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One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding (AlterNet)

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marmar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-15-07 08:46 AM
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One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding (AlterNet)
One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding

By Emily Wilson, AlterNet. Posted June 15, 2007.



Pre-World War II, many couples got married in clothes they already owned. Today, they spend thousands. In her new book, One Perfect Day, Rebecca Mead shows how the wedding industry became so powerful and who it has exploited in the process.

Rebecca Mead hopes her audience will respond to her book, "One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding" the way she did to the wedding industry -- with a mixture of amusement and horror.

Marketing is replacing organized religion and extended family in people's lives, Mead writes, and as wedding ceremonies become more and more elaborate, there is plenty of humor -- and plenty to turn your stomach -- in the business of pledging undying love.

Weddings are such big business that they now have celebrity planners who are famous in their own right and serve the fabulously wealthy. Colin Cowrie, a celebrity wedding planner, is so in demand that Mead had a hard time catching up with him. Cowrie's packed planner included commitments with Oprah's Million Dollar Wedding Giveaway and the royal family of Qatar.

Mead calls him refreshingly cynical (when she asks about the success rate of people he's helped to marry, his response is, "Sweetheart, I really don't care. I just get 'em down the aisle."), but found his ideas about how to help the bride rather peculiar. Cowrie, who went into business with JC Penney to sell products for the wedding and the home, says he empowers women by helping them choose what products to register for and then teaching the bride-to-be how to use them.

"Selling somebody products is not usually about empowering them," Mead said. "Usually we don't think of choosing your sheets as being empowering."

Empowering or not, the wedding industry rakes in $161 billion a year -- about five times the amount that the cosmetic industry makes -- and it doesn't do that just by selling sheets. Rather, it uses people like Cowrie to sell brides a whole new image.

"You are selling dreams and you can charge anything," Gerard Monaghan, cofounder of the Association of Bridal Consultants, told a seminar of novice wedding planners in Connecticut. Monaghan's other tips to the would-be wedding consultants include making the bride feel that hiring them is a necessity rather than a luxury, and scaring the brides with how much work it will be to plan their wedding.

Mead thinks many of the women in Monaghan's class would have found it unthinkable not long ago to hire a professional to plan their wedding. She says the shift has something to do with our fascination with celebrity. Americans have come to believe we all can live like the celebrities we see in magazines -- or at least throw parties like them -- under what Mead calls "this new democracy of extravagance."

The idea that we can all be extravagant is catching on. According to Mead, the average commercial wedding costs about $28,000, involves 43 professionals, and has 165 guests in attendance. The average bride's dress costs $1,025. Last year American brides and grooms registered for over $9 billion worth of gifts, and 96 percent of engaged couples plan to register. ......(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.alternet.org/story/54111 /


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notadmblnd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-15-07 08:54 AM
Response to Original message
1. I think I saw on the Bravo channel a promotion for a new show coming out
Edited on Fri Jun-15-07 08:54 AM by notadmblnd
called Bridezilla. The commercial had a throng of zombie like bride to be's marching in hypnotic trance toward their goal of getting married. It was pathetic.
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RaleighNCDUer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-15-07 09:19 AM
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2. Hey, it's the American dream -
take two fresh-faced kids just graduated from college, who together have accrued $45,000 debt in student loans, and throw them a little wedding party for another $28,000. $73,000 sucked out of the starting family right at the git go.

The banks just LOVE it.
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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-15-07 09:39 AM
Response to Original message
3. Newsweek had an article on this.
I found part of it here...
Why are brides spending so much moneyand losing their minds?

We live in a consumerist society. You're not a bride, you're a consumer of bridal products. And second, there's something very profound psychologically happening. A wedding once marked a major transition in a person's lifethe first time you slept with your spouse, lived with your spouse. Today, you're just not that different the day after the wedding, so the wedding planning has to function as a traumatic experience. So you can say, "I've been through this experience that was so demanding, it must mean something."


http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18754320/site/newsweek /

A few other good snips are there.

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AwakeAtLast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-15-07 09:52 AM
Response to Original message
4. My first wedding cost $2,000
and that was in 1993. I got re-married in 2000 and I spent all of about $700. My dress cost $50.

I wouldn't have changed a thing!

:hi:
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unpossibles Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-15-07 10:21 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. yeah, ours was in the neighborhood of about 3K
and we had 125+ guests at the Columbus Music Hall, had catering and a nice cake and everything.

I am shocked at how much people spend on their wedding. We decided to plan it ourselves, do what we can ourselves and/or with help, and just to have fun and not get stressed out.
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shrike Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-16-07 08:52 AM
Response to Original message
6. Nicest wedding I've been to lately was also the least expensive

Bride and groom were fresh college graduates, bride was from another country and it cost a fortune for her parents simply to attend the ceremony.

The wedding was family-only in a chapel at a local seminary, and while the couple are both devout Christians they took care to incorporate aspects of the bride's culture and traditional religion of her country into the ceremony. The bride's family also wore traditional wedding costumes of their culture.

The reception, which we attended, was held in a conference room in at the groom's place of employment; it opened onto a garden area. The groom's family brought punch, coldcuts and a small wedding cake; relatives also pitched in with potluck dishes, so there was plenty to eat. (If they'd told us ahead of time we would have brought something, too.) But the best part was meeting the couple's beautiful young friends, who were from all over the world, including Africa and the Mideast. We loved it.

Compare this to a wedding of a (very nice) young man we know and his (apparently very nice) young bride. The bride's parents rented the most expensive space in town, had M&Ms made with the couples' names on them, served prime rib, etc. We got out of there ASAP.
The funniest part was, the groom's father seated us with a pair of family members who are insufferable repukes. He apologized incessantly, but said we were the only guests there who knew how to handle them.
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Jade Fox Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-16-07 10:06 AM
Response to Original message
7. I've never understood large weddings.....
They made sense back in the days when it was an excuse for a whole village to get together and party. Now, I've heard some young women want to get married just so they can out-do their friends weddings. What a silly status symbol.

Too bad the "the new democracy of extravagance" isn't accompanied by "the new democracy of income". Celebrities can afford huge weddings.
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Tangledog Donating Member (312 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-17-07 09:20 PM
Response to Original message
8. I don't know anybody who likes large weddings
Well, check that. I went to one that was OK. the father of the bride had more money than God (he was a medical genius and earned it honestly IMHO); he hired a really good string quartet, so I spent the afternoon listening to Haydn and otherwise ignoring most of the proceedings. Not a bad way to while away the day :) .

But with that one exception, I haven't been involved in a wedding in probably 25 years that anybody actually enjoyed. If I had to pick one business that sells a messed-up product that nobody wants and nobody likes, and they still get over, the wedding industry's gotta be it.
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bedpanartist Donating Member (915 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-17-07 09:52 PM
Response to Original message
9. Why involve the government, AND the church in your life all in one day
it's really all about getting those legal tentacles wrapped around you.
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TrogL Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-18-07 02:35 PM
Response to Original message
10. I'm getting married month-end
I can probably keep it under $CAN1000.

Most of that's catered food. The bride's family want to do sandwiches themselves, but I don't want everybody stressed out at the last minute.
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