One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding

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I read this book not from any interest in the god-awful practice of having the government get involved in your relationship, but rather out of curiosity about Mead’s reporting and writing methods which I enjoyed in her Middlemarch book. We are of like minds on this subject—the practice of elaborate, expensive, fairy-tale weddings is ludicrous—but Mead was curious about the engine that was driving this nonsense. She dives deep into wedding planning and the billion dollar industry that supports this myth, transforming weddings into “machines for making money” and tapping into the “deepest hopes and fears of consumers to accomplish their economic goals.”

Her tongue in cheek writing style rescues some of the dreariest tales, such as when a group of women gathered for a weekend-long seminar to give them “their MBA in getting married,” Mead drolly notes that the book brides would turn to most in their education would be the checkbook.

Some eye-popping stats come up, such as the average cost of a wedding increasing 100% since 1990 with people paying ~$30k for the occasion now.

Mead wonders what it means that today’s modern woman “who has, by law, as much right as her male peers to education, to employment opportunity, to financial self-sufficiency, to political independence, and to the expression of sexual freedom should want, on her wedding day, to affect the styles and manners of prefeminist femininity?”

There’s also the pathetic couple who were so entranced by the video screen showing images of their wedding that the photographer ended up with lots of photos of people sitting around watching TV instead of having a lively event.

In the end, Mead chalks it up to the overwhelming consumerism that has overtaken American culture. This is what causes the pressures to have the perfect day. I’d venture to guess that since the book came out in 2009 there’s an entire chapter to be added about the pressures of having the event play well on social media.