The budget was scrappier then, the staff smaller, the shoots less complicated -- but the goal has always been the same: "to bring the very best ideas to the bride," says Martha. "We don't stick to a formula: This year's spring issue isn't just like last year's spring issue." And even though the magazine has evolved quite a bit, it's still true to that original mission.
Along the way, Darcy catapulted from senior stylist to head of the magazine; Wendy's business grew and grew; Matthew started his own firm; and Martha became a household name, even launching a popular home line for Macy's that has since become the most registered-for brand at the store.
They also learned a lot about what goes into producing a beautiful bridal magazine. But most of all, they had a ton of fun. "We swept the floor; we baked the cake; we dressed the models and did their hair," remembers Martha. "We did it all -- and we had so much fun!"
Here, they reminisce about the early years and share their collective wedding wisdom.
1. Your wedding is the time for timeless.
Darcy: Before the magazine, there was the book --Weddings by Martha Stewart [published in 1987]. And when I look at it, I realize just how timeless the ideas in it are. The only things that are dated are the fashions and hairstyles!
Martha: Well, this magazine was really an outgrowth of that book. I had catered hundreds of weddings, so I was always very interested in them. The magazine was a success right off the bat. I think the incorporation of the DIY angle was very important. Nobody went into as much detail as we did. Then, of course, there was also our good taste.
Wendy: Which, to me, means reinventing something in a fresher but still gorgeous way. You can bring contemporary aspects -- whether it's taking away or adding things here and there -- but that nod to the past is ever present.
2. The unexpected can be great.
Martha: That first issue, I helped with the hairdos, the cakes. I even made that bouquet [featuring roses in the shape of a heart]. I think there were almost 300 roses in it -- it was enormous. I wired all the roses. I taped all the bunches, and when I started to gather them together, it shaped into a heart, and I thought, "Oh, how beautiful!" Everyone else on set probably rolled their eyes, but I loved it and had it photographed anyway. Well, that bouquet became immensely popular. People brought the photo to their florists asking for an identical bouquet.
3. Unfortunately, the unexpected can also be not so great.
Matthew: The first story I did for this magazine was a cascading bouquet story -- and turned out to be a nightmare shoot! I had all these amazing bouquets in my car, and I was driving up to the shoot, when I stopped by the flower market for one last bunch of something -- I don't remember what -- because I was obsessing. Well, my car got towed. I think I started crying. I begged and begged, and they finally let me have it back. I guess my persistence paid off! That was the beginning of the gray hairs.
4. Either way, go with the flow.
Wendy: My most challenging moment involved a couple who gave me Pantone color chips to match for the cake. They were huge perfectionists, and it took several rounds before they were happy with the fondant color. On the day of the wedding, disaster struck.
Darcy: I was a stylist at the magazine then, and working on this wedding. The cake had been in the backseat of a car, and the sunlight had oxidized the side facing the window! The bride was not happy. But we ended up just spinning the cake around to even out the color.
Wendy: I felt terrible! It was still a pretty cake -- just not the color they wanted.
Darcy: Brides should plan as much as they can, then let go. I tell that story about the cake all the time when I give presentations to brides.
Wendy: I totally agree. Hire good vendors who have good reputations and who can deliver the goods -- and deliver them on time. Then let go and allow the day to just happen. And remember: The people who will be with you that day will be there to celebrate your happiness, not critique your wedding.
Darcy: I also like to tell brides, "Pretend you're getting married a week earlier than your actual wedding date." Because there are always things that come up in that last week -- like getting your mother a present for helping plan the reception -- and, trust me, you don't want to be a stressed-out bride right before your wedding.
5. Guests see the results, not the plans.
Matthew: I was on-site for a wedding, and I heard a big scream from the third floor of the event space. The venue manager had fallen into the wedding cake! It was insane. We called the bakery, and they sent a new cake -- it was the same size and more or less the same style, but the flavors were entirely different from what the bride had ordered. She never even knew this happened! And of course the guests had no idea either.
Darcy: It seems obvious, but in the end, guests see only what's there; they don't see what's not there. And that's a very important lesson to learn.
Matthew: Totally. A bride once called me just before the ceremony -- she was very emotional. She wanted to tell me that the dahlias in her centerpieces were slightly the wrong tone! I calmed her down, and later, when she could see how much everyone at the reception loved the decor, she was absolutely fine.
Wendy: I always advise my budget-minded brides that I can design false tiers for the wedding cake that's on display but actually serve sheet cakes that are kept back in the kitchen.
6. By all means, go ahead and cut costs -- but don't scrimp on style.
Matthew: I believe you need to maintain the integrity of the elements. Don't sacrifice great food, good design, and wonderful music just to accommodate a huge wedding! Cut your guest list, choose a better venue and better food, and have the wedding of your dreams -- just on a smaller scale. Or do a cocktail party instead of a formal dinner if you need to cut back.
Darcy: A smart cost-cutting tip is to have your wedding off-season or on a Sunday. That will give you so much more negotiating power. Just try not to skip the videography. I know other people say it's not necessary. But if you think about it, in 40 years, if you could sit down with your kids and show them a photo album or a video of your wedding, which one would you -- and they --prefer to see?
7. Personalization: It's what separates the nice weddings from the jaw-dropping, can't-stop-talking-about-it weddings.
Matthew: Infusing your wedding with your own touches is key. Customizing -- that's the luxury now. Not over-the-top extravaganzas.
Martha: I'm always looking for that original touch -- unique food, unique location, original colors. Look at Darcy's wedding; you rarely see an event that's as thought-out as hers was.
Matthew: And I would add, stick to your own style. If you walk in wearing something that just feels right, and your room is decorated in a style that reflects your vision, you will feel right at home and you can really own the moment!