Martha Stewart Weddings

With a mere three weeks to go until my darling little sister's wedding, it's looking increasingly certain that I'll go down as its MVP. Granted, I'm not planning on picking up the tab, nor did I scout out locations or taste-test the mushroom-patootie appetizers. But I've suggested a few songs to the band (no "Safety Dance" = no Larry) and have pledged to both show up on time and monitor Uncle Mal's martini consumption. That alone makes my presence as pivotal as that of the officiant and the caterer combined.

To prep myself for the mirth-fueled tumult that lies ahead, I did what I always do in times of profound personal need: dip my pinky toe into the wading pool of magazines. Confronted by a stack of 400-page behemoths--the covers of which depicted near-identical beaming brides--I went with the brand I knew.

Martha Stewart Weddings, much to its credit, goes out of its way to differentiate itself from the competition. Whereas a majority of the bride books do little beyond flog the same tired products, MSW emphasizes do-it-yourself creativity. Granted, you've gotta have a ton of time and cash to avail yourself of the solutions it presents, but heaven knows there are plenty of delusional brides-to-be with the will to try.

The Summer 2006 issue's creativity is best showcased in "Good Things" (rejected alternate titles: "Neat Stuff," "Cool Objects"), which throws a gaggle of clever ideas out there for consideration--everything from cork card holders to an "instant album" of wedding-day Polaroids. "Perfect Palettes," on the other hand, looses the mag's creative minions to devise all sorts of goodies (program pockets, jellybean-laden party favors) in the hues of aqua and red. And while "Fresh Ideas for Eyelet" may prompt a question or two from the ignorant among us--namely, what the f&$#% is "eyelet"?--it invests a simple concept with considerable flair.

MSW doesn't entirely dispense with the wedding-day nitty-gritty. How-to pieces on charitable gifts and destination weddings list a range of options without opining which may be best. Slightly less useful is the feature on parental roles in the wedding ceremony. If there's anything here that hasn't already dawned on you, your maternal/paternal relationships could likely benefit from a few getting-to-know-you sessions.

Still, MSW ain't exactly the magazine equivalent of those delightful Duff sisters in the charisma department. The dull-as-a-debutante primer on eye makeup and "month-by-month beauty countdown" barely squeak by on actionable info alone (though the latter reminded me that I should be shaping my brows this weekend--thanks, M-Stew!). And though the mag presents them quite elegantly, the featured weddings could also use a personality injection, not to mention a splash of diversity. A Berkshires wedding with lots of white people and vegetable gardens prominently involved... what are the odds?

Too, much of the issue's advice borders on duh-really? territory. An item on registering for bath linens instructs couples to "choose towels that feel heavy and thick," while a super-straight-faced piece on wedding vows tells them to "begin thinking about what you'd like to say at least a month before the wedding." Similarly, the "Ask Martha" column suggests--nay, demands!--that wedding-makers should "decorate the younger kids' table to appeal to their sense of fun." Gosh, maybe my sister should rethink that "Death and Taxes" centerpiece for the nieces and nephews.

Should I have the good fortune to locate a gal with the vast wellspring of patience required to spend more than 45 minutes in my presence, I want my wedding to be exactly like the one depicted in Guns N' Roses' "November Rain" video, minus the unfortunate fatalities. Martha Stewart Weddings won't offer me or my heavy-metal honey a lot of help in that regard, but the mag's creative pulse elevates it above a sizable percentage of the competition. And goldarnit, that's a good thing.

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