Married to the Benjamins

June 23, 2007 Comments Off on Married to the Benjamins

I’ve been waiting for an investigation like One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, by Rebecca Mead, to hit the mainstream since Ian introduced me to White Weddings a few years ago and I began to really think about what having a wedding would mean to me.

Despite the eye rolling brought on by Mead’s writing style, which includes what Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post calls “some of [the New Yorker]’s oldest pet tics, in particular an excessive use of the reportorial first-person singular,” she makes some truly chilling points about the expectations associated with getting married in the United States today.

Mead contrasts the real history of the American wedding with the wedding industry’s rewriting of it in a chapter called “Inventing the Traditionalesque.” She cites a 1939 study from the American Sociological Review called “The Cost of Weddings,” which reveals that a third of brides at the time did without an engagement ring and that the average cost of the wedding was the 2006 equivalent of $5,700 — a pittance in comparison to the $28,000 that the “American Wedding Survey’s” selectively chosen brides (mostly the readers of Condé Nast’s wedding magazines) are paying today on average.

Mead follows up this revelation with a hilarious, but also cringe-inducing, reminder of the wedding industry’s stake in our collective memory of nuptial tradition:

The traditions of not having an engagement ring or a bridal gown or a wedding reception or a honeymoon are those that the wedding industry has been more than happy to see whither away in the seventy years since the Timmons’s survey was conducted. The industry’s definition of a traditional bride is one who embraces the trappings of Bridezilla culture with enthusiasm, and her less enthusiastic counterpart is, understandably, a problem. When Vows magazine, a trade publication for wedding-dress retailers, featured an article on the “non-traditional bride,” it noted that such customers “don’t always make ‘good’ brides because they’re often uncomfortable starring in the role of ‘girl in the big white dress'” and warned retailers that the nontraditional bride was dangerously apt “to forget the wedding and prepare for the marriage.”
One Perfect Day, page 56

If that’s what it means to be nontraditional, sign me up.

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