Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why the Wedding? Part 1

Have any of you read One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, by Rebecca Mead? If you haven't, a quick summary is that it's a non-fiction sociological-type book exploring the inner workings of the wedding industry. I read it a while ago--way before Mr. Octopus and I were engaged--so I don't remember that much about it. But the other day, a particular statistic Mead had quoted ran through my mind, so I looked the book up on Amazon.

What struck me once I got to the page, though, was this quote from the Washington Post's review of the book: "
The somewhat unsettling truth is that, whipped along by the wedding industry, the American wedding has been turned into an ego trip for brides....the glossy bridal magazines...exist to convince the bride that it is her privilege, her right -- indeed, her obligation -- to become preoccupied with herself, her appearance, her tastes, and her ability to showcase them to their best advantage." Ouch!

Intrigued by this pretty strong condemnation of modern weddings (and brides), I delved a little further into the wilds of the Internet. This New York Times column posed the question to its readers: if you were offered a large sum of money to spend as you pleased, or to direct specifically toward a wedding, what would you choose?

Here are two sentiments that really jumped out at me from the comments:

"A ‘perfect wedding’ is part of the bride’s conditioning, her fantasy day since she received a Barbie doll for Christmas...this is the bride’s big day; the groom is part of the scenario. It’s performance art for him. He’ll go along with it as long as he’s not paying for it."

"The big wedding ritual is a sad conflation of a once-understandable desire to have family and friends support a (formerly) once in a lifetime event between what was typically a young couple. Now? It's a different game. The wedding industry is a big fat scam, and the socialization of glamorous wedding days are just a silly ego trip or fantasy-land event. Grow up."

Oh, SNAP. Anonymous New York Times commenters really don't pull any punches.

It's not just anonymous Internet comments, though. In the months I've been engaged, there have been quite a few moments in which people have not been shy about letting me know that they find weddings frivolous, wasteful, and unnecessary. Given that I am planning what most people would call a traditional, "wedding-y" wedding, I've been a little perplexed about how to handle these comments.

On one hand, when I read things like the quotes above, or hear remarks from others, I want to just dismiss them outright. The level of intensity (as well as the sweeping generalizations!) is, in my opinion, preeeetty overinflated. Besides, it's not their money and has nothing to do with them, so why should they even care?

But on the other hand, it's true that my parents, Mr. O's parents, and Mr. O and I are, collaboratively, spending a pretty hefty chunk of money on this event, and I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect that there is a sound rationale behind the choices that we're making. And as I've said before, I really take issue with the media's portrayal of women who are planning weddings, including things like the quotes above. So I decided: I want to explain, clearly, why Mr. Octopus and I chose to have the wedding-y wedding, and what it means to us.

Up next: the explanation for why we're doing this whole wedding thing.

How do you feel about these types of perceptions of weddings and brides? Have you noticed remarks like this during your wedding planning?


  1. Creepy. I just added your blog to my Google reader today (thanks, Weddingbee, for the referral!) and picked up "One Perfect Day..." from the library this morning.

    I do think that a lot of brides want their wedding day to be perfect, but I suspect that relates to everyone telling us that it should be perfect. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Plus, with everything wedding-related getting quite the markup, it's difficult to not spend a fortune. And there's also the fact that planning a wedding can take so much time, with vendors booking up to a year out. If you're spending a bunch, both in time and money, and facing this pressure to have your One Perfect Day, no wonder why women get a tad stressed.

    For us, our wedding is an excuse to throw a giant party. I cannot wait to be surrounded by all of the people I love, and declare my intention to be with this one dude forever. Sure, I'm bizarrely hung up on what I want my escort cards to look like, but when it really boils down to it, we're throwing a party.

  2. Heather, I'll be interested to see what you think of the book! I don't remember it that clearly, but I remember thinking parts of it were really interesting, and I thought the author was too condescending about other things. Let me know!

  3. You know, I wasn't all that impressed with the book. And I somewhat wish she hadn't included the part about her own wedding at the end, as it sort of read like, "Look how I didn't fall victim to the Wedding Industrial Complex!!!" I guess I was expecting it to be more about the evolution of wedding traditions, and how they've changed as weddings have gotten more grandiose. For instance, I'm fairly certain that nicely-scented flowers were first used because people didn't bathe all that often way back then; but they've now become this HUGE part of decorating your ceremony and reception sites. And the bridal party used to dress similarly to the bride, so nefarious suitors couldn't spirit her away; whereas now, bridesmaid dresses have become these expensive pieces of fabric that women wear one time. And as for the garter toss - the couple used to consummate their relationship immediately after the ceremony, in front of the guests, and it was good luck to get a piece of their clothing. But now, the bride buys two garters, one to keep and one to throw to guests. Those are the sorts of things I wanted to read about!