About the Author
Holly McQueen is the author of four novels—The Glamorous (Double) Life of Isabel Bookbinder, Fabulously Fashionable, Confetti Confidential, and There Goes the Bride. She lives in London with her husband.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Confetti Confidential Chapter One
THIS IS A BIG day for me and I really, really don’t want to screw it up.
The moment my alarm clock went off this morning, I was up, out of bed, and into the shower. A swift, invigorating lather-up with a zingy grapefruit shower gel, followed by an equally invigorating scrub-down with one of those weird oily salt rubs that people keep giving me for Christmas, and I was fresh out of the bathroom less than ten minutes after getting up.
I do kind of wish I hadn’t bothered with the weird oily salt rub, though. It left this slick, slightly smelly layer all over my skin, and I had to spend another ten minutes blotting myself with a paper towel just so that I didn’t look (and smell) a little bit like I spent the night sleeping in a giant frying pan.
Once I’d blotted myself off and thrown on my lovely cosy waffle-knit bathrobe, I headed for the kitchen to make myself an energizing cup of coffee. Well—I say “headed” for the kitchen. My flat is so tiny that I’m actually in the kitchen the moment I step out of the bathroom. In fact, even calling it a flat is generous. It’s what the estate agent I rented it from euphemistically called a studio and what Mum and Dad unappealingly call a bedsit. I’m not wild about either term, to be honest, because the former makes me sound like I live here surrounded by half-painted canvases and empty bottles of absinthe, and the latter like I live here surrounded by half-written philosophy essays and empty cans of Strongbow cider. Neither of which is remotely close to the truth.
Anyway, while I was waiting for the kettle to boil, I started up my laptop and had a little nose through the online tabloids. This might just look like idle time-wasting, but in fact it’s an extremely important part of my job. If I’m ever going to make it as a Top Wedding Consultant, it’s absolutely vital that I’m up to date on the tiniest developments in celebrity relationships. Even after just a couple of weeks on the job, I can already see that competition for the best clients is pretty brutal, so I’ll need to be all geared up and ready at the slightest sign of any imminent engagement announcements. Think how impressive it would be if, only hours after you let the world know you’d decided to take the plunge, a wedding planner was calling you with a fully developed plan for your big day. Perhaps a plan with lovely personal references to some of your favourite hobbies, and maybe incorporating elements from your recent romantic getaways in the Seychelles and Mauritius.
Though I’d have to be careful not to come across like a dangerous stalker at that point, obviously.
So. What relationship-related news is out there today? Well, I see from the Daily Mail that the nice lady who presents that neighbors-from-hell program on the BBC has been photographed coming out of the gym with a sneaky cigarette in her hand. And the Mirror is simply beside itself with excitement that somebody who almost made it through to the boot camp stage of The X Factor has admitted to recreational drug use and an addiction to lap dances.
Well, you don’t always strike gold. Besides, if everything goes well at my meeting today, I may not need to trawl about the tabloids trying to detect imminent celebrity engagements anymore. I could find myself automatically catapulted to the very top echelons of the Wedding Consultancy circuit, the first port of call for any self-respecting star who’s planning to get married.
Which would be completely brilliant, obviously.
While my cafetiere was steeping, I made myself a quick piece of toast, and then went to eat it on my Power Plate machine. That isn’t me having some bonkers, LA-style eating disorder, by the way, where you can only eat carbohydrates if you actually burn off the calories while you ingest them. It’s simply because I have this great big Power Plate machine that I bought a few months ago, and there’s literally nowhere else I can put it. With hindsight, it probably wasn’t the smartest way to invest nine hundred quid, but I was working in the fashion industry at the time, and I was just getting a little bit tired of always being the only person in any given room with a muffin top creeping over the tops of my jeans. Though obviously, giving up on actual muffin tops might have been a more sensible way to treat my neurosis.
Still, I will get around to using my Power Plate at some stage. And for the time being, seeing as I don’t really have room for an actual table, it really is a jolly handy place to sit and eat my toast.
Anyway, now I’ve taken my nice steaming cup of coffee back up to my bedroom on the mezzanine level, so I can have a look in my wardrobe and decide what I’m going to wear today.
Actually, let me rephrase that—what I’m going to wear with my black suit today. Because black suits seem to be what all the Top Wedding Consultants wear. My new boss, Pippa Everitt, who’s right up there with the very best in the field, never comes to work in anything else. Obviously, seeing as I’m not yet a completely fully fledged Consultant myself, I’m not usually required to wear anything other than jeans and a freshly pressed T-shirt, but today I’m going to be conducting an important client meeting of my own. Correctly styling my brand-new Karen Millen suit might make all the difference between getting the gig, or not getting it at all.
