Diary of a Mad Bride
by Laura Wolf
(Delta, $10.95, PG) ISBN 0-385-33583-0
****
Debut author Laura Wolf is an aspiring screenwriter, so it’s no surprise that Diary of a Mad Bride reads like a television situation comedy. It takes about half an hour (the average sitcom length) to read the entire book, but it’s a guaranteed fun half-hour.

Listening to her friend Mandy complain about the cost of Holland tulips for her upcoming wedding, magazine editor Amy Thomas feels smug and superior. She’s happily single, and she knows that there are much more important things in life than flowers and seating charts. Then Amy’s boyfriend, Stephen, surprises her at the movie theater concession stand with a marriage proposal. Amy is ecstatic, but she vows to keep things in perspective. She’s a very organized person, so planning a wedding will be a snap. She’ll keep the arrangements simple, maintain her professional ambitions, and not get wigged out about every little detail. Piece of cake, right?

Cue the laugh track as little by little, Amy becomes the personification of everything she professes to hate about prospective brides. Her simple wedding, a celebration of the love between herself and Stephen, gradually turns into a debacle that features the wedding dress from hell, a Mission: Impossible search for the perfect shoes, difficult relatives, insufficient funds, conniving co-workers, misspelled (but creative) thank you notes, un-doable “To Do” lists, the NBA playoff schedule and an Ecuadorian woodwind band.

It’s a one-note joke and a predictable one at that, but Amy’s journal entries, scripted dialogue, memos and footnotes are frequently laugh-out-loud funny. There are also occasional flashes of innate sweetness, evident whenever Amy notes some small but lovable trait of Stephen’s, that prevent her from completely succumbing to the inevitable bridal narcissism.

Unlike the heroines in other novels I’ve read about freaked-out fiancées (including Otherwise Engaged by Suzanne Finnamore and An Accidental Bride by Janice Harayda), Amy doesn’t ruminate much about the estate of marriage itself or her feelings for her husband-to-be. The focus is primarily on the wedding countdown and the panic that results when Amy realizes that she’s somehow three months behind schedule although she’s only been engaged for a month.

Fourteen years ago I yelled at my best friend for being 10 minutes late to the wedding rehearsal dinner (sorry, Lisa!) so I know how self-absorbed brides can be. In the fourteen years since, I’ve also learned what Amy finally realizes - it’s not the wedding that counts, it’s the marriage. But the wedding is much funnier. January isn’t exactly high wedding season, but if you pick up and read Diary of a Mad Bride now, you might still be chuckling by June.

--Susan Scribner


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