Welcome to the Wedding Industrial Complex

Hi, my name is Stephanie. I’m 25-year-old engaged graduate student, and I’m addicted to wedding blogs. I read them to procrastinate, I read them to plan. I read scour them to fawn over pages and pages of soft-light pictures,  retro hair pieces, and immaculately curated tablescapes. I read them all too often, and I’m not very proud of it. Lately, I’ve been doing my best to stop.

It started out as a practical matter.

In the summer of 2011, My fiancé and I decided, unexpectedly, to get engaged (more on that later). We lived on different continents, but wanted to start planning our wedding for when we could both move back to the same city.

Two days later, my German mother, who raised me with a healthy dose of feminist skepticism, worried aloud that I might become a bridezilla.

Growing up, I had never thought twice about what flowers I’d choose for my wedding or what colors my bridesmaids would wear. I figured my tastes would change, and I couldn’t imagine a wedding without first knowing whom I’d marry. But once I got engaged, I felt the need to fully immerse myself in the world of wedding planning not only to find my bearings but to see what I was up against.

I started reading wedding blogs, bookmarking links, watching wedding-based shows. I even went to a wedding fair. More times than I would have liked, I felt myself crossing the line between observation and consumption.

As Alyson Kruege wrote in The New York Times last month,

“‘When you watch a lot of commercials on television, all of a sudden you want that product, and you don’t know why you want that product, but it’s because you’ve seen that commercial 10 times,’ [said wedding planner Shannon Whitney]. ‘It’s the same with weddings. It’s just the way our brain works. We’re just programmed to want what we see and what’s around us.'”

It’s hard not to get sucked into the appealing earnestness of ‘Say Yes to the Dress.’ But it’s also hard not to question why so many single women have wedding-themed Pinterest pages and user accounts on TheKnot.com. Most of all, it’s hard not to wonder what the hell is even going on here.

Are Americans really that obsessed with weddings? Are we addicted to reality television? (You could fill an entire cable channel with the amount of wedding-based programming available today) Or are we, as we always have been, just the world’s best consumers?

As I’ve continued to plan my wedding, walking the tightrope of participation-observation, I’ve become increasingly amazed at the depth and complexity of American wedding culture today. It’s a minefield of gender expectations, marketing strategies, insecurities, and that most confounding of human emotions, love. It’s loud, messy, overpriced and irritating, but I just can’t look away.

So here we are. Join me, dear readers, as I embark on a de-constructive, feminist, possibly foolhardy journey to explore the deep and glittery recesses of the wedding industrial complex.

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