Last week, speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Thought for the Day, the Rev Dr. Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral said that weddings may be “becoming a threat to marriage itself.”
One would expect that people not deciding to get married would be a greater threat but basically what he was saying is that weddings have become a consumerist binge – a tumultuous blitz of self-centred brides and excessive expenditure that overshadow preparations for marriage itself.
I picked up on this through Rebecca Mead’s article in yesterday’s Guardian where she recognised this ‘bridal mania’ as a genuine phenomenon. Referring to the three years she spent researching her 2008 book, One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, she described “such accoutrements as a dozen bridesmaids in coordinating satin gowns, a sushi station for the cocktail hour and a honeymoon in a tropical location at a resort hotel with spa attached.”
She also commented that the wedding industry encourages brides to think of themselves as princesses for a day. I have to say as a recession bride-to-be, I cannot agree. I was once a princess for a day, I even wore a white dress: but the year was 1991 and I was making my First Holy Communion. On my wedding day, I will be a bride for a day, and a wife thereafter.
Mead argues that the wedding industry is to blame and that “never have [weddings] been so thoroughly mined for profit by commercial enterprises”. It’s not hard to fathom that weddings in the years between 2003 and 2007 were more commercial than they are now. Sure, weddings nowadays are more commercialised than they were in the distant past but much of Mead’s research – and therefore much of her argument – seems to have taken place during an economic bubble that burst three years ago – when credit abounded. People borrowed, people spent. Standards were raised. Expectations changed.
I don’t feel like a consumerist victim when planning my wedding, if anything I feel empowered. You can buy an idea or a concept without buying the product it attaches to. A bit of creativity and imagination goes a long way for post-tiger brides (See my post on DIY Photo booths).
I don’t feel that it is selfish to think of your wedding day as your (plural) day. It is. For us, it is our day to throw an almighty party for our families and friends and to look fondly back on at times when the going gets tougher. I can’t see the harm in that. The majority of our budget will be spent to that end (venue hire, food, drink). I will not have two Vera Wangs (one on standby) just because Chelsea Clinton did. That was her day. I will have my own.
While I appreciate Mead’s sociological appraisal of weddings, I do not agree with the idea that bridal couples are simply duped into spending more than they have.
I am a true recession bride (and I dare say that as a 1980s child I would have been, regardless of the economic crisis). People are doing things their way these days, the boom is over. The love is still there though. That is what this blog and ultimately our wedding is all about.
- Rebecca Mead is the author of One Perfect Day: the Selling of the American Wedding (Penguin Press) and a staff writer at the New Yorker.
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