Every bride is beautiful and deserves a perfect wedding day -- and that's where Helen Kadlec, Mary Lou Wickham and Tess Davis come in.
For years, the three Glenarm women have been "organizers" for affairs in their community, church and children's 4-H clubs, making sure everything got done -- and done right.
Three years ago, Mrs. Davis' husband, Charles, a Baltimore lawyer, suggested that the friends put their organizational talents to work professionally. Country Weddings Ltd., a cottage-industry bridal consultancy, was born.
Although the women have other careers and still consider the consultancy a "hobby," they said it was consuming an ever-larger part of their time. It keeps them constantly on the go -- and on the telephone -- doing from a dozen to 16 weddings a year.
They don't advertise, except for a small telephone directory listing. And they don't charge the bridal couple anything, working instead on commission from the service providers they hire.
In earlier days, the women said, a bride and her mother worked out the wedding plans together. Social changes have complicated the process so that in many cases, consulting a specialist is the only logical solution, they said.
These days, "it's the couple themselves," Mrs. Davis said. "They want to set their own script for the wedding." Frequently, however, both people work and don't have time to work out the arrangements.
"The etiquette book and protocol went by the board," Mrs. Wickham added. "It's individuality that everyone wants, to feel that his wedding is unique. People are getting married older these days, and they have very definite ideas of of what they want."
"Our philosophy is to help the people have the nicest wedding possible," Mrs. Kadlec said, no matter how much or how little money they have to spend.
The women said they would do anything asked of them, from simply finding a wedding invitation printer to working out the entire wedding.
"We work to personalize each wedding, so it will meet the couple's expectations," Mrs. Kadlec said.
They have found that city folk enjoy having their wedding in a rural atmosphere. For that reason, the Waugh Memorial United Methodist Church, a simple, white clapboard country church on Long Green Pike, has been the scene of many of their productions.
A Virginia couple, who had spotted the church while driving through Baltimore County, returned there to be married. "They just liked the setting," Mrs. Davis said.
Another wedding recently at the Waugh Church involved two people over 70 who had been friends for many years and finally married, with their children and siblings as attendants and other senior citizens as guests. That wedding was especially fun, the women said.
"We take people as they are. If they're asking us for help, we have to help them," Mrs. Kadlec said.
Sometimes their individual specialties lead them to an active role in weddings: Mrs. Davis is a makeup artist; Mrs. Kadlec, a nutritionist and sewing teacher, plays the organ; and Mrs. Wickham, a microbiologist, is an industrial photographer who can center a bride nicely in her view-finder.
One of Mrs. Davis' daughters is a calligrapher who frequently writes the wedding invitations, while another parlayed her baking experience in 4-H into a specialty cake business.
"She used 12 pounds of icing on one cake recently," her mother said.
"We do all the legwork. We talk to everyone involved and coordinate things, like how long will the photographer take so the caterer will know when to be ready to serve the food," Mrs. Davis said.
Even though they are paid by the people who provide their services -- as a travel agent is -- those providers had better do it right the first time. When balloons failed to arrive for one wedding, "We crossed that company off our list. Why try for trouble a second time?" Mrs. Davis said.
Because the women plan so carefully and pay such strict attention to detail, there have been no untoward incidents. But even in the best-laid plans, there are always a few hitches.
For example, one bride wanted a coat-of-arms embossed on the invitations, and it took a long time to locate a company willing to make the required dyes. "But we kept at it and finally found one," Mrs. Kadlec said.
The consultants said they would do their utmost to create the nicest wedding possible for the least money, including suggestions on lower-cost dresses for the bridal party and food for the reception.
They said they tried to avoid the "generic wedding," with the party popping from church to standard catering hall and off to the honeymoon.
However, many starry-eyed young brides have "pipe dreams," and are forced to take dose-of-reality therapy.
While "good taste" is a watchword with the three women, it can be applied flexibly, from the utmost formality to the wedding in shorts in the woods that one couple insisted on -- and got -- with crabs and beer afterward.
While they will go along with almost anything a bridal couple wants, sometimes even they can't produce. One couple, for instance, wanted aminister to marry them before the groom's divorce became final.
"We don't do the impossible," Mrs. Davis said.