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The 12 Best Novels to Read Now That are Set a Wedding

The 12 best books set at a wedding

We love weddings here at Dandelion Chandelier – real-life ones and fictional ones. And right about now each year we start to yearn for a great novel set a wedding. It has to be smart, funny, reasonably well-written and it has to end well. Happily, there are lots of literary novels that fit that bill. If you’re in the mood, here are our picks for the 12 best literary novels and books of fiction to read now that are set at a wedding, with brides, friends and families at their center.

what makes for a great novel set at a wedding?

What is it about weddings, and the rehearsals the night before, that make them so perfect for fiction? Is it the romance? Suspense around the dress? The family strains? Sibling rivalries? Last-minute cold feet? Dear reader, in many cases its all of that and more.

books set at a wedding

The 12 best books set at a wedding.

Sure, comedies always end with a wedding. But what happens right up to that point is where the fun happens. And in many cases, the protagonists and focus of the narratives are neither the bride nor the groom. That’s how crazy-making a wedding can be for those surrounding the happy couple.

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The genre of novels set at weddings is robust, and there’s a clear formula for how the plots are to proceed. Still, there’s great fun in it, and the best writers subvert our expectations along the way to the predictable ending.

Here are our picks for the most entertaining and well-written recent books set at a wedding or rehearsal dinner. And featuring bridesmaids, groomsmen, mothers- and fathers-of-the-bride. Oh, and occasionally the bride and the groom themselves. No tragedies here – these literary novels are like a glass of champagne – bubbly, frothy and ultimately celebratory.

the 12 best novels to read now that are set at a wedding

Here are our picks for the 12 best literary novels and fiction books to read now that are set at a wedding, with the relationships between brides and their families at their center.

1. The Wedding by Dorothy West.

 

The Wedding is one of the best and most enduring of literary novels and fiction books set at a wedding, with brides and their complicated relationships with their families at their core. In West’s iconic final novel, she offers an intimate glimpse into black life on Martha’s Vineyard in the ’50s.

Set in “the Oval,” a proud community of the best and brightest of the East Coast’s black community, the prominent Coles family gathers for the wedding of daughter Shelby. She could have chosen from “a whole area of eligible men of the right colors and the right professions.” Instead, she has fallen in love with and is about to be married to Meade Wyler, a white jazz musician from New York. The resulting shock wave forces the Coles and their neighbors to grapple with their dearest beliefs about community, family and love.

2. The Garden Party by Grace Dane Mazur.

 

best literary novels and fiction books to read now that are set at a wedding, with brides and families

The Garden Party is one of our favorite books set at a wedding. It’s set in the lush garden of an estate on the outskirts of Boston. The occasion is the rehearsal dinner of Adam and Elizabeth, hosted by the groom’s wary parents.

They’re bohemian creative writers and academics, while the bride’s parents are successful hard-charging corporate lawyers. With 24 guests (or is it 25?) all around one table for one night, it’s bubbly and optimistic, smart and sober – just like so many weddings we’ve been to.

3. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead.

 

Seating Arrangements is a New York Times bestseller and award-winning first novel. Unlike many books set at a wedding, this one is a refined social satire with real bite. It’s the story of a wedding weekend in June. The nuptials are set to take place on an exclusive New England island, Waskeke, that has served as the Van Meter family’s retreat for generations.

The bride is Daphne Van Meter, soon to wed the affable young scion Greyson Duff. The mother of the bride, Biddy, has planned the wedding with military precision. But the seating (and other arrangements) are swept up in a storm of unruly desires and salacious misbehavior. The father of the bride can’t shake his long-standing crush on one of the bridesmaids, and the recently-dumped sister of the bride seems to be easy prey for the best man, a charming reprobate.

We first read it a few years ago while on summer vacation in New England, and we agree with the publisher’s notes: it’s a “piercing rumination on desire, on love and its obligations, and on the dangers of leading an inauthentic life.”

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4. His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie.

 

best literary novels and fiction books to read now that are set at a wedding, with brides and families

We first meet Afi, the protagonist of the charming and enjoyable debut novel His Only Wife, on the morning of her wedding day. The unusual factor that instantly draws us into her story? Her future husband has decided not to attend the wedding.

