- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

A tangle of brides-to be were discussing whether or not to wear veils.
"Veils are tied in with sexual imagery, virginity, peekaboo flirtation; all the underlying sexual drama implicit in any marriage," one said. "I think that's what makes them both compelling and annoying."
Another added, "Veils that cover your face and are lifted up by your husband are the creepiest ."
"It's so pretty," a third woman said. "When else in my life am I going to get to walk around in a get-up like that?"
Overheard in a beauty parlor? No, these are Generation X women chatting on www.indiebride.com, the edgiest online magazine of essays, interviews, a "kvetch" center and other takes on the approach and aftermath of the big day. A veil chat room was listed under the kvetch section.
"I have always thought the veil was NOT for me because it harks back to the days of arranged marriages when women were chattel and brides' families were obligated to supply a dowry," one wrote.
"Most of this worrying about the possible sexist symbolism of the veil comes from our insecurities that we might not be perceived as independent, modern women," another noted.
Attention shifted to the bouquet toss.
"Why concentrate on saying goodbye to singlehood when we have just both consciously chosen to enter marriage?" was the general consensus.
Indiebride.com ("indie" being Gen X-speak for "independent") started in June 2001 as a brainchild of Lori Leibovitch, 31, a New Yorker and editor at Teen People magazine. It started when she picked up a thick bridal magazine soon after becoming engaged.
"I was hoping to find one thought-provoking article, one provocative essay that poked fun at the $70 billion wedding industry, one reminder that weddings are about weighty stuff (love, for instance), a single acknowledgement that neurotically focusing on whether to serve sea bass or halibut (something, I admit, I got into a momentary tizzy over) is not the healthiest response to impending matrimony," she says.
She came up empty.
She felt the weight of having lots of questions and no outlet or source beyond family and friends, who are often too close to the situation to offer sane advice.
"All at once, I was faced with all of life's thorniest and emotional subjects: family, faith, monogamy, commitment, sex and I had to plan the biggest party of my life at the same time?" she said. "I needed help."
Besides a books and essays section, the Get Real feature reviews the newest bridal magazines each month. Trousseau is a "gear and clothes swap" ("Your castoff might be another woman's salvation").
A new crop of wives-to-be are using this site to supplement their intake of wedding ideas lifted from the glossy pages of old standards like Modern Bride. Devotees say the site offers more substance than the glossies.
"It gives me peace of mind to know that other gals like myself with basically happy relationships have their share of problems that are not visible to the naked eye," says Cassandra Johnson, 32, a Chicago-area bride-to-be who manages a law firm.
"I have a lot of friends who will never divulge the ugly sides of their relationships and it was making me feel abnormal for having some of the feelings I've had," she says. "Indiebride makes me feel like I am not alone."
The Internet, with myriad sites from which to choose, has risen increasingly to the ranks of wedding planner. None of the sites, however, is as contrarian and literary as Indiebride.
"It's for people who don't want to get caught up in the fantasy," Mrs. Leibovitch says. "You're getting glimpses of real-life aspects of marriage, and it's not particularly cheery."
Bridal magazines found at the newsstand are mostly about fantasy, she insists, adding, "They give lip service through advice columns, but that's just 50 words in a 500-page magazine."
Indiebride prides itself on not ignoring all the bumps and bruises men and women get as they approach matrimony. She soon will be running a piece by the female half of a couple who spent their engagement on different coasts. When they reunited two days before their wedding day, she learned he had been given "an incredibly raunchy bachelor party."
Horrified, she endured the wedding with its 150 guests, but the marriage was annulled within a year.
"There is an example of what you would never see in bridal magazines," Mrs. Leibovitch says.
For women who don't want all this reality, there's a huge range of monthly and quarterly choices. Mrs. Leibovitch says she favors Wedding Bells, a Canadian publication with plenty of feature stories. Plus, "They show brides that don't have long, blond hair and who look a little more real than models."
Bridal magazines are discussed at length on Indiebride.
"It's like a sickness or something. I can't stop buying them," says Kathryn Tewson, 27, a mobile computer repair technician in Seattle who is engaged to be married in April.
Mrs. Leibovitch remembers hoping no one would see her doing the deed.
"Purchasing a wedding magazine felt hopelessly retrograde, almost an act of betrayal, as if I was condoning the petals-and-tulle fantasy world propagated by these cheery publications," she says.
The women of Indiebride hope for a magazine someday that "has pictures of real, not-so-beautiful women, marrying average guys and what they did, how they cut corners, how what they did varied from the norm," Miss Johnson says.
In the meantime, they will buy the magazines that seem stuck in the past.
After all, "A thinking bride is less of a cash cow than a bride who is nervous and anxious about doing the right thing," Miss Tewson says.
On her day, Miss Tewson will wear a made-to-order gold silk taffeta gown. Her frock-finding mission ended with a fortunate on-the-job accident: "I replaced her hard drive and she told me she makes wedding dresses."
Plenty of triumphant stories have emerged amid the marriage-is-work relationship tales, but the tone of Indiebride is never saccharine.
Mrs. Leibovitch recalled interviewing a magazine representative who told her there was no need to publish serious stories, "because we're in the happy business."
Her response sums up the Web site's message: "At Indiebride, we're not in the happy business. This Web site, like any good marriage, is a labor of love. Our goal is to explore the whole marriage process: the highs, the lows and the complexities."

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