Every once in a blue moon, I get an email from someone who has found my site and wants me to check out a project, or a portfolio, or a product. When I received a request to review a wedding-planning book last week, I was very clear to the contact that I would read the free copy that they’d send to me, but if I hated it, I would not hesitate to blast it publicly here on the blog.
So here’s my disclaimer: Ally Asbe’s PR firm sent me a free copy of her wedding-planning book, At the Altar in Your Underwear: 40 Secrets to an Amazing Wedding and a Better You, and now I’m writing about it. If you follow that link above to Amazon and buy it, I’ll get a few pennies of the sale.
Onto my thoughts about the book…
I really do pride myself on helping couples navigate the very convoluted road of wedding planning. A lot of the tips and tricks that I write about concern photography, since this is where most of my expertise lies, but on occasion I try to help folks with the bigger picture.
So I’m going to be completely honest: this book is decent. It’s helpful. But would I recommend it as required reading? No.
Read more after the jump:
Asbe, who had a 20-year career in wedding planning and planned over 3000 weddings, writes in the introduction that weddings are about the people, not the stuff. As “duh!” as this is to many of us, I really do think that some people do need to have this message hammered into them from the start. Weddings aren’t about things. A wedding is a celebration of the first day of your marriage.
The book is aimed at the pre-engaged woman. That’s one beef I have with this approach: it’s all about the bride, what the bride feels, how the bride will react. While Asbe mentions the groom every once in a while and acknowledges that a wedding day is about the couple, men don’t get much space in this book. Same-sex couples are not even mentioned, and everything is still very strictly gendered: bridesmaids, groomsmen, heterosexual couples. Big thumbs-down.
In fact, almost every chapter includes mention of some food item as a coping mechanism — clearly, Asbe does not care if you diet or not before your wedding — but the partner is strangely absent. (The food thing really weirded me out, actually. It was almost like she was fixated on it — whipped cream, apple pie, lima beans, all make appearances within random context.)
It’s sectioned off into 4 large blocks: the engagement, the planning, the big day, and the honeymoon. Each chapter is well laid-out, discusses a cute anecdote which then leads to the moral of the chapter, and at the end of each chapter she lists 10 things to help the reader take action.
Like wedding books that have come before it, At the Altar is meant to be a referral guide that you pick up as planning goes along. The book is best read all the way through once, at the pre-engaged state, and then checked back through when you’re busy planning your wedding. It’s a good grounding tool, and the 10 tips at the end of each chapter are good action items to check off.
The theme of this book is to take it slow. Take the time to be mindful about this enormous change in your life. Being aware of the joyousness of this occasion and the meaning it will have on the rest of your future. It does not tell you how to budget. It does not give tips on how to hire vendors. It doesn’t explain how you might end up screaming about catering expenses to your significant other in the middle of the Whole Foods parking lot about an extra seven thousand dollars that will take up your budget because OMG-OUR-GUESTS-CAN’T-STARVE.
This is a book about your headspace. It’s a good book, sure, but it’s not the best book I would give to a couple to help save their sanity. Bluntly put, my holy grail of wedding-planning books is still A Practical Wedding, because it addresses the stuff that Asbe does, but also helps you navigate the practicality of planning (dealing with vendors, your parents, and so on).
There is definitely room in the world for wedding books like these. So much emphasis is put on “the perfect day” or “a fairy tale wedding” that the “things” can detract from the real meaning of why the wedding is happening in the first place: to celebrate love (as cheesy as that sounds). A big part of this book is about brushing off the haters who will judge your wedding — this is about you, not them, so do what makes you happy.
I think the first 100 pages of this book are fluff. (And what a fast read this is! 2/3 of each page are just margins! They could’ve printed this with half the paper if they’d formatted it better.) If you have a halfway decent head on your shoulders, you won’t need to know that you should make a list of people, in the order of their importance to you and your relationship, to call when you get engaged. That’s just common sense. After page 100, there’s a bit more meat to the text and actually talks about the planning aspect of the wedding.
I like that Asbe does not want to sell you anything except genuineness. I can feel that she’s actually rooting for you to “find” your wedding, and that she hopes that you will be mindful of the entire day as it passes. But she wants you to do it by buying her $20 book. Yeah, hm.