There is nothing like curling up with a good book (make that books) if you are planning a home wedding.
One of the hottest--and newest--of the important wedding books is "Martha Stewart Weddings" by Martha Stewart (Clarkson N. Potter, Inc.: $50, 375 pp., illustrated), with credit to Elizabeth Hawes who did the text, Christopher Baker who did the photographs, and Ellen Burnie who was in charge of design.
Perfect timing, now that weddings are once again popular. And no one can say "entertaining" better than Stewart, a professional caterer living in Westport, Conn., whose first book, "Entertaining," left cookbook readers breathless and eager for more.
In fact, "Martha Stewart Weddings" is not so much a guide to planning a wedding as it is a book of ideas.
Stewart's notions of weddings begin, as should be the case with any party, with a point of view, or as she prefers to call it--style. "It (style) is a focus, a spirit," she says.
Best Advice You Can Get
And that's probably the best advice you can get from any party planner, whether you do the party yourself or rely on outside help. Once style is established, according to Stewart, you're off and running on the larger decisions about whether the wedding is to be a "ceremony, a show or a party." After that, the details of color, guests, invitations, dress, cake and other minutiae simply fall into place.
For instance, a wedding of prominent society figures in Montreal was held at the Museum of Fine Arts and focused on elegance and formality. Attendants dressed in white silk taffeta with teal sashes and carried large sprays of rubrum lilies.
Informality and crisp, clean country charm were the focus for a summerhouse wedding at which the attendants appeared in Laura Ashley sailor dresses and white boater hats and the flowers were arranged in whitewashed baskets.
You get the message.
A good portion of the book is devoted to dozens of dazzling formal, informal and seasonal menus, with ideas for carrying them out.
Let's take the menus. Among them you'll find a colorful summer buffet; a wedding lunch; a garden party in pink (including the food); finger food for a crowd, for a small sit-down lunch or supper; cocktails and cake; a wedding buffet for friends, and a formal winter pork dinner, among others. And within the menus, you'll get dozens of ideas for hors d'oeuvres. One simple wedding lunch begins with hors d'oeuvres of potato slices with caviar and creme fraiche, deviled eggs, pate a choux with onion jam and prosciutto-wrapped figs. At another party a shell-shaped ice carving doubles as a raw seafood bar.
The Little Things
Small things will catch your eye throughout the book: A blue napkin is tied with a strand of chive with a chive blossom tucked inside. A framed luncheon menu sits on a table. An old bathtub is filled with ice to cool the champagne. A tiered wedding cake is decorated with daisies, baby's breath and roses.
The cakes featured in the book are extraordinary. They come with recipes from various sources, with credit to the sources.
Jan Stacey's hazelnut genoise and dacquoise wedding cake is a simple tiered white cake scattered with curls of white chocolate. An Italian cream wedding cake is iced with butter cream slightly rose-tinted and garnished with roses and ferns. Another white tiered cake is decorated in a basket-weave pattern and garnished with tiny pink roses and lemon leaves. A towering chocolate ganache groom's cake is garnished with chocolate curls and variegated ivy. A croquembouche ( pate a choux puffs shaped into a pyramid) is decorated with delicate pink roses and spun sugar, making it appear to be nestled in hay.
Still planning? Check out these other books.
"Your Jewish Wedding" by Helen Latner (Doubleday & Co.: $4.95, paperback), goes into mikveh and seclusion, veiling and breaking the glass as well as details on invitations, reception (kiddush) and the rehearsal party. A chapter on "peaceful planning" will give you an idea of how it can all be done without an argument.
"The Bride Guide: The Perfect Wedding Planner" by Dinah Braun Gross and Marla Schram Schwartz (Dembner Books: $13.95), provides plenty of space to work out your own party based on work sheets the authors have worked out. There are food and beverage layout work sheets, caterer estimate work sheets, plus planning details for engagements, bridal party rehearsals (Jewish and Christian), and the wedding day.
Another how-to genre wedding planner is "Checklist for a Perfect Wedding" by Barbara Lee Follet (Doubleday & Co., Inc.: $3.95, paperback). This popular book pretty much covers everything you need to know about planning a home wedding, beginning with the engagement and shower.