What was your wedding like?
I ask because I want to know how the generational divide works here. We got married late in life, planned it ourselves and spent a little less than $5,000, at the time about half the average cost in the U.S. and enough to buy two — but only two — Martha Stewart-style wedding cakes at current prices. I thought it was a pretty nice wedding, but then, I was the guest of honor. There were things I’d do differently today, but on the whole, I thought it worked OK. I re-learned the most important lesson of any party, whether it’s for a bris, a marriage, a wake or a kegger — it’s not the food or the booze or the flowers or the table decorations, it’s the guest list. You can throw a great party for practically nothing, if you have the right friends. (And I’m not talking about getting your friends to design the invitations, although that’s a big help.) Which is one reason I’m so baffled by the MegaWedding phenomenon.
I’ve been to one of these affairs, and it was very nice, but it was the first of my experience that had a theme. You wouldn’t think a wedding would need a theme — Bob and Sue Get Married would seem to do the trick — but this one’s was Candy. The execution was sly and clever. The invitation came in a box made of white chocolate. Table assignments were on all-day suckers. The entrance to the outdoor area where they did the deed was flanked by giant “bouquets” of licorice whips, suckers and the like. There was an intermezzo course of cocktails named for candy bars. The tabletop candles sat in glasses crusted with rock candy. The placemats were peppermint-swirled. Toward the end of the night I picked up a lovely petit-four and nearly broke a tooth. It was a souvenir candle. Whoops, too many chocolate martinis.
And while I remember all of it vividly, when we talk about that weekend, we inevitably recall the elderly guest who had seemingly spent his entire 401(k) having his face lifted, contoured with implants and, I don’t know, buffed to a high sheen. Which is not to say a theme is unimportant, just that people were talking about the guy with the facelift. (Note: I hope they’re not talking about the drunk who tried to eat the candle.)
All this by way of pointing you to this interview with Rebecca Mead, author of “One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding.”
Mead’s book is said to be the first to tackle the American wedding racket the way Jessica Mitford did the funeral industry, which I find astonishing. Granted, I was long in the tooth and a practiced cynic by the time I tied the knot, but I hope, for the future of our country, that most brides-to-be could see through the naked greed and polished b.s. of so much of what you’re peddled between the she-says-yes and the I-dos. I recall one small item among many. It was a collection of small rings of not-particularly-precious metal, each attached to a ribbon. You — or your designated pastry chef — baked them into a cake with the ribbons streaming out. This cake was to be served at a bridal shower, where each bridesmaid would grab a ribbon and pull, thereby revealing her destiny. (Each ring carried a different symbol.) According to the advertising, it was said to be the hot new “tradition,” but all I could see was a cake that would be a pain in the ass to bake and then disintegrate when six girls yanked its guts out. Crumbs everywhere and a ruined dessert — that’s a wedding for you.
But then I recall the brides I’ve known who fell into real depressions after their weddings were over, after they returned from the honeymoon, opened all the gifts, put them on the shelf and said, “Now what?” It’s like nobody told them a wedding is followed by a marriage, which lasts a lot longer and features hors d’oeuvres only occasionally.
In the interview, Mead mentions In Style Weddings, the special edition of the consumer magazine that always features a celebrity bride on its cover. She doesn’t mention that for the longest time, this particular match was cursed — several consecutive couples broke up before the ink was dry. Even the zillion-dollar cake couldn’t save them. Imagine that.
So, bloggage before a busy day gets up and running:
Bill Maxwell left the St. Petersburg Times in 2004 to teach journalism at Stillman College, an historically black school in Alabama. It didn’t go well. The story is very sad.