What is this book about?
This book takes an in-depth look at the wedding industry, traveling from Disneyworld and wedding chapels in Gatlinburg, Tennessee to wedding planner and videographer conventions to wedding dress factories in China. It really looks at the goods and services offered to brides, the "traditions" behind them, and asks how the American wedding industry came to this point.
As a former journalist, I naturally loved Mead's approach to this book. Parts of it are quite poetically written; the prose is gorgeous. It is easy to read; I read through it considerably faster than the previous academic books I've read for this project.
Who would love this book?
People who like knowing the story behind the curtain and don't mind learning about the dark sides of things as well. Like people who enjoy VH1's Behind the Music.
My Favorite Parts
This is a wonderful book but it's not exactly a happy one; it often points out the extreme cynicism at the heart of most wedding professionals. There were several parts that made me go "ooooooooo" in the sense of a voyeur finding out something secret and scandalous. For example, one interview subject stated about bridal registries: "'It is very simple...Eighty-five percent of brides who register with your brand will remain loyal to your brand for the next fifty years.' The bride...'is a marketers' target. She is a slam dunk." (side note: I wonder how true this still is today, with the advent of online shopping changing the entire way your average person consumes goods).
Mead herself also has a hilarious style, such as this sentence about her visit to the Chicago bridal dress market: "After a few hours I was overcome by a condition known among retailers as "white blindness," a reeling, dumbfounded state in which it becomes impossible to distinguish between an Empire-waisted gown with alencon lace appliques and a bias-cut spaghetting-strap shift with crystal detail, and in the exhausted grip of which I wanted only to lie down and be quietly smothered by the fluffy weight of it all, like Scott of the Antarctic."
She also made this witty observation after an encounter with a New Age wedding officiant who had examined her aura. "Hours later, at home, I realized with a start that she had neglected to zip up my aura again, and I had been walking around with it open all that time."
The book ends on a lovely and progressive note that made me wistful and happy: "What would the American wedding look like if all Americans approached their weddings with the same consciousness as that demanded of gay couples? What if getting married was not simply something the average American-having found a suitable spouse-could do when he or she pleased and in the manner he or she desired, but was a right that had been argued over and fought for? What if every wedding was a cherished victory won?"
Does it talk about marital surname changes at all?
No - It's really more about the wedding industry than the marriage or couples involved themselves.