November 16, 2015

"Mothers, Daughters and Weddings" ~ Book Excerpt

I thought youd enjoy another article excerpted from my new book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride {Volume One} For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding. (It was published in the fall issue of Season Magazine. Click here to read it from the online magazine...and Ive reprinted it below.)

Mothers, Daughters and Weddings

Historically, weddings reflect changes within a culture. And perhaps no relationship is more affected than that of mothers and daughters. It was not long ago (when brides were typically young women not yet out of the “family nest”) that mothers orchestrated the whole affair. But today most brides are independent women who plan their own wedding—only sometimes with their mother’s assistance.

Nevertheless, weddings can still offer the possibility for mothers and daughters to deepen or restore their connection with each other—especially by participating in shared activities that have the quality of ritual. Many years ago this may have been creating the bridal gown together or stitching trousseau linens for the bride’s new home, offering opportunities to chat about life and love and what the future may bring. Today it could be a joint outing to try on dresses. (And if it’s to deepen relationships, I advise leaving judgments at home and taking one’s most diplomatic self along!)

Fashion designer Vera Wang has become an expert on weddings. Not just because she’s designed thousands of bridal gowns—and attended almost as many ceremonies—but also because of her keen observation of relationships. So her take on mothers is worth noting:

Each parent has his or her own distinct part to play. The most complex and challenging relationship, however, is often that of mother and daughter. Differences in style, vision and expectation can begin with the gown and end at the reception, with every issue in between fair game for controversy. A wedding can unleash torrents of emotion, and a bride must balance her own need for control with her mother’s sense of involvement. Sometimes fashion can even become an excuse for unexpressed issues.

The late designer Oscar de la Renta, who had been present for many mother-daughter gatherings in his bridal studio, had “gentlemanly” thoughts about mothers when asked who a bride should bring with her on a shopping excursion:

It would be cruel not to bring your mother along. The wedding is almost as important to the mother as it is to the bride. But brides should prepare their mothers for what they are thinking of wearing. The mother always has a notion of what she wants her daughter to look like, but the daughter is a woman now and she wants to look like one. If I feel like the bride is holding back on choosing something she really wants because she doesn’t want to hurt her mother’s feelings, I ask the mother if I can talk to the bride alone.

I recall those daughter-mother encounters in my former shop; some tender, some extremely tense, some remarkably both. At times it was as though I was watching each woman relive her life in an emotional time-lapse montage. A wedding becomes more of a pleasure and a blessing when we remember it’s a pivotal rite-of-passage for both daughter and mother.  Try a little tenderness.~

[Mother and daughter photo courtesy of BHLDN]

August 31, 2015

"Princesses, Heiresses and Weddings" - Book Excerpt

I thought youd enjoy my article published in the summer issue of Season Magazine. Click here to read it from the online magazine...and Ive reprinted it below. ’Tis an excerpt from my new book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride {Volume One} For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding.

Princesses, Heiresses and Weddings

“We knew that we wanted Diana to have a large bouquet,” explained her gown designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel. “The scale of the dress meant that a small one would have simply disappeared.” With the universal appeal of Princess Diana’s shimmering wedding in the summer of 1981, over-sized, shower-style bridal bouquets became the fashion. (Of course, most things in the glitzy, high-flying ‘80s were on a grander scale!)

Almost a hundred years earlier, Princess May of Teck (who became Queen Mary, Prince Charles’ great-grandmother), started a similar trend when she carried a huge, cascading bouquet for her 1893 wedding to the future King George V. It was called “a modern touch” because its “shape had only recently ousted the posy,” shared historian Ann Monsarrat. The 19th century English journal Manners for Women attributed this “extravagant fashion to the influx of heiresses from the New World into British society through marriage.” These were daughters of the nouveau riche of the Gilded Age who took their fathers’ immense wealth abroad between the 1870s and early1920s to marry cash-strapped noblemen, like the character of Cora Crawley on Downton Abbey. They not only rescued a way of life for the British aristocracy—at least for a few years—but also lent their opulent taste to wedding celebrations.

