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Dressed for Distress 

How to turn a wedding nightmare into a dream come true.

Relax, ladies -- it's only the biggest day of your lives.
  • Relax, ladies -- it's only the biggest day of your lives.
For as long as men have slain beasts to prove themselves worthy, brides have gone gaga over their wedding day.

Now, thanks to TV shows like Entertainment Tonight and A Wedding Story, and a slew of slick bridal magazines featuring the latest celebrity weddings, blushing brides have become high-maintenance, whip-cracking divas, obsessed with planning the "perfect" wedding.

"I see these girls come in, and their faces are so strained," says Laura Salkin, owner of Laura Salkin Bridals and Fashions, a full-service bridal boutique in Shaker Heights. "Everybody is trying to outdo the Joneses. But it's not realistic. You might not be the Joneses."

Whether you're a Jones or just jonesing to be one, Salkin's annual Bridal Show is geared toward helping the bedraggled bride pull together the wedding of her dreams. The show features 20 to 25 exhibitors who cater to a variety of budgets, as well as two fashion shows that depict color-coordinated wedding parties.

But more than just a parade of the latest gowns and headpieces, Salkin's show also focuses on the overwhelming pressure brides feel when attempting to pull off the wedding of the year. It's addressed in a melodramatic "dream scene," in which a stressed-out bride frets over the details of her impending wedding. Nelly's prenuptial nervousness is soon eased, as the show's exhibitors walk her through a chronological checklist, detailing typical worries and how not to have them. "In the end," Salkin says, "her nightmare has turned into a beautiful dream."

Salkin began addressing the topic at her bridal shows 23 years ago, after noticing that many of the brides shopping for gowns in her shop exuded something less than radiance when discussing the details of their weddings. "What I hear is, 'I can't wait till the wedding day is over,'" she says. "This is a fun time. You should enjoy it."

With more than two decades of bridal consulting under her garter belt, Salkin has amassed plenty of wedding-day wisdom. The most valuable advice she offers is to hire professionals whenever possible, and don't rely on somebody's Aunt Tilly for the catering or some dude with an awesome stereo system to DJ the reception. Most likely, she says, you'll regret it.

"There are so many horror stories," says Salkin, rattling off a few disasters that involved collapsing cakes, double-booked reception halls, lost deposits, and unattainable wedding gowns. "But you can avoid them by dealing with professionals."

She also cautions brides to stick within their budgets. After all, there's more to your wedding than dumping the 401(k) to fund it.

"Everyone should have their dream wedding," Salkin says. "But you should learn to live within your means."

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