Right. I think I’ll team it with this nice, crisp white shirt, some minimal, elegant jewelry, and these sensible black peep-toe heels I bought en route to my boyfriend Will’s office Christmas do when I suddenly panicked that the skyscraper red heels I was wearing made me look less like a tax lawyer’s girlfriend and more like a tax dodger’s bit-on-the-side.
Then, because I’m worried this whole Look is just far too trainee accountant, I abandon the minimal jewelry and sling on a huge pair of chandelier earrings and a bright turquoise bangle.
Which just makes me look like a trainee accountant on dress-down Friday.
So I replace the crisp white shirt with a slouchy gray V-neck T-shirt, ditch the boring black courts for my favorite spiky black stilettos, forget about jewelry altogether and just accessorize it all with the lucky Mikkel Borgessen clutch bag that has got me through big meetings before.
Yes. That’s more like it. This is the Look that will catapult me out of the realms of assistanthood and into the top echelons of celebrity wedding planning.
The thing is, when I took the job with Pippa Everitt, I knew it was going to sound like a bit of a backward step. I’ve spent the last year working as Deputy Creative Director to a top fashion designer, no less, so stepping into the role of Pippa’s assistant was always going to look retrograde. But you can’t afford to be snooty about that kind of thing if it’s going to help you get where you want. And being a Top Wedding Consultant is what I really, passionately, want to do, more than I’ve ever wanted anything else before. And all right, as my friend Lara pointed out, that’s pretty much exactly what I said about novel-writing when I really, passionately wanted to be a novelist, and it’s certainly a lot like what I said about fashion designing when I really, passionately wanted to be a fashion designer. But this is completely different. And I’ll take any low-rung job if it gets me on the ladder.
Though if I could skip up a couple of rungs, that would be fantastic, too. Which is why I need to just spend a few minutes tidying up some very important work right now in time for my big client meeting.
I head down the stairs into my living “area,” reach for the leather conference file on the coffee table next to the sofa, and open it up to the notes I finally finished printing out at two o’clock this morning.
Though in some ways, I don’t like to think of them as just plain notes. I like to think of them as more like an agenda. Or a strategy, perhaps. Or even—and I wouldn’t admit this to just anyone—a kind of manifesto.
Because honestly, this is what got me all fired up about weddings in the first place. When my old boss, Nancy Tavistock, suddenly announced back in May that she was getting married, only a couple of months after her divorce was finalized, I immediately volunteered to help her out in any way that I could. And even though she hired Pippa Everitt to pull together a spectacular big day on spectacularly short notice, Nancy needed all kinds of extras that Pippa didn’t and couldn’t provide. Like, to-ing and fro-ing with Nancy’s lawyers to make sure all her legal affairs were tied up before she jumped into marriage with a penniless twenty-three-year-old male model. Like, tracking down a top personal trainer to make sure Nancy looked her absolute best in her own-label wedding gown (and, I suppose, before she jumped into bed with a twenty-three-year-old male model). Like, speaking repeatedly on the phone to Nancy’s sisters in Chicago, and finally persuading them that even though they’d been jealous of her all their lives, they’d regret it if they didn’t take up the invitation to fly first-class to London and watch their little sister walk down the aisle. And then, a couple of weeks later, as I watched a serene, newly toned, blissfully happy Nancy setting off to Syon House to get married, I realized that some of her serenity, and a little bit of her happiness, and pretty much all of the toning, was down to me.
So when Pippa took me aside between the dinner and the dancing to mention that she’d been impressed by my work, and would I consider coming and working as her new assistant, I jumped at the chance.
Because it’s just so obvious that there’s this huge gap in the market—not for plain old ordinary wedding planning but for a whole new kind of wedding planning. You could call it holistic wedding planning if that didn’t bring to mind images of aromatherapy massages and Hopi ear-candling. You could call it ultimate wedding planning if that didn’t bring to mind shouty Territorial army cadets doing shouty Territorial army things in the Yorkshire Dales.
But then I don’t really think of it as Wedding Planning at all. I prefer to think of it as Bride Management.
I look down at the first page of my manifesto and read my opening lines.
So just what is BRIDE MANAGEMENT™?
