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One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American…

One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding

by Rebecca Mead

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Last year, I took part in the wedding of one of my childhood-college friends, a person I have always considered to be level-headed, practical and generally a good person. That was before I found myself in a $500 dollar bridesmaid dess ($284 for the dress, $235 for the alterations), standing in 3-inch navy blue sandals ($55), listening to a minister drone on about the power of different kinds of love. That was also before I found myself giving her three separate parties: a bachelorette party, a lingerie party and a bridal shower ... all of which I was expected to provide gifts for, as well as pay for and plan (luckily many of the other guests chipped in on some of these activities). It was with all of this in mind that I picked up One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, by Rebecca Mead, at Bookberries, a small independent bookstore on Lexington Avenue.

Mead sets out in her prologue that she is not writing a book about Bridezillas. Instead, she posits that it is the consumer-driven nature of weddings that drives and feeds the Bridezilla phenomenon, and it is this aspect of marriage that she choses to explore in her book. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of weddings, from bridal registries to choosing a dress, to choosing a minister, and discusses the way that these are symptomatic of particular aspects of American life in general.

My two favorite chapters in this book were the chapter on wedding dresses and the chapter on the selection of an officiant. In the wedding dress chapter, Mead begins with the purchase of wedding dresses and the rituals that surround this. She disucsses the idea that many women are looking for a dress the resonates with them - that will make them a princess in a poofy white dress starring in her big production - and the way that bridal stores give the illusion that each dress with come, one of a kind, specific for each woman. Then Mead goes to the factories in China where these "one-of-a-kind" dresses are made.

In the chapter about officiants, she talks about the idea that weddings are often no longer traditional religious ceremonies and couples look for ways to impart a sense of uniqueness on the ceremony. She watches a wedding officiated by a new-age minister. As part of the ceremony, the couple has an apache wedding prayer and a candle ceremony. She tries to track down the origination of these traditions and finds that the candle ceremony was instigated by greeting card companies and the so-called "apache" wedding prayer is from the movie "Broken Arrows". She also talks about the fact that anyone can become a wedding officiant by completing a course over the internet. Anyone can get a certificate (for a fee of five dollars) giving you the title of, "Cardinal, Lama, Guru, Friar, Reverend Mother, Swami, Magus, Dervish, High Preistess, Druid, Monk, Baron, Apostle of Humility, Martyr, Goddess, Angel and Saint (p138)."

Brides are encouraged to consume by all sorts of different industries. Mead cites a wedding survery that looked at the spending habits of engaged and single women. The survey found that engaged women spent more than single women on tanning sessions, diet paraphernalia, personal training, cosmetics, tooth whiteners, matching bedding sets, towels and a number of other things. The only things that single people routinely spent more money on were hair dye and pagers. Mead says, "The picture of the unattached life evoked by the survey is not a happy one: lonely nights passed between mismatched sheets, after evenings spent in the bathroom with a bottle of Miss Clairol, waiting for a beep on the pager (p118)."

It would take forever to discuss all of the funny, interesting insights in this book. Suffice to say, it was well worth the read even at hardcover prices. ( )
1 vote elleceetee | Apr 1, 2013 |
Mead is a smart narrator and a thorough researcher. Her witty voice makes what could be a dry subject entertaining and bubbly. Moreover, Mead refrains from critiquing weddings as a whole. What she is after is the thoughtless pursuit, by both the wedding industry and engaged couples, of the ideal wedding day. What, Mead asks, are we truly buying when we buy embossed napkins and sachets of rice and Godiva chocolate wedding cake favors? And, is there a better, a more productive way, to find what we are looking for? The answers are well-considered and, generally, compassionate. I do have to say that I found the epilogue, which addresses gay marriage (and to some degree the marketplace around those marriages) to be a contrived add-on that generalizes about same-sex couples and their level of commitment and that is a poorly-disguised attempt for Mead to insert politics into her text. But, that aside, the book is definitely a pleasure to read. ( )
  HopingforChange | Jan 21, 2013 |
I am thoroughly enjoying this book. Granted, I was looking for exactly this type of book while planning my (and my fiancés) own wedding. We fall into what Mead calls the "nontraditional bride/groom" in that we aren't buying into the Wedding Industry Complex, but actually being more traditional than most of the "average" weddings today.

I was really interested in this book for the historical look at how we have come to the state we are in now with the Wedding Industry. It has also highlighted some very interesting points about other aspects of present-day Western societies, and ties them into what drives the "average" modern wedding. I am no longer shocked or dismayed by the wedding planning stories I hear - as a whole we have herded ourselves into this mess one bleach-white polyester dress at a time.

Some of the book may be a little judgemental towards "American-ness" when I'm sure that Mead (being a native Briton) could have said similar things about other western societies. However, I do concede that the focus is spelled out in the title. At times I feel like we let brides become Bridzillas because it's a one-time deal, and I would like more commentary on why that's not okay, and what we can do to change this new norm.

I strongly encourage all couples (engaged, married, or none of the above) to read this and reflect on what their union truly means. ( )
  lizzybeans11 | Jan 25, 2010 |
I particularly liked the fact that Mead basically lays out as given both that wedding costs are out of control and that most people getting married are smart enough to realize this, and then focuses on why otherwise-rational people get sucked in regardless. Although we can list most of the 'rite of passage' aspects to weddings that no longer exist for most couples (creating the motive vacuum that the wedding industry then fills), Mead lays out more than you would come up with off the top of your head, and provides extra background. I loved the concept of 'traditionalesque.' And as with everything else these days, it turns out to be about the Millennials (I'm GenX like the author). Sometimes the snark annoyed me, but I know that's what most people like to read/hear these days. I was particularly uncomfortable with her jabs at her interviewee's personal lives, however. I've been reading her stuff for years; she knows how to be more professional than that. And it's odd that she left it up to the blurbs etc to reveal to readers that she's not herself American. I think that's an important angle. ( )
1 vote kristenn | Oct 7, 2009 |
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In the early years of this century a new word, and a new stereotype, entered the public discourse: the Bridezilla.
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A critique of the American wedding industry and the psychology behind the expense, stress, and pressure associated with typical weddings features a tour of the inner workings of wedding planners, commercial registries, and wedding management programs.… (more)

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