Every bride dreams of a wedding both personal and perfect, but alas, the reality does not always match the fantasy. Small wonder, that. Most weddings are haphazardly thrown together. They reach the high-intensity, full-out frenzied planning stage for only a year or two before the Big Event. If domestic doyenne Martha Stewart taught us anything (before her fall from grace), it is how furiously sweated-over details enrich our life, and that we must seize upon those details and convert them into our own unique style-currency. Today's ultra-modern, uber-divine weddings should be a grandiose operation, epic in scope and requiring more manpower and precision coordination than the D-Day invasion of Normandy. So while Dame Martha helped us appreciate all that is staggeringly elegant, she never went far enough. If W-Day is indeed the most important moment of a woman's life, shouldn't a lifetime be spent in its planning? Not just a year, dammit, a lifetime? With this in mind, the Ultimate Wedding Countdown Planner Timetable Checklist is offered. Clip it, laminate it, and carry it with you at all times. Only by adhering to it faithfully will you be guaranteed a thoroughly scripted, unspontaneous, and flawless wedding. 30 Years Before Wedding If you have not already done so, now is the time to plant the trees which you will harvest for pulp, then convert to paper stock for your reception cards-seating, place, and menu. A mixed stand of deciduous and conifer, hardwood and soft, will prove the most resistant to disease and insects. Also, begin teaching yourself the ancient art of calligraphy, as well as cake decorating, flower arranging, and veil making. Start your diet as soon as you're potty trained. 20 Years Before Wedding Time to make several friends. How many depends on the size of the wedding party you envision. If you plan to use five attendants, make 10 friends. A good rule of thumb is to cultivate two friends for every bridesmaid required, since you'll have to allow for some fallouts due to spats, transfers out of the country, incarcerations, etc. Since you'll be spending a lot of time with these people over the next couple of decades try to connect with compatible personalities. Tip: oftentimes common interests can help form the basis of a friendship. Yet, never lose track of their primary function, which is to precede you down the aisle in a parade of pastels, a swirl of taffeta. They are visual foreplay to your magical entrance and altar-glide. So you'll want friends who are vivacious, cute (but not upstaging cute) with hair and eye coloring that coincide with your color palette. If fuchsia is part of your theme, don't get too chummy with redheads. 15 Years Before Wedding Begin scouting potential honeymoon sites. Don't trust brochures. These are places you must visit yourself, no matter how exotic or far-flung the locale. Circle the globe. Then one month before the wedding, book your reservations at the Super 8 in Branson, Missouri. Because who cares what happens after the wedding? Request the Honeymoon Suite. It includes Toaster Strudels with your continental breakfast. 10 Years Before Wedding Releasing white doves or butterflies at the ceremony is so five minutes ago. By implementing a captive breeding and gene splicing program for a full decade, you can pick and choose the best the animal kingdom has to offer. Select a species never before released outside a church. Woodpeckers in hunter green hues, for example, or edible fruit bats, beaded least weasels, or some kind of winged Chihuahuas. And by working with animals on the endangered species list, you might qualify for federal funding. That savings could translate to extra tiers on the wedding cake. 9 Years Before Wedding Make your gown now. What, you were just going to buy one? Martha Stewart would roll over in her grave, choke on her own vomit, and retch in disgust. Not necessarily in that order. 8 Years Before Wedding Do a hair and makeup run-through. Many wedding planners suggest doing this 4-8 weeks before the wedding. That is insane. Your hair and makeup run-through should become a monthly ritual until the ceremony. No one is ever, ever too well-coiffed. If you plan to have your lips enhanced for the wedding with silicone injections you can simulate the effect during run-throughs by asking your stylist to punch you in the mouth. 7 Years Before Wedding Write thank you notes for anticipated gifts. Leave spaces blank for names and specific items. Duh. 6 Years Before Wedding You'll need a ring bearer and a flower girl, young enough to be adorable, old enough to follow instructions. So now is the time to encourage family members to conceive attractive, well-behaved children who are not prone to fidgeting or nose picking. One of each gender, please. 3 Years Before Wedding Decide on a style of music then select performers. Auditioning groups won't give you enough information. To be on the safe side, tour with different bands. This will give you a chance to gauge audience reaction as they perform nightly in different venues. But no matter how lonely it gets after months on the road, you are a bride-to-be, not a thrill-hungry groupie. Keep the binge drinking and back-of-the-bus sex romps to an absolute minimum. 2 Years Before Wedding How's that hair thing coming along? 1 Year Before Wedding Hire a photographer. If Pulitzer Prize winners are all booked, don't panic. Collect a DNA sample from deceased landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, (here's where having made those friends pays off because this is so not a one person job) and initiate the cloning process. 8 Months Before Wedding Choose and book officiant. If you are not of their faith, now is the time to convert. 6 Months Before Wedding Send announcements to local paper. To prevent it from being buried inside with the other losers, replace the words "impending nuptials" with "hostage situation" and "exchanging vows" with "gun-toting Olsen twins." 1 Month Before Wedding Lose those last five pounds. Grow those last three inches. Tall brides are always so classic. 2 Weeks Before Wedding This is important. Go to a coffee shop, bookstore, or bar. Find an attractive employed man. Flirt with him until he proposes. Accept marriage proposal. Show your newfound fiancée the china pattern you have picked out and schedule a tuxedo fitting for him. Wedding Day Get married. The dream is yours. Now aren't you glad you planned ahead?
