Friday, July 13, 2007

Wedding Cynicism

I'm running two reviews today, because the two books are similar in tone and I was frustrated with both of them. They are about weddings and what women do as brides. Although the themes are different, I was disappointed in the cynicism in which they view weddings and marriage. My wedding was near perfect. My one complaint was the weather, but it was an insignificant detail on the whole day. I loved shopping for my dress and ordering the flowers. It was expensive, but worth every penny. We didn't plan our wedding based on tradition or what the bridal magazines said we should do. It was planned to be an expression of ourselves and a way to show our family how much we loved them. I think that most people plan their weddings in the same way, and the way that these two authors treat weddings is a travesty.

One Perfect Day
by Rebecca Mead is subtitled: The Selling of the American Wedding, and it's clear that's just how the author views weddings. They are a commodity to be marketed and sold. The public are dupes to the pressure from the wedding industry. Mead tracks different wedding traditions: registry, diamond ring, white dress, etc back to their roots as well as interviewing people in that particular industry to expose the motivations behind it and what makes it work. I've read other books in this genre: Flower Confidential tracks the flower industry, anything by Mark Kurlansky, and the one thing that makes those books enjoyable is their love or appreciation of the product. Mead's disdainful tone bleeds through on nearly every page. The only chapter in which she is kind is on photography, perhaps she was charmed by the ex-hippie couple photographers. Rather than the humorous yet insightful book this could have been, it comes off as a edict against the wedding industry and everyone who buys into it. Mead's description of her own wedding only confirms this. She was married at the courthouse wearing a simple non-wedding dress and had a party in her backyard with friends. Good for her! The American wedding should be anything that the couple wants it to be. Elopement, small and simple, huge and gaudy, goofy, romantic, anything goes. Mead could have celebrated this part of American culture, but instead she chose to damn it. There was some interesting info in the book but it was overwhelmed by Mead's derision.

The Sleeping Beauty Proposal by Sarah Strohmeyer is the story of poor Genie Michaels who has long been the girlfriend of popular author Hugh Spencer. When Hugh proposes on live TV to his girlfriend, Genie is thrilled that he's finally popped the question. Unfortunately, it was to someone else. Genie's best friend Patty suggests that she pretend that she is engaged and go with the flow. Genie goes along with the crazy plan and things quickly spiral out of control as a wedding date is set and gifts start arriving. I thought the concept of this book was clever, but the execution was weak. Genie dives into the role of bride with glee. She works out with a personal trainer, buys a cheap cubic-zirconia ring and buys a house, all while dodging questions from her family and co-workers. The suspense about Hugh's new fiancee throws in a red herring. Patty becomes so infatuated with all of the attention that Genie is getting, she soon becomes "engaged" herself. A sub-plot involving Patty and Tom is overly obvious. Ultimately Genie finds the right man and the wedding goes off without a hitch. The trouble with the book is Strohmeyer's assertion that marriage doesn't really signify a new stage in a woman's life. Genie and Patty are angry that an engaged woman receives all sorts of attention and married couples get nice gifts for their home. They declare that it is unfair for a woman to have to get married to enjoy those kind of perks. This is a feminist message taken a little too far. Marriage is a major step in anyone's life, and family and friends celebrate that with attention and gifts. Genie is saved from being a complete jerk only because her father is extraordinarily wise. This was a great idea, but Genie takes it just a little too far and then tries to justify her actions. It's an entertaining read, partly just to see if Hugh and Genie both get their just desserts. We don't get to see Hugh get his, and Genie is rewarded. It's an odd theme for a book: lying to your friend and family is ok, as long as you feel you're justified.

We have an extremely busy weekend, and tonight we're actually going on a date! To a movie and dinner and everything! Can you tell I'm excited by the exclamation marks? I let Molly pick out my outfit, and she's loaning me her shoes for the night. Yes, the picture for today is our big day five years ago. Sorry about the poor quality, ok so maybe my other complaint about the day would be the photographer. :)