Marriages between publishers and wedding-related titles are often prosperous and long-term. But is this enough to satisfy a publisher? Hah! A book becomes a steady backlist seller beloved by tens of thousands of brides and how does a publisher respond? By making demands: updates, revisions, even complete repackaging. And let's be honest, how many publishers remain faithful to those books? When an agent wants to introduce them to a cute little title on wedding flowers or a chubby new wedding planner, do they ever say no? And what publisher can be trusted around a bridal magazine or a wedding Web site? In no time at all, they're deep into a new relationship and proudly announcing forthcoming pub dates.
So what's at the root of all this scandalous behavior? Maybe it's the 2.5 million weddings that take place every year in America. With an average cost of just over $20,000, it's no wonder that couples need all the help they can get in planning and budgeting for the big day. So who can blame publishers for casting a roving eye on new entrants on this playing field? In addition, weddings generate a positive frenzy of spending. According to www.about.com, each year engaged couples spend $4 billion on furniture, $3 billion on housewares and $400 million on tableware. Another $19 billion is spent buying presents at wedding gift registries. What's a bride to do without a book—or three or four—to guide her on her way?
Many houses have been publishing wedding titles for a number of years; others are just now marching down this lucrative aisle. But all the players agree: the category is blossoming faster than you can say "I do."
Wedded Bliss by the Numbers
Adams Media, reports publishing director Gary Krebs, has 11 Everything Wedding books on the market, with plans for four more by the end of the year. "At first we were conservative in this category," Krebs reports, "but starting in 2001, we identified weddings as one of the three most successful subject areas for the Everything brand." (The other two, he says, are parenting and cooking.) First published in 1993, Shelly Hagen's The Everything Wedding Book has been completely revised and expanded for its third edition, due in August. Says Krebs, "We've thrown in all the bells and whistles—new technologies in videography, new trends in invitations and decorations, and up-to-date etiquette issues."
Career Press has eight backlist wedding titles and two new books due this spring. "This has become a very competitive category," notes associate publisher Anne Brooks. "We've never attempted to compete with the plethora of general encyclopedic wedding planners, but tried to find niches in the category with books like Cynthia Conde's Bridal Bootcamp [May], a complete fitness and nutrition system to get the bride in shape for her special day." Wilshire Publications also has eight active titles, reports company president Nelson Clark. The first, Beverly Clark's Planning a Wedding to Remember, has sold three million copies since 1986; the updated seventh edition is due in August. Not surprisingly, Clark reports that plans for "children's editions and titles on multicultural and religious ceremonies are in the works."
Sterling, which began publishing wedding books in the 1980s, currently has 32 titles in print. President and CEO Charles Nurnberg recently got some first-hand experience with this list—his son was married in December. Several new titles, says Nurnberg, played prominent roles in the celebration. The New Book of Wedding Flowers (Lark, Apr.) by Joanne O'Sullivan suggested alternating the height of floral centerpieces at the reception. And while Nurnberg cites Stacey Okun's Town & Country Elegant Weddings (Hearst Books, Mar.) as "the ultimate wedding fantasy book, it also shows how couples on a budget can incorporate elements into their own weddings. My daughter-in-law saw some roses she loved in the background of a photograph in the book, showed it to the florist, and was able to use the same roses in their wedding."
"Our core audience is not particularly rule-oriented," says Chronicle Books senior editor Mikyla Bruder. "They're more interested in picking and choosing unique ideas and meaningful traditions to craft their own distinctive celebration. We've focused on books like The Anti-Bride WeddingPlanner [July] by Carolyn Gerin, Kathleen Hughes and Amy Glynn Hornick that take a fun and alternative approach. Chronicle has a dozen wedding titles and we'll definitely continue to grow the list."
Alex and Elizabeth Lluch, president and editor-in-chief, respectively, of San Diego, Calif.—based Wedding Solutions Publishing, started out as wedding coordinators. When the worksheets they gave to clients won rave reviews, they decided to put their knowledge into print. The couple's first title, Wedding Party Responsibility Cards, was published in 1990 and their company's list now comprises 24 wedding-related titles. "Once we think we've exhausted the topic," says Elizabeth Lluch, "we still end up finding something new to write about or an improvement that can be made to an existing book."
Broadway Books' first foray into the wedding category produced a trio of titles by Carley Roney and the editors of www.theknot.com. "They've done incredibly well for us," reports senior editor Ann Campbell, "and have become steady backlist sellers." New repackaged editions of all three books, which hit stores in December, "have been redesigned to reflect the new look of the Web site—a hip, fresh, chic alternative to the Martha Stewart approach to weddings." The first in the series, 1999's The Knot CompleteGuide to Weddings in the Real World has been revised as well as repackaged, says Campbell—"you can't assume that every bride wants the whole nine yards when it comes to showers, receptions, and rehearsal dinners." The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner offers worksheets, checklists, calendars and etiquette tips; Campbell cites the third title, The Knot Guide to Wedding Vows and Traditions, as a personal favorite: "It's the book I've loaned out the most to friends."