Charles Frederick Worth, an Englishman who set up shop in Paris, became the father of modern couture—and a favorite designer of these rich American girls who in turn became famous for their expensive Worth wardrobes and diamond tiaras. They spent thousands every season at his salon and when the time came, ordered a dazzling wedding gown and fancy trousseau. Consuelo Vanderbilt, Jennie Jerome and Frances Ellen Work (Princess Diana’s maternal great-grandmother) were three of those nearly 500 heiresses from America who put their glittering mark on weddings.

During this time most British princess brides followed Queen Victoria’s lead and, instead of wearing one of the many diamond tiaras at their disposal, opted for the more sentimental choice of an elaborate, yet rather humble, bridal crown made of wax orange blossoms. However, many of the American heiress brides, more into opulence than sentiment, wore diamond tiaras—usually a gift from their father. 

Perhaps to make a proclamation all their own, several Windsor brides of the 20th century (namely Princesses Marina, Elizabeth, Margaret and Anne) also broke with the orange blossom tradition and chose diamonds for their hair—large, old, spectacular ones. So for her wedding, Lady Diana followed suit by wearing the Spencer family tiara: a whimsical floral design in gold, silver and heirloom diamonds. (And as far as I could tell, there was not an orange blossom in sight!)

Weddings have always been a time to dress up, make a statement and dress like a princess. As author Carol McD. Wallace shared: “If a wedding isn’t the ultimate chance to show off, what exactly is it?” ~

May 28, 2015

"The Honey Month" - Book Excerpt

I thought you’d like to read an excerpt from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride.  “The Honey Month” appears in the spring issue of Season Magazine...and shares things about the honeymoon that I bet you didnt know! Enjoy.

 The Honey Month
The word “honeymoon,” in use since the sixteenth century as British historian Ann Monsarrat explains, is a derivation of a much older term, “honey-month,” describing the first weeks of the newlyweds’ life together at home, or at the home of friends or family, with the not so subtle intent of ensuring offspring. But these were considered rather “low-class words.” So beginning in the eighteenth century, when it became fashionable for well-to-do couples to take some sort of trip following their wedding festivities, the occasion was called “going away,” thought a more genteel expression. 

There’s a bit of intrigue associating the honey in “honeymoon” and the ancient legend of the honeybee’s luscious nectar with love and sex. In her book, The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us, Bee Wilson muses how human civilization would have barely survived without the honeybee: its wax was used to create light in a dark world and its honey gave nourishment and medicine. But the honeybee also provided poetic mystery and “food for love”—from the devilish to the divine:

It is “sweet, like true love, and delicious, like carnal love, honey can be treacherous and sticky, like false love,” the author asserts. And there’s more. Its thick, syrupy-ness brings up a “dark side of human desire”—like this from Proverbs in the Bible: ‘the lips of an adulteress drip honey and her tongue is smoother than oil’. Yet “pure honey is precious and good, like married love”—as this line from the poem Rob Roy by Andrew Lang suggests: ‘Or will ye be my honey? / Or will ye be my wedded wife?’

Some believe the term “honeymoon” relates to the ancient Viking ritual when, for their aphrodisiac effects, “the bride and groom would eat honeyed cakes and drink mead for the first month of their betrothal”—truly a honey-month! However, the connection to honey and the name honeymoon or its true meaning “cannot be agreed upon.” Like most early rituals there are hazy origin myths, but what we know for sure is that “the use of honey in marriage rites has been a constant throughout the Indo-European world, and beyond.” (As in an age-old Egyptian marriage contract where the husband promised his wife a yearly gift of twelve jars of honey; or in archaic Hindu wedding ceremonies where the bride’s lips, ears “and beyond” were anointed with the nectar.)

Do we really “fall in love” or do we just “fall into a honeypot”? Do we meet our beloved by chance or are we stung by Cupid’s honey-soaked arrow? In stories of mythology, honey certainly plays its delicious part in romance. Becoming known as the young god of love, Cupid—the son of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and Mars, the god of war—is not only famous for stealing honeycombs, but he also “fires arrows at his victims, sometimes dipped in honey” and they instantly fall in love with the next person they meet.  Honeypot, indeed! ~

[The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride available now on]