Madeline: “Marriage is Murder”

There are lots of reasons to bring a little DIY/DIT to the party when you get married. Per Meg’s book: Saving money, keeping your hands busy, or because you’re going indie-chic. But here’s the best: “It’s flat-out fun.” We saved some money on our flower arrangements without going too crazy. But another project was even more enjoyable.

I was thinking so much about weddings when Brandon and I had our planning hats on that I began to notice them everywhere. I mean, sure, I was already aware that people got married from time to time. I knew I couldn’t walk past a magazine rack without being overwhelmed with images of brides who didn’t look anything like me. But it was going through the dollar racks outside the Strand that was the real revelation. So many books are wedding-themed! Of course, some are indispensable guides. Others are equally dispensable versions of the same. But the gem I stumbled on was an old Ed McBain mystery, So Long as You Both Shall Live.

I knew at once what our DIT project would be. Brandon and I both love second-hand books. Writers, apparently, love weddings. Our new goal for the year was wedding books. Till Death do us Part. For Better for Worse. With this Ring. The options were endless.

It wasn’t a chore because we’d have been book shopping anyway. Besides, in our Brooklyn neighborhood, the sidewalks in summer are paved with paperbacks ejected from our neighbors’ tiny apartments. Marriage is Murder. The Bigamous Spouse. The Bridesmaid. The bounty kept on coming.

We bought a personalized library stamp and added the date of our reception on every flyleaf. Assigning one to each guest was the best part of all. Many of them were random, but my mother, as a lawyer, got Supreme Courtship. Book titles went on the escort cards (I no longer think these are what you find in phone booths in Vegas) and guests found their places by locating the book on their seats. Seating arrangements and favors, done and done. Of course, we didn’t get any for ourselves—but my brother Hugh, and our witness Rachel, fixed that while they were helping set up with a quick trip to the bookstore for The Tiger’s Wife and Stuff Every Husband Should Know.

We didn’t say vows at our reception, but wedding-related words were all around us. Some were ironic, some titillating, some sentimental—it didn’t really matter. The books were our nod to a cultural obsession, but they were also gifts that represented something about our lives together. And unlike other fraught decisions we made in the run-up to the celebrations, we didn’t have to strain for it. It was a labor of love, and it made us laugh.

Photo credit: Joseph Mason Studios

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  • That is such an interesting DIY idea and sounds like so much fun assigning them to each guest. As long as the guests didn’t hear what was being said through some of the assignments (I can just imagine the conversation over the choice for certain people!).

  • I love this! My fiance and I are doing something similar for our wedding–the escort cards will be bookmarks, with the title of a book we love as the tables. We were going to have the actual books, but decided to print out the covers instead, to simplify things. Handing out a book for every guest would have been amazing!

  • Kara

    Fun! (that said, how many guests did you have?? I can’t imagine trying to do this for the 250+ that we had!)

    • Madeline

      Under 60–thankfully!!

      • I really wanted to find 18 random copies of Desert Solitaire (the book he was reading in the coffee shop when I met him…also we’re marrying in Moab) for favors at our wedding. I’m sorta sad now that I scrapped the plan…. amazing idea!

    • Sigh…that’s the problem with all of these awesome ideas that I keep seeing on the web (or that my mother keeps calling to tell me about). They’re just too hard to do with so many people!

      • Marina

        You could do one book per table rather than one book per seat. That’d be a great conversation starter too–it could get passed around and everyone could try and find the raciest/worst written/most hilarious passage.

  • Liz


  • Meg

    I like this idea in theory, but in practice I would be so worried about one guest flipping through their book and it being about something awful and them getting offended. You know, like it turns out the couple getting married in the book are a pair of bank robbers and the book ends with a murder suicide or something.

    • Madeline

      You know, I wasn’t sure about this either, but in the end the only complaint we got was that some of the romance titles weren’t racy enough. ;)

    • meg

      Aw, but wouldn’t that be AN AWESOME STORY? Yes. Indeed it would. I would hope all of the books had super racy sex scenes buried in them.

  • LOVE!!!!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    We almost did used books as favors, too. I had sworn off favors early in wedding planning as a set of unnecessary hassles. But then another reason for DIY came up: I was bored with wedding planning. I needed something to do, and filling a few shopping bags with books, $2 per bag, and tying blue ribbons around them was just what was necessary to keep me entertained.

    But when we went to the library to see what was available for $2/bag, it was nothing we or our guests would want.

    And then my future in-laws went “radio silent,” as my fiance says, about planning responsibilities they had taken on, creating about a dozen bright red “past-due” reminders in my planning software, and the florist refused to buy vases, and I was no longer bored.

  • ColoradoLaurel

    Oh how I love this!

    Also, aside: I totally owned that Nancy Drew Files book. I remember nothing about it except the awesome jumpsuit she is wearing on the cover and maybe a skydiving incident of some kind…?

    • Angie

      I still own that Nancy Drew files book & loved it. There was definitely a skydiving incident – another girl steals Ned from Nancy and tries to drug him and crash the plane the two of them are in so she can use his dead body to claim some money that was left to her husband(!).
      P.S. I am also a Colorado girl. :)

      • suzanna

        This ^^^ is Reason #4,287 that this is the best favor/escort card idea EVER.

  • Love this idea! We did photos of everyone (wedding photos when we could get them) on small envelopes with their table seating tucked inside. It was so much fun to put together! Another friend did books as centerpieces and encouraged everyone to take them away as favors, which was also great.

  • katiebgood

    We’re using books as favors too! One favorite of each of ours will go on the center of the table as a base for the centerpiece, then herbs potted in mugs and cupcakes over them.

  • This is amazing! I hope that one or two lucky people got the APW book. ;-)

  • that is hilarious and adorable.

  • Marcela

    AWESOME! I looooooove it! I want to go to a wedding like this!

  • Class of 1980


    People in Brooklyn randomly eject books out of their windows? I now have a maniacal gleam in my eye and an overwhelming need to visit Brooklyn.

  • Amanda

    My husband and I had a wedding reception for the whole family a couple of months after our wedding. By this point, I was DONE spending any more money, and I didn’t want to shell out for 13 centerpieces. We collect old books, so I made little stacks of cute old books in blues and greens (our color scheme), put a couple of meaningful/cute books on top, and then tied all the stacks up with ribbon. Day of the reception, we put cute napkins down in the middle of the table, then plunked the stacks on top.
    This was great for a number of reasons. 1) It was mostly free, we bought ribbon & cloth napkins (which we now use all the time, score!). 2) It fit our “couple personality” well, since we both love reading and met in English class. 3) The ribbons made the stacks look cuter, and they served to prevent anyone with sticky fingers from looking through them. Some books we used were quite sentimental/valuable, and this was a major concern of my husband’s.
    I highly recommend it! I got lots of compliments.

  • Best wedding favours ever? I think so.

  • Writers and weddings and books! Win.

  • We’re doing this! Picking up used books (in our case, classics and SF&F) doubling as centerpieces and favours, that is. We’re not planning to match books to guests, unless maybe we get inspired/bored. Since we’re both writers, it’s become one of our wedding themes (with touches of steampunk and geekiness and whatever else we feel like throwing in — it’s an “us-themed” wedding!).