Weddings, says Warner Books trade paperbacks editorial director Amy Einhorn, "is a perennial category—that's why every publisher wants to have one, if not more, wedding books." In January 2003, Warner teamed with Bridal Guide magazine for the first of a series of books, How to Plan the Perfect Wedding... Without Going Broke by the magazine's editor-in-chief, Diane Forden. The partnership, reports Einhorn, has been nothing but positive. "Bridal Guide is the number one bridal magazine for women 18—34. It's a terrific brand, and they do in-magazine advertising for each of their books." The second title, Forden's How to Choose the Perfect Wedding Gown, came out last month.
Known for its top-selling calendar line, Ronnie Sellers Productions in Portland, Maine, is set for a big debut in the wedding market. "One of the inspirations for Marguerite Smolen's The Bride's Year Ahead: The Ultimate Month-by-Month Wedding Planner [Mar.]," says publishing director Robin Haywood, "was my own wedding. Fifteen years ago, I set out to plan the entire event; being in the book business, I was sure there was something out there to guide us. Boy, was I wrong. Fifteen years is a long time for an idea to percolate, but it was worth the wait." The Bride's Companion, a journal-style book with tabbed sections for everything from the guest list to the budget, will follow in April and Smolen's The Groom's Guide is due in August.
Something Old, Something New—Today's Trends
Nearly all publishers, it seems, are responding to couples' desires to craft weddings that are intensely personal.
"The #1 trend in weddings is simplicity," says Stewart, Tabori & Chang senior editor Anne Kostick. Wedding couples and designers, she says, are paring excess in both the ceremony and the reception. The second trend, according to Kostick, is personalization: "Everything from the invitations and the ceremony to guest favors are reflecting the wedding couple's taste. Color is the third trend—today's brides are not afraid to use bright and bold colors."
Crafting for your wedding tops trends for two publishers. At Creative Publishing International, executive editor of lifestyles Alison Brown Cerier says, "More couples are making accessories or decorations themselves, both to personalize their weddings and to save big money." Out last month, Wedding Plans, Wedding Crafts is, says the publisher, "the only wedding organizer and planning guide that includes easy crafts, from invitations to reception favors." Crafting the Perfect Wedding by Anita Louise Crane (Watson-Guptill, Feb.) is unique, says senior acquisitions editor Joy Aquilino, "in that it emphasizes planning so that projects can be completed in a relaxed way."
With many people getting married later or for the second time, HarperResource senior editor Kathy Huck sees a growing market for books directed at "the buyer who's not 25 and still listening to her mother." Perfect Wedding Details (Jan.) by Bride's magazine wedding style editor Maria McBride-Mellinger focuses on the stylist elements (from bridal chairs and place cards to cocktails and candles) that truly personalize a wedding. At Barron's, senior editor Linda Turner sees consumers looking for "small handy books that can be slipped into a pocket or purse"—books like Cathy Howes's 100 Tips for aHappy Wedding (Mar.), which offers "really practical tips on everything from choosing a ring to handling children at the wedding."
On the Drawing Board
"Taking responsibility for a wedding means turning into an event planner," says STC's Kostick, "and your first job is the biggest one of your career. It's crazy to expect people to become experts in all aspects of a wedding. Today's brides are becoming savvy about wedding planning, deciding what they can do themselves and what to leave to others." Come September, help is on the way in Karen Brussen's Simple Stunning Weddings and Simple Stunning Wedding Organizer.
"I began work on the Bride's Wedding Planner [Apr., by the editors of Bride's magazine] while in the throes of planning my own wedding," says Ballantine editor Allison Dickens. "What we tried to do with this new revised edition is give the bride exactly what she needs to make a complicated event simple: a handy portable format, budget options to keep her accountant happy, and online resources for the bride who needs to plan a wedding from her desktop." Coming in April from Wedding Solutions are The Easy Wedding Planner Organizer and Keepsake, geared "toward brides who want an elegant book that they can keep forever"; and The Ultimate Wedding Workbook and Organizer, which contains 100 worksheets and an accordion file categorized by wedding expenses. (Both titles are by the Lluchs.)
If your confidence is low and your panic level high, a bride's best friend may well be The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Wedding. "This new fourth edition, which came out last month, has been completely revamped to focus on the latest trends and most up-to-date advice from wedding planners across the country," reports Dawn Werk, Alpha Books marketing director. The Wedding Countdown Book & Clock by Tracy Guth Spangler (Running Press, May) features a reusable, detachable clock that counts down years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds. Set the clock and follow the fully illustrated book, which outlines everything from when to register for gifts to ordering flowers.
