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Prepping for the Big Day 

What are the latest wedding trends? We asked a local planner for some advice

When Britain's Prince William married Catherine Middleton, the comparisons to his parents' big day were inescapable—as were the details of the whole tawdry mess that followed his parents' big day.

The replays of Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding inspired in some of us a new perspective on the affair: The intervening global-warming predictions and the collapse of the global economy had us wincing at the extravagance.

So it was refreshing to see how the latest-wed Windsors toned things down (if you can call any event costing $33 million "toned down"). Style triumphed regardless, from the simple elegance of the dress, to the dramatic reduction in the wedding party, to the live field maples (to be replanted later) lining the ancient aisles of Westminster Abbey.

If the cake was over-the-top labor-intensive, well, a bride will have her day.

According to local wedding planner Anne Bryan, of Creative Events, Tucson brides have been ahead of the royal curve in terms of mounting weddings with style and elegance on a reduced budget.

"It's better to do an amazing wedding for a few of your closest friends and family" than to splurge on more than you can afford, or to cut corners on a much larger affair, she says. "What I see the trend being is a tighter budget for everything."

One example, she says, is the still-trendy hand-tied bouquet. There's no filling-in with greens to cut costs, as was common in the days before the fist-full-of-flowers motif came into vogue, but brides are compensating by choosing local and seasonal flowers that may be nontraditional. "I really try to tailor the event to the most important elements, and then scale back where no one will notice." Bryan says.

Field maples won't be adorning Tucson churches any time soon, but the city's brides have embraced other Earth-friendly trends, many of which also tend to lower costs. One focus is local, local, local.

"These have been some of the best events, because the desert elements take center stage," Bryan says. "We have so many local farms for produce and sourcing on menu choices."

Vintage also is all the rage, and Tucson's many tasteful vintage shops are rich resources of recyclable dress-up style.

That said, Bryan says stylin' brides these days are beating a path on the Internet to two innovative wedding-market entrants whose designs and attitudes already are favorites among affluent, style-conscious women: bhldn.com, by Anthropologie, and jcrew.com/wedding.jsp. If, like Kristen Wiig's character in Bridesmaids, the attendants are not so affluent, no problem: Improbably, both have a range of styles at affordable prices.

The Internet has been a boon to girls who start planning their weddings in seventh-grade, and we are legion. Friends and complete strangers can spend countless hours at theknot.com, communally obsessing over details of, say, the distribution of their e-card engagement announcement video, or the "getting ready robe" they'll need to take off when they put on The Dress.

More commonly, prospective brides go to sites like theknot.com to create, store and trade inventories of ideas, and create "sets" of wedding plans for themselves, for others, or simply for their imaginations. They can specify dress designs and accessories by choosing and recombining elements provided via drawings or generated by short questionnaires. Thousands of photographs, including many from real weddings, encourage reconsidering and recombining floral arrangements, table settings, venues, cakes, wedding parties, menus, dresses and gifts for bridesmaids. A bride can even create honeymoon plans, and design and decorate the couple's future home, all using real products and services to which they have access when they decide to quit playing around and commit. The site has a clearing house of national stores' registries, so the bride and groom can even select online what they'd like Aunt Louise to buy for them.

Retailers, both national and local, naturally love theknot.com. Its user data is pure gold for product planning and targeted campaigns. Surprisingly, retailers, brides and even theknot.com itself seem too distracted to promote one of the site's greatest advantages: It's epically green! Consider the savings of fossil fuels from the days of driving around to bridal shops and department stores.

Grooms needn't feel left out. Theknot.com offers a convenient groom's "Style Checklist" with such helpful suggestions as, "One week before ... get a haircut!" and, "Buy new boxers for the big day. Surprise your bride with something stylish."

Grooms can rely on staff members at a reputable tuxedo rental store or haberdashery to study up on the latest lines and cuts, but an ambitious groom might also want to take advantage of the crash course on Esquire magazine's Style Blog. Search for "The Everyman's Guide to Black Tie" for a range of apparel scenarios—while making a minimal time investment. Beyond that, the wise groom will simply be supportive, whatever it takes.

Actually, Bryan thinks it's important that the groom put his own stamp on the wedding. "I try to really get the grooms involved in selecting music, food, invitations," she says, "because those really set the tone. That way, their sense of style is incorporated in the event, and they feel like they know what's going on, and that it is their wedding."

Left to their own devices, a couple might make their way through the wedding-planning process as a rehearsal for the sorts of collaborations and compromises that will serve them well until death do them part. There is, however, often a third substantial presence in planning for the big event—the bride's mother, whose influence may be complicated by her checkbook. When a bride who has invested 15 years in planning her wedding realizes that it could all be dashed by a fraught mother-daughter relationship, or even by the best of her mother's intentions, it's time to get a wedding planner on speed dial.

"Mothers of the brides are still huge," says Bryan. "I'm usually the one hired as the mediator, often by the bride, to make sure her day happens. I want Mom to be part of it, but it's not her day."

Is there anything that Bryan hasn't seen when it comes to nuptials?

"I'm still waiting," she says, "for that one couple who wants to be on YouTube with a custom dance for the ceremony."

More by Linda Ray

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