Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wedding Wednesday: Tradition, schmadition

Shortly after becoming betrothed and hence announcing my betrothedness on The Twitter, one of my twitterites suggested that I read a book called "One Perfect Day: the selling of the American Wedding". The angle of the book was to shed a light on the evils of the $160 billion wedding industry and help to uncover where many of our alleged "traditions" actually come from - so naturally I was all over it, I love a good expose. Not to mention that the cover is pretty fab, I'm always drawn in by good cover art.
Rebecca Mead writes about the absence of any genuine traditions (in the traditional sense of the word) in our lives and more specifically in our weddings. The strapless gown, the candied almonds, the monogrammed matchbook, the tossing of lingerie - does anyone really believe that relatives even as distant as our grandparents did these things? The truth is that most families (mine included) wouldn't have been able to afford these luxuries. That however seems like a distant concern to the modern bride - apparently we are planning weddings and celebrations that are far beyond our budgets and in some cases even beyond our annual incomes. One wedding industry expert says "If a woman is told repeatedly that a wedding costs $30,000 - then she'll think that she's doing really well by coming in closer to $20,000." Yes, that was Satan speaking.

In an era of the Bridezilla it has become almost expected that every woman will turn into a taffeta-hungry spend whore when it comes to her wedding. New brides are thrust into this Wedding Industry Complex and told that without the perfect dress, perfect ring, perfect flowers and perfect personalized table favors that she is basically a failure - as a bride and as a woman. Yes, it's a money bonanza and every retailer in Weddingville is looking to get their hands on the Grade A meat of a newly engaged woman. The book goes into great detail on the topic of registries, how they were invented by flagging department stores in the 1950's and how modern brides in their 30's are encouraged to engage in buying habits similar to that old-timey 19 year old fresh out of her parents house and naive about the ways of marriage and cohabitation. Apparently wanting a new stand mixer is the epitome of evil.

The chapter on the wedding dress was fascinating, I had no idea about the factory farms that put out these dresses. Mead goes to China where she sees first hand the mass assembly of dresses headed to David's Bridal - apparently the Dress Barn for brides. Don't get me wrong - I GET the whole dress thing. I got up at 4am with my mother to watch the Diana & Charles wedding and distinctly remember the sharp intake of breath when we got to see to full expanse of her dress. Clothes are important and make us feel special and we use them to celebrate an occasion - but my question is this, why does EVERY wedding celebration have to involve a full length, sparkly, white, strapless gown? Why is everyone else wearing the same costume no matter their size or skin tone? Why are the alternatives so few and far between goddammit?

The book was a really good read and opened my eyes to just how much cash retailers will be trying to pull from our pockets over the next year. It made me think about what was important to me for our wedding and what was just a "tradition".  It makes me a bit sad when people say "just make it a really good party" because it isn't. It isn't just a party - it's about starting a new life and making a real and serious commitment to that life. It's about thanking our families and friends for standing with us....and yah, about eating really delicious cake.

So the final verdict - I shit on the traditions I hate and welcome the ones that result in new kitchen appliances and buttercream icing. I make no apologies for that.


  1. when i was getting married i bought TONNES of my stuff on (and my brother in law, a designer, did our invites for us). you should check out etsy!

  2. oh! and my entire wedding (including my dress and 2 weeks at our resort - we got married in punta cana) cost less than $8,000 - still expensive but not bad!
    congrats again! i forgot to comment on you other post but the AGO sounds like an AMAZING venue! i hope you'll post lots of pics when its all done!
    (corinacorona on twitter)