about the issue

When the grandmas of today’s brides got married, it usually was an intimate event for family and close friends. Still mindful of the Great Depression and World War II, the goal was to have a gracious but not lavish affair. The ceremony was at the local church, with the reception often held at the bride’s home—a simple daytime party with tea sandwiches, punch and cake. Sometimes the bride wore her mother’s wedding gown and carried blooms from their garden. Sometimes she wore a pretty suit, perhaps sewn by her mother. The diamond, if she had one, was small; her groom might not even get a ring.

There was a professional portrait of the bride, but friends took the wedding and reception photographs. There were presents, of course—brides from wealthier families received silver, china, crystal and linens. But many young couples started out with just a few simple gifts—hand-hemmed tea towels, a glass candy dish, playing cards and a pretty bridge cloth or a hand-painted teapot. As for the honeymoon, while the lucky few took the Grande European Tour, ordinary newlyweds spent a night or two not far from home. [My parents, married in Pittsburgh, took their first-ever plane flight to that hotbed of romance—Cleveland!]

Today, as people say, “you don’t get married; you get weddinged.” A unique, memorable ceremony and reception seems to be a universal goal of brides (and surprisingly, their grooms). Nothing is too elaborate, so long as it’s done tastefully, and of course, perfectly. That starts out with hiring a wedding planner. Next comes designing the wedding website, which includes everything you did (and didn’t) want to know about the couple, ranging from how they met,to the wedding venue (a beachfront gazebo? The top of a mountain? Under water?) to the hundreds of shower and wedding gifts on their register ranging from a Pottery Barn dining room suite to everything in the Williams-Sonoma store. A two-carat diamond is de rigeur. Designer gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses can cost thousands. There might be 20 attendants. Invitations for several hundred weigh about a pound apiece. The food is ultra-gourmet, the cake too pretty to eat. There might be a band and a DJ. Professional videography and photography is a must. And the honeymoon—well, a week at Disney World is low end; the world’s the limit.

If you’re planning a wedding and feeling overwhelmed, don’t despair. We have hundreds of wonderful wedding resources in Pittsburgh, not least among them the amazing Robert Sendall of All in Good Taste Productions, who shares some of his creative ideas with Laura Pace Lilley, page 24.

Surely Grandma would agree that today’s weddings are more fun than hers was. Still, knowing grandmas, there’s a good chance yours is hoping that a lavish wedding is the prelude to a long, happy marriage.