Corrections or additions?

For Weddings, or Elopements

This article by Nicole Plett was published

in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 18, 1998. All rights reserved.

The title of the book is "The Portable Wedding

Consultant," but its author, Leah Ingram, came to know her subject

through the back door. While in the throes of planning her own Long

Island wedding, set for June, 1993, the process became so miserable

that Ingram and now-husband William Behry eloped in November, 1992,

to get married at the Queens County Courthouse.

"Bill and I were planning a `normal’ wedding," explains the

author from her home office in Ewing. "We booked a chapel on Long

Island and we booked a yacht club for an outdoor brunch. But we both

have divorced parents and things started getting out of control. We

were arguing about everything — four separate sets of mouths

telling

us what they wanted, how they wanted things, who they wanted to

invite.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the day I found we were

all arguing about the color of the tablecloths — I mean who cares!

"So we called all the families together, either in person or on

the phone and said, `What are you doing next Monday? We’re getting

married. We want you to be there, and we want you to be your best

behavior.’ And they all came."

Ingram’s "Portable Wedding Consultant," published by

Contemporary

Books, includes advice from more than 100 experts with chapters

devoted

to such contemporary conundrums as divorced parents, vendors’ scams,

and how to get married in a tropical locale. (An excerpt of Ingram’s

chapter on wedding websites was published in U.S. 1 last week,

February

11.) Ingram will answer questions and sign books at the cafe at Barnes

& Noble on Tuesday, February 24, from 8 to 10 p.m.

Ingram’s first book, "The Bridal Registry Book," was published

by Contemporary Books in 1995. She is the author of a 40-page weddings

section published this month in New York Magazine (February 9), and

has written a section on getting married in the tropics for Islands

Magazine.

Ingram began working in publishing right after

graduation

from New York University in 1987 with a job as an editorial assistant

at U.S. Air’s in-flight magazine. Then, "through a series of bad

luck," she says she found herself temping.

"I was temping at American Express Publishing (Travel and Leisure,

Food and Wine, are two of their best known magazines), and I finagled

a full-time job as an assistant there, and then got myself promoted

as a copy writer. My job was to put into writing and bring to life

anything that an ad salesperson needed to bring with him or her when

calling on a client."

At her home-based office in Ewing, Ingram still does freelance writing

and has also moved into marketing. She recently led a seminar for

public relations professionals on working with writers and editors.

She also does her own publicity for her books, including the placement

of "The Portable Wedding Consultant" on page three of the

New York Times New Jersey section the Sunday before Valentine’s Day.

Growing up on Long Island, Ingram’s father worked as a Broadway actor,

her mother as a physical education teacher in the public schools.

Divorced, her father now lives in Manhattan with his second wife and

two young children. Her mother just retired to Maine.

Ingram and her husband knew each other from childhood, having grown

up together in Smithtown. Their marriage was the result of a

serendipitous

meeting, after college, as commuters on the Long Island Rail Road.

"It’s a classic love story," says Ingram, with a writer’s

relish. "I didn’t recognize him, but he had a dog with him, and

I just went over to pet the dog."

Although some of the couple’s original wedding planning efforts —

and expense — were abandoned as a result of the family fights,

there was still some June merriment for the newlyweds.

"I loved my caterer, and we wanted to have some kind of

celebration,"

says Ingram, "so we kept the original wedding date in June and

had a reception in my grandfather’s back yard in Long Island. We

needed

everything there from tables to forks to Porta-potties — and the

caterer did all that for me." After their wedding reception party,

the couple spent their honeymoon in St. Croix.

Immediately following, in 1993, the couple moved to Ann Arbor where

her husband entered the Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan.

It was at this point that Ingram launched her freelance career. Four

years and two children later, in 1997, the family moved to Ewing.

As assistant professor of special education at the College of New

Jersey, Behry teaches undergraduates how to teach kids with special

needs.

Parents of Jane, age 2, and Anne, 7 months, Ingram’s home-based

business

is made possible by a live-in nanny, Jane’s former day-care teacher,

who accompanied them from Ann Arbor. With weddings as her established

speciality, Ingram added — no surpise here — parenting to

her areas of expertise. She writes on parenting issues, health and

fitness for children, and family travel for a number of national

magazines.

How could Ingram have guessed that big, lavish weddings would come

back into style? "It seems that they’re more in the media

now,"

she says. "Maybe the conspicuous consumption of the ’80s has moved

into the extravagant weddings of the ’90s."

Ingram warns that although a wedding doesn’t have to

cost as much as a house, it can, and it’s important that couples know

this ahead of time. "You almost have to become a `portable wedding

consultant’ yourself to put on a wedding," she says. "Unless

you’re a professional party planner who does this for a living, you’ve

never done this before. So you need to get yourself up to speed on

what is fair, what is time efficient. I’ve tried to anticipate every

road block, every problem, and every question that a bride and groom

will face."

"A lot of brides are older now — in their late 20s or early

30s — – they’re accomplished professional women who want to plan

their own event. But they may not be paying for the event. So I

include

a section on how to talk to parents."

Are brides-to-be carrying most of the burden of planning the big day?

"I talked to a lot of real-life brides, and the general consensus

was, `I worked my (expletive deleted) off and all my husband did was

show up,’" says Ingram.

"I think it goes back to the fact that we women think about our

weddings for so much longer than a man. The women I talked to

attempted

to get their husbands involved, and they supported them in spirit

— they probably went along to meet the caterer. But when it came

down to it, most of the decisions are the bride’s. I simply think

it’s more important to her."

— Nicole Plett

Leah Ingram, Barnes & Noble, MarketFair,

609-897-9250.

A Cafe Book Chat with the author of "The Portable Wedding

Consultant."

Free. Tuesday, February 24, 8 p.m.


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