Rachel Safier wrote There Goes the Bride during her year-long "recovery" from the fateful day when her fiancé canceled their wedding. It is, in many respects, a testament to the outsize suffering that often accompanies the minor sorrows of youth ("After my broken engagement, I felt like nothing made sense anymore. Not me, not the world"). Safier had been planning the sort of big, formal white wedding with which we have all become so thoroughly familiar over the past couple of decades, and she can hardly be blamed for doing a slow burn when "Mark" delivered the devastating news a scant two weeks before liftoff. After throwing her engagement ring on the bed and storming out of the house, bee very much in bonnet, Safier decided to let the healing begin by sending a lengthy questionnaire to sixty-two other "Almost Brides" (who had responded to an inquiry she had posted on the wedding Web site TheKnot.com) and compiling their responses in chapters bearing titles such as "How We Called It Off" and "Finding Comfort, Finding Strength." The particulars of Safier's own trauma are shared in a recurring feature called "My Story," which is printed on somber, gray-tinted pages. (A significant portion of "My Story" is devoted to explaining to readers - and this, one suspects, is no small measure of the impetus behind the writing of There Goes the Bride - that although it was Mark who actually dropped the bomb, Rachel had been this close to doing it herself on several occasions, and had stopped herself only to spare his feelings.) The sixty-two Almost Brides are quite a cast of characters. As far as I could tell, all their weddings were wisely scotched, with top honors - in a very crowded field - belonging to Roxy, who "came home early one day from work with bad cramps." She says, "He hadn't expected me and didn't hear me come in. I went upstairs, and there he was - in my missing silk panties, slip, and camisole." Is there bitterness among the Almost Brides? Aplenty. (Naomi: "His parents sat me down and told me that my attitude was unacceptable, that my family and I had no class, and that their son had decided that the wedding was off. As if their son could decide to wipe his ass by himself.") Because the contemporary white wedding is an event staged by a dozen subcontractors, the book includes ample advice about breaking the bad news to one's various vendors and possibly leveraging a broken heart into a refunded deposit. Compared with the nightmare of dealing with disappointed and possibly litigious caterers and florists, informing the "officiant" is a snap: have one of your parents tell him the wedding's off and that you'll get back to him. (Apparently he is supposed to return to his quiet lot of ministering to the sick and puzzling through Saint Augustine's Confessions until the next show wagon rolls into town.)
As it happens, I broke off an engagement many years ago, and I do remember plenty of piquantly heightened emotions and dramatic turns of events. Had I been given a copy of There Goes the Bride during that overwrought time, I might have derived some comfort from it. Certainly the recipe for Baked Four-Cheese Macaroni sounds tasty, and - who knows? - it might have cheered me up to blast Pat Benatar's "All Fired Up" at full volume. But even I - known for a tendency toward the histrionic - would have found much of the book's counsel extreme. Granted, it was a bit embarrassing to have to cancel the salmon lunch I had planned, but doing so did not put me in need of the information contained under the justly urgent subheading "If You're Afraid You'll Hurt Yourself." Nor would I have felt entitled to compare my stinky bad luck to the plight of someone facing death - yet Safier trots us through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's five stages of death and dying along with bits of advice gleaned from such notorious pick-me-ups as "Mourning and Melancholia" and the DSM-IV.