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Nuptials expert wrote the book on preparation

Joyce Hartmann spends her time wrapped up in details of the happiest days of other people's lives.

As a wedding consultant for 14 years, Hartmann has seen her share of wedding day successes and disasters.

To help more couples achieve the former and avoid the latter, she has written Secrets of a Bridal Consultant with local author Loretta Saff. It is published by Dorrance Publishing Co. in Pittsburgh.

The spiral-bound volume covers everything from budgets to wardrobe, and lots of other things Hartmann says get overlooked.

"How many weddings does a person plan in their life?" said Hartmann, who works out of her home in the Crenshaw Lakes area. "I realized brides need some kind of outline, so I wrote one for my clients and the book is based on that."

Hartmann, 62, had never put much thought into weddings before her own second marriage 20 years ago to Dr. Robert Hartmann, a retired University of South Florida College of Medicine professor. She was an observant Jew, he a practicing Catholic, and they worried about pleasing both families and feeling comfortable themselves.

They wrote their own vows, had friends of each faith participate in the ceremony and were married by Joyce's father, a Tampa lawyer and notary.

Afterward, Hartmann had a hard time settling into homemaking and started writing vows for other couples looking beyond the traditional wedding. That evolved into full-blown wedding consulting five years later. She now coordinates about 10 weddings a year.

Hartmann says when planning an outdoor wedding, it is imperative to have a back-up plan in case of inclement weather, and to check beforehand for insects. Fire ants running rampant through a garden party can put a damper on what should be a happy day.

"That one secret can save so much unhappiness," Hartmann said.

Another tip is to send a form to guests, before mailing invitations, including lodging information, local entertainment and times they are expected to participate in wedding-related functions.

She tells about New York Yankees pitcher Dwight Gooden's much-publicized 1987 wedding. To calm a crowd of uninvited guests outside the Tampa church, Hartmann promised Gooden would pose for photos and answer a few questions after the ceremony if the crowd would behave.

She has also done double weddings, dealt with bitter divorced parents and planned weddings that almost weren't.

Hartmann organized a 1985 wedding when Hurricane Elena brought heavy winds and rain to Tampa Bay.

"We watched and waited for it to pass," Hartmann said. "Finally, we just had the wedding right here in my living room."

Learning to compromise and see the bright side of inevitable wedding foulups are a key part of the Hartmann preparation.

"If I can give only one piece of advice it's to keep a sense of humor," she said. "Things that seem traumatic at the time can be laughed about later.

"I had one bride who didn't like the ashtrays at her reception and she let that ruin her wedding. Then I had a bride whose train caught on a candelabra, exploding a light bulb. She was able to joke about it later. She had everything in perspective."

If you have a story about Lutz, call 226-3469.

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