Fowler, Mich., is known for one thing: Becker’s Bridal, run by the Mueller family. Some 7,000 brides annually make the pilgrimage to Becker’s three-storey shop, 90 minutes northwest of Detroit, with their moms, bridesmaids, emotional baggage, and wilful optimism. In his touching book, Zaslow uses Becker’s as a prism through which to view different takes on marriage, tradition and love. While the concept sounds sappy enough for Disney, the book is clear-eyed about modern marriage and the wedding industry. Along the way, readers get a fascinating portrait of a one-horse town with a family business threatened by the Internet.
The father of three girls, Zaslow is curious about the magical pull of a wedding dress. Shelly Becker Mueller lets him meet her clients and write about their lives, while dishing about today’s brides. They may know the kind of wedding dress they want, but they don’t have any clear sense of the kind of life they want or the kind of man who might best accompany them. There’s a sense of entitlement that seems to increase every year, thanks, in part, to shows like Bridezillas. Becker Mueller, herself divorced, sees a new intolerance for imperfect relationships, and she has a room, the Dress Cemetery, piled with dresses from broken engagements, to prove it.
Zaslow follows a handful of customers (an “old” bride, a bride injured in a car accident, one who took a vow of purity) on their complicated path to the altar, all the while scattering divorce statistics throughout. In the end, Zaslow’s big heart wins out and the book becomes dangerously sentimental. How does he get away with it? Readers feel him rooting for his daughters, vicariously through Becker’s, and holding out hope for a happy ever-after.