I used to cry at weddings because I was overcome with emotion for the couple embarking their romantic journey by merging two lives into one.
Now I cry at weddings because so many of them end in tragedy.
That’s not because I have been unlucky in my own marriage; quite the opposite. But I am at the age where starter marriages all around me are falling apart, and the men and women left in their wake are playing a mad game of musical chairs, reshuffling to ensure they are not left alone.
The ring, the dress, the food, the Maid of Honor. The fact that you have to figure out how to live in a somewhat peaceful state for the rest of your life with the person you marry is much more important than the length of the hem on your wedding dress. Maybe it’s just me who thinks it’s all backwards.
So when I agreed to review *The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow for the BlogHer Book Club, my stomach was churning and I was prepared to detest reading about blushing brides and their princess moments leading up to their unions with Mr. Right.
In the book, Zaslow follows six brides who have all purchased (one bride did not purchase but tried on dresses) dresses from Becker’s Bridal, a flagship bridal shop in a small town in Michigan known for it’s enormous inventory and great service.
Inside the store, which was originally a bank, is “The Magic Room,” which is a converted safety-vault-turned-shrine to the bride-to-be. Essentially, when the bride feels pretty certain that she’s found the dress she is destined to wear down the aisle, she goes into the Magic Room and stands on a pedestal under perfect lighting. Often this moment draws tears from the bride and her mother. ( I almost lost my lunch more than once).
The thing about books that are well-written is that it doesn’t really matter what they are about. Zaslow is a skilled story-teller. So even though the material was a bit sappy, I felt drawn in to the web of this Magic Room business as these women prepared for marriage. Zaslow fills out the book by weaving in the store’s history along with biographical sketches of three generations of the Becker family.
In the book, one bride was 40 and getting married for the first time, one survived a car accident and underwent plastic surgery to walk down the aisle, one lost her first husband and found love again, one had lost her mother as a teenager so her grandmother was standing in for the mother-of-the-bride duties, and alone was earning her PhD and was very logical about the whole business of marriage.
But the bride I found the most interesting was one who was saving not just her virginity for marriage, but her first kiss as well. Seriously. What if her husband has chronic halitosis? The rest of your life is a long time to be reaching into your purse to hand someone breath mints.
The only other thing that really turned me off about the book was the subtle undertone of disapproval for the modern woman. Perhaps I was turned off because I did not allow the preacher at my wedding to tell me to submit to my husband, and also because I did not plan my wedding when I was 8 years old.
I was always a little suspect about the institution and while my friends were picking out wedding rings they hoped their future prince would buy them, I chose to bury my nose in feminist literature.
But in general, The Magic Room is a worthwhile read, especially, if like me, you did not have the whole “bridal gown experience.” My wedding dress came from a random boutique in L.A. and in pure Complex Mom fashion, I bought it on sale. I did not have my mother there because she lives in South Carolina. I did not have friends there with me holding my hand. It was just a sort of pragmatic purchase. Still, there’s no question that I loved it and that I also hope to pass it on to my daughter some day. Oops. I have three sons. Scratch that.
Which is probably the reason the stars aligned to bring me three boys, because I I’m pretty sure that if my daughter led me into a magic room I might lose my tofu all over the pedestal.
*I was paid to review this book.
If you want to join The Magic Room discussion on BlogHer.com or share your own experience (or lack of) you can do so here.