It's not uncommon for a woman to have dreamt of that perfect fairy-tale wedding since age twelve, yet when the time comes to prepare for that special day it can feel like anything but a fairy tale. A Christian bride-to-be feels immense conflict as family dynamics, well-meaning advice, a materialistic bridal industry, budget limitations, and details, details, details threaten to trample her dreams and her sanity. With so much going on, she may feel her relationship with God has to go on the backburner to meet the deadlines.

Married in 2000, author Amy J. Tol knows how today's brides feel. In her new book The Bride's Handbook: A Spiritual and Practical Guide to Planning Your Wedding, she encourages brides to invite God into every detail of the planning and preparation process. Not only will you find more peace in the planning choas, but your relationship with God will strengthen you as you prepare for the most important commitment of your life. Read on for the interview...

Q: What is the most important advice you would have for brides-to-be?

Tol: I'd just encourage them to savor this special time in their lives, and to share it with God. God put so many bridal images in the Bible, and a woman's engagement gives such a special opportunity to experience those spiritual word pictures firsthand -- but only if she opens her eyes to them. To the bride-to-be, I say don't let God become an item at the bottom of the wedding planning agenda. Instead, build a relationship with him that becomes the common thread in all you do.

Q: What was the most difficult part of your engagement?

Tol: For me, it was the busyness of it all. I was finishing up college, looking for a job, trying to find an apartment, and planning a wedding. Through it all, my emotions were very busy as well. I was saying good-bye to college friends, trying to figure out my place in the work world, and even though I was excited about being a wife, that was a big emotional adjustment to make. All of that "stuff" made it extremely difficult to keep focused on my spiritual life. Yet looking back, it was in those few moments I did make time for God in my schedule that I felt the most peace amidst the engagement whirlwind.

Q: What was your writing process for this book?

Tol: The planning sections grew out of my own experience as a bride and discussions with countless others who had gone through the wedding planning process. I gathered inspiration and ideas from many of the weddings I attended and heard about in the past. I also spent a good deal of time researching other wedding planners and Internet resources to find the common needs for practical wedding planning.

For the spiritual reflections, I began with a single image in my mind: The image of Isaiah 62:5, which says that God rejoices over us like a groom rejoices over his bride. This image became the common thread woven through every reflection of the book. As I considered the many challenges that brides face -- both in their literal bridal plans and as a spiritual bride of Christ -- I thought about how those experiences really test a bride's character. That is what led me to arrange the reflections around various character traits, or virtues. My intent was to help brides develop a strong character that can face the challenges that crop up throughout the engagement -- and into their married life.

As I wrote, I very intentionally tried to integrate wedding planning images throughout the spiritual reflections. It's been my experience that many brides are made to feel as if they need to choose between having a strong spiritual life and planning a beautiful wedding, as if the two are unalterably opposed.