgy of consumerism," writes Worsley, a British fashion journalist and teacher.

"The Fairytale Princess" includes real princesses - England's Diana, in an ivory taffeta gown, and Monaco's Princess Grace (former actress Grace Kelly) in rose point lace - as well as virtual ones (Jackie Kennedy in "fifty metres of ivory silk taffeta").

Then there's "No Fuss, No Frills" (Mia Farrow's white suit for her wedding to much-older Frank Sinatra) and "The Goddess" (who knew Bette Davis was this beautiful?) There are international brides, Hollywood brides, rock and roll brides and more - even a few brides dressed, not in white, but in red.

The most delicious moment? Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio about to kiss after their wedding - and the only white she's wearing is on her suit's collar, accenting her beautiful face.  --Peggy Brown

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