People get married all the time, for all reasons, in all ways, but to believe the media, June is the month when a certain kind of wedding prevails. One need travel no farther than the word “Bridezilla” to summon the paradigmatic June nuptial, a choreographed, soundtracked, camera-ready piece of theater in the round in which every detail must be rehearsed, and feature. The sighing floral arrangements, the ring bearer fumbling on his pillow for the glistening band, the ice sculptures, the first dance, the mothers with their damp eyes, the shellacked bridesmaids, the seared tuna hors d’oeuvres and the towering cake. And, oh yeah, the bride and groom themselves, stars of this spectacle, the players with the important lines: “I do.”
If you’ve been to enough weddings like this – event weddings, to use the term of art – it’s easy to believe that marriage rites were ever thus. Not so: The grand white dress, for example, is a tradition of fairly recent vintage, popularized after Queen Victoria wore one to marry Albert. Needless to say, the gown has taken on its own momentum, powered forward by princess fantasies culled by brides since childhood, and the industry that has emerged to fulfill and profit from those fantasies. Rebecca Mead’s new book, One Perfect Day: "The Selling of the American Wedding” is an exegesis of that industry, covering everything from the economics of the gift registry to the regimental champagne toast, and it ought to be required reading for every bride-to-be. The book prompts a number of “how did we get here?” moments, and though Mead’s not cynical, as she roams the front lines of the bridal-industrial complex, from fitting room to factory floor, wedding planner conventions to actual weddings, her journalist’s skepticism grows less and less bemused. Turns out that Bridezilla, like any proper monster, is one we’ve all created, together. And it seems like there’s no stopping her now.