Altared: Bridezillas, Bewilderment, Big Love, Breakups, and What Women Really Think About Contemporary Weddings
Edited by Colleen Curran
I was engaged for three years before I got married. Fearful of the process and confused by what it meant to plan a wedding, I began to contact other women writers to find out how they dealt with their “big day.” How did they get married? What happened? Did they elope? Did they have big splashy affairs? How did they make their weddings work for them?
The result is Altared: Bridezillas, Bewilderment, Big Love, Breakups, and What Women Really Think About Contemporary Weddings, or, in other words, 27 Women Writers on Their Big Day.
Anyone who is intimated by the prospect of planning a wedding will laugh, cry and take solace in the never-before-published personal essays in Altared where:
- Dani Shapiro tell us that: “At your ten-year anniversary, not a soul will ask you who your caterer was.”
- Curtis Sittenfeld vows to attend every wedding she is invited to and learns the real meaning of the guest list.
- Jacquelyn Mitchard writes about her second wedding to her sexy, young carpenter.
- Meghan Daum illustrates the purgatory of the “singles table”
- Lara Vapnyar writes about her search for the perfect wedding dress on a tight budget
- Amy Sohn details her family’s fights over the wedding bills
- Rory Evans writes about her pre-wedding mental meltdown
- And more writers tackle everything from dealing with divorced parents at a wedding to modern-day wedding etiquette.
From planning it to doing it (or not going through with it after all), Altared explores what women really think about the modern wedding in this heartwarming, thought-provoking and deeply funny collection.
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What the critics said…
Darkly funny ruminations on getting hitched by authors like Amy Bloom, who calls weddings “almost totally irrelevant” to marriage.
Featuring a who’s who of whip smart women writers (ranging from Curtis Sittenfeld to Dani Shapiro and Amy Bloom) riffing on that ultimate emotional hot button topic—weddings. This is not your mother’s marriage book. Rather, these essays are the ultimate validation for anyone who has broken into hives thinking about bridal gown emporiums or felt their heart sink as yet another thick, hand-addressed envelope thuds into their mailbox. The unpartnered vent their spleen at the social Siberia of the singles table. Others, like Russian writer Lara Vapnyar, offer an international perspective, and nobody, but nobody, refers to “feeling like a princess” without a whopping dose of irony.
Engaged staffer Lindsay Bucha zipped through Altared (Vintage $13.95), a collection of wedding essays that she says hit uncannily close to home.
If there is any one theme that runs through the essays in Altared – one of those “(insert number of) women writers (insert the topic of your choice)” books that seem to have taken over the publishing industry—it’s that Princess Diana still looms large. Many of the essays begin with her fairytale wedding, including the hilariously illustrated contribution from Daisy de Villeneuve, “It All Started with Princess Di.”
But Altared is also, somewhat surprisingly given the subtitle, full of wedding tips for the not-terribly-traditional bride. When I read Carina Chocano’s plan for a mariachi band, I thought to myself Hell yeah, a mariachi band! And Rory Evans’ description of her laid-back wedding—she wore a white tank top and skirt and her groom a pink Lacoste, but they went full-on crazy with their cake, a tower of cupcakes that they topped with clothespins decorated to look like the couple—may well be worth the price of the book.
Like similar collections on motherhood, it’s doubtful that Altared will be of interest to anyone not planning on marriage soon, but for our wedding-planning friends, skip the toaster as a shower gift and bring them a copy of this book. At the very least, they may get inspired to change the reception music.
For the generation of women who dreamed, as little girls, of fairy-tale weddings, studied Gloria Steinem in college, and settled comfortably (if not a little cynically) into their 20s and 30s as singles vowing to dodge the $72 billion–a–year wedding industry, marriage is a tricky subject. The women whose work appears in Altared—a wickedly funny, touching collection of essays about “coping” with weddings —are part of that clan. ReadyMade contributor Meghan Daum lends her own heartbreaking spin to being a perpetual guest, Lisa Carver writes about the black dress she wore to her third set of nuptials, and Rory Evans describes her own DIY affair, complete with clothespin-doll cake toppers. Together, these fresh, intelligent, and unconventional takes on getting hitched prove that saying “I do” can be a wonderful expression of individuality, eccentricities and all.
—Brianna M. Smith
Curran solicits tart tales from 27 writers, normally willful and independent women, who, for the most part, have taken reluctant swan dives into the consumerist culture of the bridal industry. Contributors including Curtis Sittenfeld, Lisa Carver and Amy Sohn never thought they’d catch the bridal bug. Still, they each get lost in the fantasy but come out the other end with a meaningful realization. The essays delve into the fraught conversations, negotiations and neuroses around wedding vows, dress shopping, etiquette, registries and budgeting. Sticker shock is a common theme, among women who subvert the wedding industry with a DIY approach (Rory Evans topped cupcakes with handmade clothespin bride-and-groom figures), and others who pay a price despite saving money. Julie Powell’s entertaining experience trying “to make a meal for hundreds into an expression of who you are” illuminated an incontrovertible equation: “hundreds of guests + unreasonable expectations + catering – billions of dollars = rubber chicken.” Some of the more heartfelt pieces including Jennifer Armstrong’s story of how she called off her wedding, and Lara Vapnyar’s poignant recollection of a $16 gown and the leap of faith that marriage entails. Brides-to-be or women who’ve been there will easily see themselves in these true stories.