It’s the New Generation of Wedding Planning that’ll guide you all the way from engagement to altar!
Hmm. Sounds a little bit stiff, to me. A little bit formal.
. . . from opening the Tiffany’s box to opening the door of the honeymoon suite!
Ugh, no. That one manages to sound both grasping and creepy in equal measure.
Wait. I’ve got it.
. . . from “I Will” to “I Do.”
Well, I think it’s perfect. All I can hope for now is that Wendy Gordon sees it the same way.
The lobby of Gordon/Miskoff PR is painted a soft, flattering off-white, with pale wooden floorboards. There are low leather sofas, large black-framed mirrors, yucca plants in big pots, and lots of strategic up-lighting, presumably so Gordon/Miskoff’s celebrity clientele don’t accidentally catch a glimpse of themselves in one of the large mirrors and panic that they’ve suddenly started looking their age, and that Wendy Gordon had better get them a “Fabulous New Look!” photo shoot with OK! magazine double quick. In short, apart from the up-lighting, it’s pretty much the same as any other office, right down to the bored-looking girl at the reception desk, the bike messengers neglecting to remove their helmets as required by the sign on the swing doors, and the scowling man in the black suit surgically attached to his BlackBerry on the low leather sofa opposite me.
Over the last ten minutes, it has become clear to me that he’s also a Top Wedding Consultant, and so therefore my competition for this job. Pretty tough competition, too, because he’s been on the phone to all the top suppliers, the people that my boss Pippa also uses to source her flowers and her favors and her stationery.
“Yes, Caroline,” he’s saying now to a woman on the other end of the phone who, I assume, is Caroline Quartermaine of Quartermaine Press, one of the top wedding stationers in London. “I did say I wanted the seven-inch by four-point five . . . well, I suggest you go back and check your records . . . no, my bride wants to look at a gold edge and a silver edge . . . well, Caroline, it would be an order for two hundred and fifty Save the Date cards, two hundred and fifty invitations, and a hundred and seventy-five Orders of Service, so I’d have thought you’d be extremely keen to make sure I don’t start looking at other stationers . . .”
I shoot him a couple of sympathetic glances, which I think he takes to mean something else entirely, because quite suddenly, and rather rudely, he gets to his feet and goes to continue his conversation across the other side of the reception area, near the potted yuccas.
Well. I was only trying to be friendly. I mean, I know we’re competing for the same client, but that’s no reason not to try and show a little bit of solidarity.
Besides, I know exactly how he feels. I’ve only been a wedding planner for a couple of weeks, but I seem to have spent approximately ten whole days of that on the phone to people like Caroline Quartermaine myself. Honestly, there’s nothing I couldn’t tell you about the intricacies of the stationery business. I can withhold on all manner of trivia, from plate-sinking to blind embossing, from the ideal card thickness (600 gsm, in case you’re interested), to the advantages of Palace Script over Copperplate. And don’t even get me started on half post quarto sizing, or the best shade of tissue to line your envelopes.
I suppose it’s no surprise, really, that the job isn’t quite as much fun as I imagined it might be.
The thing is, I can’t help feeling a tiny bit cheated by Pippa. Before I went to work with her, she made all these big claims about how I’d be accompanying her to client meetings, giving input on wedding design, and, most importantly of all, actually getting my very own brides to work with. But all she’s done since I started working for her a couple of weeks ago is get me to make phone calls, and run errands, and, on more than one occasion, rustle up a pot of tea. Not to mention the fact that she’s given up pretending any interest in any of my innovative Bride Management techniques that I thought were the things she practically headhunted me from my last job for anyway.
Headhunting, incidentally, is certainly how I described my latest career move to my family. Dad has traditionally taken a pretty dim view of what he likes to call “Isabel’s job-hopping,” so when I told him I was leaving Nancy Tavistock, I knew I was going to have to make the move sound really, seriously worthwhile. As far as Dad’s concerned, unless you’re going forward, you might as well be going backward, which is why I wasn’t going to tell them I’d gone from being Nancy’s Deputy Creative Director to Pippa’s mere Assistant. Hence the handy use of the word headhunting, which is basically true.
And the equally handy use of the word Partner. Which, basically, isn’t.
Still, it’s had the desired effect. Dad’s been surprisingly silent on the whole issue, which, for a Class-A shouter, blamer, and disapprover like him, is pretty much an ideal result. And Mum, obviously, was always going to think the whole idea of a career in weddings was marvelous, as evidenced by the fact that she’s phoned ...
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