Oh, no: She's at the bridal expo! Go, go, Bridezilla!

Sarah Roberts

Perhaps the most redeeming quality about weddings is that the whole insane event — huge dress, perfect hair, nervous breakdowns — is just one day. And then life reverts to being somewhat normal.

But in the months and weeks leading up to The Big Day, things get a little crazy.

Extreme Bridezillas find themselves losing weight from stress and snapping at their best friends for cutting their hair just before putting on a bridesmaid's dress. On a good day, they merely go into sugar shock from taste-testing 75 varieties of wedding cake.

Of course, I’m speaking from personal experience, of watching a few too many wedding reality shows than I care to admit.

I occasionally have a sort of morbid fascination with the whole wedding industrial complex, the kind that would lead me to hang out at last weekend’s Bridal Expo for no reason other than to observe these bridal creatures in their commercialized habitat and write about it.

According to the Conde Nast Bridal Group’s “American Wedding Study,” 26 percent of newly minted brides-to-be got engaged between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

About 400 or so of them packed Sunday into Rockford’s Tebala Shrine and immersed themselves in things that are relatively important, such as dresses and invitations, to things that are just plain pointless, such as personalized matches and ribbons for cake knives.

A set of 50 commemorative wedding bookmarks was retailing for $60.90. That’s four times what your marriage license costs if you get hitched in Winnebago County.

There’s something about cramming 400 women into an 800-degree ballroom filled with makeup, wedding gowns, glittering tiaras and free cake samples that causes them to “ooh” and “aah” over phrases such as “fairy princess,” “tulle overlay” and “sparkles galore.” And prompts animated squealing for gift certificates good for chocolate fountains and choreographed wedding dances. It makes me wonder whether there’s a correlation between wedding planning and spikes in Valium prescriptions.

Unfortunately there were no great meltdowns at the expo. Multiple women jostling each other to try on jewelry was about as heated as it got. There was, however, a definite herd mentality regarding the picking-up of business cards and samples and signing up for drawings.

And then there was this not-so-subtle message: If you’re not the bride, you don’t really matter. Especially if you’re goofing around by trying on the most massive tiara you can find. Then vendors get kind of angry.

Hopefully bridal expos, if nothing else, help women prioritize and realize that just because the average cost of a wedding is $28,000, according to the Conde Nast Bridal Group, that doesn’t mean you have to spend $28,000.

Or, as was the common refrain of wedding planners throughout the day: No wedding will be perfect, and you’ll have to find some way to cope with that.

Don’t believe the professionals? Then let me leave you with this little cautionary tale that Kelly Doig, a bride from England, shared with the “Daily Mail” this year.

Doig got so stressed after 22 months of wedding planning that she had a seizure the day before her wedding in 2004. She was released from the hospital in time to make the nuptials, but she was so high on meds that she doesn’t really remember the ceremony. Three months later, she had another full-blown seizure. Doctors diagnosed her with epilepsy and said the condition was triggered by all the wedding stress. The bride is now on medication for life.

Feel free to forward that story to your engaged friend who is losing her mind. Subject line: “Calm the heck down.”

Perfect, schmerfect

It’s ironic that planning what is supposed to be the happiest day of your life often turns out to be the most stressful time of your life.

We’ve lost track of how many Web sites and magazines are dedicated to telling you exactly what you need to make the perfect wedding, down to what flavor of mints you need at the reception. Luckily for brides-to-be, some of those resources are also starting to provide tips on how to chill out before the big day.

Here are a few we culled from one-stop wedding Web site Grab a drink, put your feet up, breathe deeply and browse:

* The wedding will not be perfect. Know this going in. Also know that when the wedding is over, the little snafus won’t matter, and you’ll have stories to tell.

* Delegate. Do not try to put together a wedding by yourself. Ask members of the wedding party, family and friends to run errands for you. Most will be happy to help, especially if you distribute small tasks to a number of people.

* Don’t forget the dudes. Grooms are part of the wedding, though it’s easy to forget that little aspect. Make sure to get his input. If he’s not the least bit interested, make sure he can at least handle getting fitted for a tux.

* Stick to a realistic budget. Nothing causes stress like realizing the amount of money you’re shelling out for a one-time event. Ignore numbers and statistics, and don’t give in to the bridal industry’s pressure to spend a fortune on your wedding.

* Don’t worry about what other people think. No matter what you do, someone is going to gossip and complain about your wedding. Some people, including your family, are just like that. You can’t please everyone, so don’t try to.

* Consider hiring a wedding planner. If you can afford the expense and are feeling overwhelmed, it may just be worth it to pay someone else to haggle with the florist and caterer. 

* Focus on the important thing: the actual marriage. The shade of your floral arrangement doesn’t matter. The quality of your marriage does. Don’t forget to spend some relaxing time together before the wedding and remember why you’re getting married in the first place.