The most surprising aspect of Sunday's NY Times Book Review wasn't the big thumbs up Michael Kinsley gave to Christopher Hitchens' latest assault on organized religion, but Times reporter Jodi Kantor's review of One Perfect Day: The Selling Of The American Wedding, Rebecca Mead's new book on nuptial excess. Kantor all but rejects Mead's major thesis: That there's something obnoxious about the way soon-to-be-married Americans buy into marketers' hard sell of the ever-bigger cakes, the fancier limos, the more heavily-beaded $5,000 gowns. As evidence, Kantor cites her own "tasteful... if I do say so myself" wedding of four years ago, and complains that Mead doesn't seem in nuptials like hers (the horror!).
Mead is so outraged by the gilded picture presented by bridal magazines that she overcorrects and gives us a book full of tawdry, tacky affairs, where the dresses are ill-fitting, the officiant is a hired gun and the couples flushes away more than they can afford. These weddings take place mostly in Las Vegas, at Disney World, on an overcrowded stretch of beach in Aruba or in Gatlinburg, Tenn, home to kitschy wedding chapels and a round-the-clock marry-thon."
Maybe in the cash-rich and self-assured circles Kantor travels in, couples can get happily hitched without undue influence from the salespeople at David's Bridal. But in the rest of America there are more than enough examples of families depleting their savings accounts and mortgaging their lives to keep up with the Joneses, whether in pursuit of the latest PlayStation, hot-new SUV or Modern Bride-approved wedding celebration. Has Kantor — a former Times "Arts & Leisure" editor who presumably pays attention to such matters — never heard of the documentary Maxed Out? Or watched any recent episode of 60 Minutes? Perhaps she's too busy making "homemade ice cream" and dusting off her wedding album!
Also disturbing is Kantor's breezy brush-off of this country's obsession with consumption. "Yes, sure, lots of American weddings are overblown confections; and O.K., that probably tells us something about ourselves," she writes dismissively. After all, she adds, everyone's doing it! "Today, even the preppiest country-club bride is likely to write her own goofy vows, wear a $5,000 gown with an immodest neckline and treat herself to a little Botox before the big event. We're all nouveau riche now."
We think we're gonna throw up. To fit into our Vera Wang wedding gowns, that is.
The Princess Brides [NYTimes]
Earlier: The Economics Of Weddings Continue To Blow Our Minds