Interested in a lavish, pull-out-all-the-stops event? Check out Kalliope Karella's Wedding Style (Assouline, Apr.), a sumptuous look at 15 of the world's most stylish weddings. Of course, not every couple wants a flower-bedecked production for 800 of their nearest and dearest. Jennifer Shawne's Instant Weddings (Chronicle, Feb.), says Bruder, "is a boon for busy brides. It does away with the assumption that they yearn to spend a year agonizing over minutiae, and speaks directly to people who just want to throw a great party." And if even "instant" involves too much planning, The Everything Elopement Book by Shelly Hagen (Sourcebooks, Feb.) has ideas for runaways to exotic or local destinations—not to mention tips for soothing the ruffled feathers of friends and family who were left behind.
"We've been looking for this book for 10 years," says Jewish Lights publisher Stuart Matlins of his company's first wedding title, The Creative Jewish Wedding Book by Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer (Mar.). "Most of the proposals we received were only about the ceremony; this book is about enriching that ceremony and responds to couples' need for spiritual integrity in their wedding experience."
And talk about timely. An August title from Ballantine that plays right into current headlines is Gay and Lesbian Weddings by David Toussaint with Heather Leo. In the words of assistant editor Danielle Durkin, "This is a groundbreaking book, the first of its kind to be published by a mainstream house. It's a wonderful time to celebrate gay unions, and I hope this book helps convince the straight community, as well as the gay community, that anyone in love can plan a meaningful wedding—and even have fun in the process."
Aisle Be Seeing You—Specialization
"When the proposal for The Complete Guide for the Anxious Bride [Apr.] by Leah Ingram came in," says Brooks at Career Press, "we liked it a lot—so many of the examples were nerve-wrackingly familiar to women here. When enough wedding horror stories or tales of near-disaster started flying around the conference table, we were sure there was a need for this book." Not long after, says Brooks, the publisher received a proposal for a grooms-to-be title. "We convinced the author, Steven Lewis, that his book would be a perfect companion piece; now The Complete Guide for the Anxious Groom is coming in May." WeddingChannel.com columnist Jorie Green Mark's Bride in Overdrive: A Journey into Wedding Insanity and Back (St. Martin's/ Griffin, June), says associate editor Nichole Argyres, "shows what happens when you think you're a perfectly sane person and then you start to plan your wedding."
The Everything Groom Book by Shelly Hagen (Adams Media, Aug.) has all the groom needs to know to get him down the aisle—while still in the bride's good graces. "It's commonsense stuff," says Krebs, "but men often need a kick to get them with the program." A recent survey by Bridal Guide magazine found that 80% of today's grooms are equal partners in planning their nuptials. The Groom's Guide by Sharon Naylor (Citadel, Sept.) outlines helpful strategies for everything from "guy" jobs like booking the limo to choosing the invitations.
The Bridesmaid's Guerrilla Handbook (Berkley, Mar.) by Sarah Stein and Lucy Talbot was first published in 1997 and is back with "a hip, fun, almost chick-lit cover that really matches the material's snappy voice," reports senior editor Kim Leonetti. And for the smallest members of the wedding party, there's Thank Heaven for Flower Girls: Traditions, Fashions, Flowers & Keepsakes (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, Feb.) by Arlene Hamilton Stewart.
Ironing Out the Details
As if choosing a mate weren't hard enough, couples have to hire a photographer, select the music, choose the flowers and buy a ring that will hopefully last them a lifetime. No pressure there.
The one thing every bride wants to take away from her wedding—other than the groom—is fabulous photos. The Bride's Guideto Wedding Photography (Lark, Apr.) by celebrity photographer Steve Sint provides both inspiration and advice on everything from digital photography to which gowns and flowers look best on film. Two titles out last month from Stewart, Tabori & Chang, Wedding Invitations by Jennifer Cegielski and The Wedding Ring by Osnat Gad and Jo Sgammato, says Kostick, "respond to the trend toward personalizing the wedding details." The first title, she explains, covers all you need to know to design, create or just order up the invitations; the second is part history and part selection guide. Rizzoli's Wedding Flowers by Paula Pryke, the U.K.'s "florist to the stars," is "a real hands-on guide as well as inspirational," says foreign rights editor Klaus Kirschbaum. "Paula shares her techniques and design philosophy and shows readers how to personalize their floral choices."
When Graham Kitchen's daughter was about to be wed and no one could find a book with truly original ideas for music and readings, Kitchen challenged the editorial staff at Foulsham to create one. The result is Wedding Readings and Musical Ideas (Mar.) by Rev. J. Wynburne and Alison Gibbs. "Graham now has a son-in-law he likes and a very successful addition to Foulsham's list," says APG managing director for sales and fulfillment Van Hill. "What more could the financial director of a publishing company ask for?" Both Your Special Wedding Vows and Your Special Wedding Toasts (Mar., both by Sharon Naylor), says Sourcebooks' gift books editorial manager Deb Werksman, "offer a variety of material that's easy and natural to speak and sounds like the way people really talk."