The absent groom, Elikem is a wealthy businessman, is engaged in a relationship with a woman his family deems “inappropriate.” His mother has chosen Afi as his bride in the hopes that she will distract him from this unruly romance. Afi agrees because there is a large financial gift in store for her widowed mother if she goes through with it.  It’s hardly a love match – but it’s a fantastic read.

5. The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Grinder.

 

The People We Hate at the Wedding is a more recent entry to the shelf of literary novels and fiction books set at a wedding, with brides and the tortured relationships they have with their families.  This first novel is the story of an estranged family uniting in England for a ceremony at a country estate outside of London.

There will be fancy hotels, dinners at “it” restaurants — and envy, resentment and heartache. The wealthy and earnest young bride, Eloise, has been the object of jealously for years from her half-siblings Paul and Alice. Their mother is now widowed and living in a Midwestern suburb on a limited income. Alice is stuck in a dead-end job and an affair with her married boss. Paul lives with his older, handsomer, tenure-track professor boyfriend, who has made it clear that monogamy is just not working for him.

They all flee to London resolved to take what’s theirs. Cue the chaos.

6. Strangers and Cousins by Leah Hager Cohen.

 

Strangers and Cousins  is set in the seemingly idyllic town of Rundle Junction. Bennie and Walter are preparing to host the wedding of their eldest daughter Clem to her long-time girlfriend at their beloved, rambling home.

They’re in a restive mood about a group of new neighbors whose arrival has caused them to decide to sell their house as soon as the nuptials are done. Oh, and Bennie is pregnant again, at age 44. But they’re keeping all of that hidden as the weekend gets started. Enter a brood of quirky relatives, college friends, ghosts, and a determined little mouse. In the end, the very group of new neighbors that are being held at bay provide the key to the family’s future happiness.

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7. The Romantics by Galt Niederhoffer.

 

best literary novels and fiction books to read now that are set at a wedding, with brides and families

The Romantics are a clique of college friends from Yale. They reunite 6 years after graduation at a wedding at a mansion on the coast of Maine. Acerbic, smart, sly and funny, this tale of a high-WASP wedding weekend is told largely from the perspective of the lone Jewish guest, Laura.

She is, of course, the old flame of the groom, Tom.

She has lost him to the bride, Lily Hayes, whose old-school family members provide a lot of the comedy (one is indignant when iceberg lettuce is served at the rehearsal dinner). Below it all runs a current of disappointed romantic dreams, both in personal and professional life, that keeps this novel grounded in the realities of what happens long after the wedding is over.

8. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory.

 

best literary novels and fiction books to read now that are set at a wedding, with brides and families

The Wedding Date is the first in an ongoing series of sassy and sexy novels about love and marriage. In this one, a Black woman agrees to go to a wedding with a white man she meets when they’re stuck together in an elevator during a power outage. After a raucous and fun weekend together at the wedding, they head home to their separate lives. But they can’t stop thinking about each other.

If this all sounds promising, save room on your self for The Wedding Party, Royal Holiday and more. There are now 5 books in Guillory’s “Wedding Date” series, all of which follow the friends and family of this original couple as they fall into romantic adventures of their own.

9. I Take You by Eliza Kennedy.

 

I Take You is one of the books set at a wedding that’s irreverent, raunchy and really good fun. Lily Wilder is a New Yorker, a talented lawyer and soon to be a bride. The only problem is that she’s struggling with the whole “faithful until death” thing. She’s finding herself unable to remain faithful even in the heady weeks prior to her nuptials. Her fiancé Will is a brilliant, handsome archaeologist – but is really the right life partner for Lily?

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10. Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close.

 

Girls in White Dresses

books set at a wedding

11. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.

 

Eligible best literary novels and fiction books to read now that are set at a wedding, with brides and families

12. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.

 

best literary novels and fiction books to read now that are set at a wedding, with brides and families

The heroine of the The Marriage Plot is writing her academic thesis about . . . well, the marriage plot. Madeleine Hanna is an English major writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, adherents to the “marriage plot” that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, in real life, two very different men present her with a fundamental choice about what kind of life she wants to lead. Of all the books on our list that are set at a wedding, this one is the most instructive about why we keep returning to this timeless genre.

the 12 best novels to read now that are set at a wedding

That’s our list of some of the best literary novels and fiction books to read now that are set at a wedding, with brides and families and their relationships at their center. What did we miss? What’s your favorite, dear reader?

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