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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Planning the "perfect wedding."

There are a lot of things I'd rather do with $28,000.

Extracts from
Doing time in the wedding-industrial complex
By Meghan O'Rourke for Slate Magazine, May 5, 2007

Earlier this spring, my boyfriend and I went to look at wedding invitations. We were keeping it low-key, we thought; we were busy with our jobs; we were skeptical, slightly, of weddings. Several weeks and four visits to the stationer later, we still hadn't chosen an invitation, though we had spent more hours than I care to name studying hundreds of possibilities—letterpress flowers, engraved champagne glasses, be-ribboned envelopes.

In the interest of pressing forward, I left the task in my partner's capable hands ... when my fiance finally told me his choice ... I heard myself utter the words, "But cream is too dark—and I really preferred the square!"

What had happened to me?

Fluster over weddings in America isn't exactly new: In Father of the Bride (1950), Spencer Tracy plays an upper-middle-class father confounded by the costs and commotion of putting together a wedding. But the angst has become more pricey and pervasive.

... No wedding planner is going to play the cynic. And so every exchange you have with wedding planners is coated with a patina of sentimentality—with the pretense that you are dealing in emotions rather than commodities. "Tell me the story of your wedding," they say, as though sitting you down for a heart-to-heart.

We succumb in part because the real story of a wedding—its central point—has become increasingly obscure, even as the average price of one has soared (to nearly $28,000 in 2006). ... It is not clear what is "different" about life post-marriage, other than one's tax form—and the unnerving prospect of divorce; after all, many of today's couples are children of divorced parents and know firsthand just how precarious the institution is. So the wedding becomes an exercise in magical thinking: If my teeth are white and my linens match my napkins, he and I will stay in love forever. This is the "impending transformation of [our] inward self" (as Mead puts it) that we're seeking in the "outward accumulation of stuff."

Fantasies may be great in marriage, but they are rarely a very firm foundation for it, and pre-feminist "white blindness"—the term wedding-industry types use to describe the state of near abandon that comes over even the most reluctant bride—is, well, infantilizing. ... Trying on a lavish dress bedecked with almost imperceptible crystals, I found myself strangely smitten ... No wonder one consultant at an annual wedding-industry conference told his audience, "You are selling dreams, and you can charge anything."

The pernicious thing about the wedding industry's consumerism run amok is precisely its rhetorical pretense that the endeavor is entirely anti-consumerist. You're made to feel guilty if you try to cut corners, as if to do so is to cheapen your love. As a friend warned us back when we started the process: "You just have to accept that you're going to be a sucker."

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At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having been a bridesmaid MANY times, I can confirm that this article is absolutely correct. I have seen even the most sensible and miserly of my friends turn into Bridezilla the spending monster. Weddings and funerals...very big business.

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Alma said...

Everyone else in my family had gone the city hall route, so I knew my parents really wanted me to have a real wedding (and who am I kidding, so did I). I tried to be very smart about my budget. dress from the close-out rack; homemade invitations; hired a photographer but put the album together myself (almost a year to ocmplete); etc...

Even so, I spent so much more than I considered reasonable. Still feel very guilty about it, though coming in at a fraction of that $26K average makes me feel much better! Thanks!


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