Ultimately, Everything's All White
All Dressed in White: The Irresistible Rise of the American Wedding by Carol McD. Wallace (Penguin, Mar.) is a social history of weddings in America—from simple affairs in 19th-century parlors to fantasy weddings of today.
"The story of the American wedding is rooted in the story of America itself," says Viking/Penguin senior editor Caroline White. "Wallace beautifully conveys the romance and delight of weddings, because the American story is also one of aspiration—the dream of a future of fulfillment. And no matter how much America and weddings have changed, the basic ritual has remained intact for 150 years. And we never get tired of watching them."
|Have Your Cake and Edith, Too Edith Gilbert has been writing about weddings for more than a quarter of a century. Now an energetic 80-something, she's just completed an updated fourth edition of her The Complete Wedding Planner (Frederick Fell, Apr.). "Edith is tangy," says publisher Don Lessne with a laugh. "If something isn't right, she really gets on me. But she's also an incredibly hard worker—she's every publisher's dream." |
In 1982, when Gilbert began the first edition of her planner, there was almost nothing available to help brides in need. Even the venerable Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt offered little more than suggestions on the proper way to phrase an invitation. Gilbert dug in and created a groundbreaking how-to for brides that covered everything from engagement showers to receptions. She even included a chapter on wedding superstitions. "Do you know the reason bridesmaids all dress alike? It's to keep the evil spirits confused."
Over the years, Gilbert has not been content to simply revise the same conventional material. "I was the first to write a book for the bride and groom—not just for the bride and her mother—and the first to include a chapter on pre-marriage counseling, alteration tips for pregnant brides and information on ecumenical services." This newest edition, reports Lessne, "adds breadth and depth to issues pertaining to the complexities of the current social scene."
And if undertaking a major revision of a wedding planner wasn't enough to occupy her time, Gilbert is also the wedding etiquette expert on www.weddingdetails.com and has personally answered more than 30,000 questions in the last five years. The most common queries: Who should walk me down the aisle, my father or stepfather? And what if guests want to bring children to an expensive 8:00 sit-down dinner? The strangest question: "My father has had a sex change, can he still walk me down the aisle?"
As a long-time observer of nuptials, Gilbert has seen major changes in how Americans are pledging their troth. "Weddings have gotten so expensive. They're more of a production now and I'm not happy about that. People think they can't get married if they don't have three showers. It's a lot of 'gimme.' " As for what accounts for The Complete Wedding Planner's enduring success, "I write from experience rather than simply interviewing experts," says Gilbert, "and that makes a big difference."
|Cole Times Two While it's not uncommon for an author to have two books published in the same season by different publishers, it's certainly unusual when those publishers decide to cooperate on the books' marketing and promotional efforts. |
Last month, the newly revised edition of Harriette Cole's Jumpingthe Broom: The African-American Wedding Planner will be published by Henry Holt; coming in February from Simon & Schuster is Cole's Vows: The African-American Couples' Guide to Designing a SacredCeremony. "The books complement one another and the author is an exceptionally skillful promoter," says S&S senior publicist Rebecca J. Davis. "Joining forces with Holt to pitch print and broadcast media provides a wonderful opportunity to maximize publicity."
Cole, a former lifestyle editor and fashion director at Essence magazine, is president and creative director of profundities inc., an image development and production company that works with high-profile clients like Alicia Keyes and Mary J. Blige. Cole's success comes as no surprise to Simon & Schuster senior editor Sydny Miner. "Harriet believes that civility, courtesy and compassion should be part of our everyday lives. She's managed to translate that into her books and give couples real tools for their journey."
When Jumping the Broom, the first comprehensive guide written for African-Americans, was first published in 1993, no one was quite certain of its sales potential. "It was a pioneering success," says Holt senior editor Lisa Considine. "It woke other publishers up to the need for category books aimed at an African-American audience." But even the most successful wedding guides need a punch for the 21st-century bride. "This is a major revision," says Considine. "Beyond the etiquette and planning advice, Jumping the Broom is a guide to wedding style, and both Holt and the author felt it was a good time to give it a visual makeover."
"There's nothing on the market quite like Vows," says Miner. "It asks couples to really consider the step they're taking; it's not simply about writing a pretty poem to read at the ceremony." Miner points out chapters that shows readers how to reach back into their African or Caribbean roots for inspiration and ideas—like a special time set aside for older women to get together with the bride and pass on life wisdom; incorporating jazz into the ceremony; or dancing the bride down the aisle to meet the groom.
Among the plans set for the dual campaign are a joint review mailing, a 20-city radio satellite tour, a feature in Essence and an appearance on CBS's The Early Show.