When you care enough to spend the very best By Barry Gottlieb
Wedding season is upon us. Ah, that magical time of lacy white gowns with long trains, upswept hair that takes hours to get just so and sexy garters waiting for the right moment to be taken off and thrown to the crowd. And that's just the groom. The brides look even more spectacular. For some reason more weddings occur in June than any other time of the year. This makes Christmas through Valentine's Day the most popular engagement season. I suspect the real reason for the overabundance of June weddings goes back to New Year's Eve, when the phrase, "Don't worry, I'll be careful" echoed from the backseats of cars throughout our fine country. Thus begins the untold hours of planning that culminate in a spectacle the likes of which makes Ben Hur look like an old movie starring Charlton Heston. Face it, a wedding is really about two people in love exchanging heartfelt vows. It's about couples bonding together to face an uncertain future as generations before them have done for thousands of years. It's about three-piece bands that think singing "Jeremiah was a bullfrog" is artistic expression, chopped liver centerpieces in the shape of Nieman Marcus, and shelling out more money than it costs to buy a 17-room house so grown people can drink whiskey sours, drop meatballs down the front of their shirts, and jump up and scream excitedly the moment the band artistically expresses themselves by singing, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog." At least the bride looks beautiful. That's a given. Except, of course, in the newspaper announcement photo which is generally a reject from her driver's license photo session. But as bad as some of those photos may be, nothing is as embarrassing as the new trend of running wedding photos with the guy in it. The problem with having men in the official wedding photograph isn't just that it looks goofy-which it does-but that it sets a very bad tone for the rest of the wedding plans. Do that and before you know it the invitation will read "Please join Tim and Amber as they meld their souls into one energy condominium sharing time and space for all eternity," there will be a ritual beating of the drums at the bachelor party (which will be held in a pre-fab sweat lodge on an Indian reservation rather than in Hooters where the Buffalo wings are infinitely better), and the family and friends will throw handfuls of Lo-fat Save-The-Rain-Forest granola at the bride and groom as they rollerblade out of the church and into the waiting electric-powered limousine. Not all weddings are like that. Some are called off. Contrast this with someone like, say, Bill Gates, who rented an island, had the airspace declared off limits and spent his honeymoon in an undisclosed paradise trying to get Windows to stop crashing every time he got to the 4th level of Doom. As if that wasn't enough, Bill Gates gave his wife a very nice wedding present: Germany. He'd wanted to get her France, but changed his mind when he decided the country was a little too snotty and all the Dimetapp in the world (which he owns) wouldn't clear it up. This may sound like a big present, but it isn't. Not by East Coast standards anyway. A survey determined that wedding guests on the West Coast spent the least money on gifts for newlyweds than anyone else in the country. A lousy $64. Those in the Northeast spent the most ($125) while people in the South and the Midwest spent about $75. At this rate a moderate sized Northeast wedding of 100 people would generate $5,000 more in electric napkin dispensers and microwave fondue pots than their West Coast counterparts, which is more than enough to offset the cost of the imprinted can coolers and other thoughtless party favors the guests will never use. So, in closing, head north before the first engagement party. Vermont is lovely.