Nicole Burnham Onsi, a freelancer in the Boston area who specializes in bridal-related topics, makes an effort to stay up-to-date on the bridal industry by reading magazines and lurking on message boards where soon-to-be and recent brides post their experiences. She then often takes an “evergreen” topic and gives it a new twist.
“You’ll notice that most bridal magazines do all the basic planning articles in-house. If you pitch a story on the different types of invitations brides can order, how to select flowers, etc., you’re likely to get a rejection letter,” Onsi says. “Look at the less obvious issues brides face, then be as specific as possible in your query. For example, `Getting Along With His Family’ might not work, but `Five Strategies for Getting Along Better With Your Future Mother-in-Law’ might.”
Freelancer Leslie Gilbert Elman, who writes about bridal and travel topics, agrees that coming up with unique story angles is essential. “In a sense, you’re not coming up with new ideas. You’re repackaging the ideas that work,” says Elman, who lives in Woodbridge, Conn. “Say you’re writing about managing money as a couple, which is a perennial bridal magazine topic. One time you might cover the subject using real-life case studies of three or four couples and how they handled their finances after the wedding. When you’re asked to revisit the subject, you might repackage it as a his-and-hers money management quiz. For a third time around, you can spin it in another direction by writing a Q&A with a financial expert. The information in the article won’t change substantially, but your treatment of it will.”
Target the market
While they may look similar, bridal magazines each have their own unique voice. Show you’ve captured the magazine’s essence in your query and you’re more likely to nail an assignment. “I like to see that the writer has taken the effort to look at the magazine and study the material and style to see what we’re all about,” Canole says. “So many times, writers propose articles that are inappropriate for this magazine.”
Most editors prefer queries over finished manuscripts, which they simply don’t have time to read. “The best way to break in is to be targeted, specific and persistent,” Schipani says. “For example, a writer might see we have done features using real brides to illustrate a point–say, on how brides have planned their long-distance wedding. Using that info, she might query me on a story to do with saving money for the wedding, and propose an idea in which she talks to four recent brides who have spent varying amounts on their weddings, and will profile them as well as write a sidebar on wedding budget tips. After a brief description of how she would handle the story, she should then tell me what her experience is, and then enclose clips. That’s the perfect query!”
Track down compelling sources When writing for bridal magazines, you’re also expected to come up with both expert and “real people” sources. You may interview former and future brides, wedding consultants, psychologists, financial professionals, religious officials and vendors like caterers, florists and musicians. Finding the best sources may also require a little legwork, depending on the nature and complexity of the story.
“This can be tough. In the past, I interviewed friends or friends-of-friends. However, now that I’m at the age where I don’t know too many newlyweds, I have to be a little more creative,” Onsi admits. “I talk to bridal consultants to see if they’ve had clients who fit the profile I’m looking for, I occasionally ask people I’ve `met’ online on bridal message boards if they’re interested in being interviewed, and finally, I ask neighbors and relatives if they know someone who fits my criteria.”
Elman also casts a wide net to locate sources. “I network with people I know, and that includes people on the Internet newsgroups I read,” she says. “I always try to find a geographic mix of interview subjects. Weddings and attitudes toward weddings are quite different from region to region in the U.S. For experts, I go to associations such as the American Psychological Association. They generally provide lists of experts who are good interview subjects and who are amenable to talking with the press.”
There are also similar associations for financial planners, wedding consultants, florists, photographers and other wedding professionals–try searching on the Internet or check the Encyclopedia of Associations, which is available at your local library, for relevant groups.
Pulling it together
When you’re writing the article, keep the bride’s perspective in mind. Don’t be preachy or suggest that there is only one “right” way to do things. While you’ll want to offer plenty of service-related information, your articles shouldn’t be stuffy or boring–keep the tone light when appropriate.
“Brides are stressed out as it is,” Canole says. “Adding some humor to an article, whether it’s dealing with relationships and in-laws, planning a reception when your parents want to invite everyone and his mother, and even a honeymoon travel piece can reveal it’s OK if some things don’t go as planned.”
Be aware of the stress the typical bride is under and what she wants and needs to know. “Brides face the same problems year after year, generation after generation. Though most of them have little experience in planning events, they are faced with planning the biggest event of their lives,” Elman says. “They have to manage their stress. They have to cope with difficult family relationships (which seem to become ever more difficult in the months leading up to a wedding). They have to set up house–maybe even buy a house–decide how to manage money as a couple, and plan for the future.”
One of the benefits of writing for bridal magazines is that many of the articles are timeless, and offer reprint opportunities. (Make sure you read your contracts carefully to confirm you’re retaining reprint rights to your work first.) Smaller circulation or regional publications may be interested in purchasing reprint rights to stories that were originally published in national magazines–I’ve resold many articles this way. While reprint fees are usually lower than the original fee, it’s easy money for little additional work.
As a bridal writer, you may be constantly covering the same ground, but don’t forget that your audience is always new. “Most women read bridal magazines only in the 18 months or so leading up to their weddings,” Elman explains. “After they’re married, they’re pretty much through with bridal magazines, and a new crop of readers takes their place.”
The bottom line? Even if you’re dedicated to a single lifestyle, you should enjoy writing about weddings and bridal topics to succeed in this field. “Your readers consider this the most important time of their lives,” Elman reminds.
“You have to feel the same way.”