Battle Of The Specialty Bridal Books: InStyle Vs. New York

It's been quite a while since my wedding, though I'm still proud of my slightly offbeat choices -- the pink silk dress and ballet slippers, the reception on the grounds of the Long Island Science Museum... But if I were a bride-to-be now, I'd be bored silly with the gigantic travel brochures/dress catalogues that make up the typical bridal mag. Two do stand out from the crowd with distinctive points of view, though: the celebrity-centric Weddings InStyle and the regional Weddings New York, each an extension of a well-known magazine brand. How do they compare?

Can I wear my jeans? dept: IS, B; NY, B. Not much visual fashion help from NY: few ads (actually a welcome source of ideas for readers in this shopping-intensive mag category), and a mere 14 pages of gown photos. But the thorough listings of New York-area bridal and bridesmaid dress outlets provide handy thumbnail sketches of major shops and designers.

IS has more ad pages and fewer edit pages, which offer more practical advice. The gowns are presented according to price, starting with a reasonable (in the cuckoo world of WeddingDressville) $320. For those who want to avoid the hideous-dress bridesmaid dilemma, a helpful feature indexes presentable dresses according to how they flatter different figure types.

Travel advisory: IS, D; NY, A. IS' one travel feature, about a pre-wedding California trip taken by two semi-celebs, offers little useful info and a quote that would earn a D in Travel Writing 101, about San Luis Obispo -- "Three words describe this place: Oh. My. Goodness." Gee, that sure tells readers a lot about why they might want to visit.

Meanwhile, NY's "The He Plans-She Plans Newlywed Vacation" cleverly zeros in on destination options for four couples who discuss exactly what they want in a honeymoon.

Stardust on the wedding veil: IS, C; NY, A. Celebrity shopping tidbits are, of course, the lifeblood of every incarnation of InStyle, and one's tolerance for this sort of thing tends to be predicated on just whose underwear drawer is being invaded (I'd prefer Clive Owen's or Jon Hamm's). Still, even if you watch "House" (I don't), the two-page chart detailing important dates in the romance of stars Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer seems a tad excessive -- and, ironically, needs updating, since the two recently broke up.

I prefer NY's classier, nostalgic take on celeb marriage: a black-and-white photo gallery of notable New York weddings of the past, including a shot of Zeppo Marx and bride circled by a very young Groucho and Harpo.

Expert Advice: IS, B-; NY: A-. IS offers a very mixed bag of tips, from the uninspired (etiquette questions about bridesmaid choices) to the more creative (have a watercolor artist capture the wedding scene.).

Likewise, NY's "Ask the Experts" interviews make a few missteps (apparent egomaniac Oscar de la Renta focuses on his own weddings rather than his area of expertise, fashion), but are mostly excellent consultations-in-print with the likes of caterers, wedding planners and DJs.

Oddly, it's NY, not IS, that offers tips from a lighting designer. Is it a wedding or a movie? (If the latter, I'm writing in a part for my husband's aunt, who complained loudly about the "cold soup" -- that is, gazpacho -- at our reception.)

But NY redeems itself with a helpful guide to "Debt-Free Nuptials," which features a line-by-line itemized example of an English tea party reception for 50 priced just under $8,000.

Reception case histories: IS, B; NY, A. Almost identical in format -- how couple met, what they served, etc. -- but NY wins with more interesting photos, along with P.C. points for including a male-male couple.

What you'll never find in generic bridal mags: NY, A+; IS, C. Kudos to NY for the sly wit of its "Guest Wrangling" chart, which ranks potential invitees from "Never" ("bounty hunters" and "charismatic teachers/professor who went the extra mile to inspire you in high school/college because they're sexual predators") to "Always" ("anyone who hung around the hospital the day you were born.")

Also, NY's listings of every kind of wedding vendor are models of useful brevity.

IS, meanwhile, could work its pipeline-to-the-stars theme much more interestingly.

Bottom Line: Weddings NY is a helpful and entertaining read for any bride-to-be, New York area or not. Weddings InStyle is much less impressive, more like a typical bridal mag but with a Hollywood gloss.

MAG STATS

New York Weddings

Published by: New York Media Holdings, LLC

Frequency: Twice a year

Web site

Weddings InStyle

Published by: Time Inc.

Frequency: Four times a year

Web site
Recommend (2) Print RSS