The fabulous gown, the multitiered cake, abundant flowers, attendants and guests in their finery. The white wedding does more than mark a life passage. It marries two of the most sacred tenets of American culture—romantic love and excessive consumption. For anyone who has ever wondered about the meanings behind a white dress, a diamond ring, rice, and traditions such as cake cutting, bouquet tossing, and honeymooning, this book offers an entertaining and enlightening look at the historical, social, and psychological strains that come together to make the lavish wedding the most important cultural ritual in contemporary consumer culture.
With an emphasis on North American society, Cele C. Otnes and Elizabeth H. Pleck show how the elaborate wedding means far more than a mere triumph for the bridal industry. Through interviews, media accounts, and wide-ranging research and analysis, they expose the wedding's reflection—or reproduction—of fundamental aspects of popular consumer culture: its link with romantic love, its promise of magical transformation, its engendering of memories, and its legitimization of consumption as an expression of perfection. As meaningful as any prospective bride might wish, the lavish wedding emerges here as a lens that at once reveals, magnifies, and reveres some of the dearest wishes and darkest impulses at the heart of our culture.
List of Illustrations
1. Romance, Magic, Memory, and Perfection
2. The Rise of the Lavish Wedding
3. The Engagement Complex
4. The Rituals of Wedding Shopping
5. The Wedding Weekend
6. From the Cabin to Cancún
7. Hollywood Hosts a Wedding
8. The Lavish Wedding Goes Global
9. Variations on a Theme
10. The Allure of the Lavish Wedding
Cele C. Otnes is Associate Professor of Business Administration at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the coeditor, with Richard F. Beltramini, of Gift-Giving: An Interdisciplinary Anthology (1996), and is also coeditor, with Tina M. Lowrey, of the forthcoming book Contemporary Consumption Rituals: A Research Anthology (2003). Elizabeth H. Pleck is Professor of History and of Human and Community Development at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Celebrating the Family: Ritual, Consumer Culture and Ethnicity (2000) and Domestic Tyranny: The Making of Social Policy against Family Violence from Colonial Times to the Present (1987).
"As Otnes and Pleck so richly detail, the contemporary wedding is at once a rite of passage, a flight of fantasy, an expression of romantic longing, and an orgy of conspicuous consumption. Most significantly, the lavish wedding has become a celebration of contemporary consumer culture and is spreading globally, despite some resistance and backlash. From Barbie's wedding dress to Hollywood films to enormously expensive Asian weddings to gay and lesbian white weddings, we sanction superfluity in weddings to a degree unparalleled in other key life events including those of birth and death. This is a compelling analysis of the past, present, and future of wedding rituals, that holds a telling mirror to contemporary culture."—Russell Belk, author of Collecting in a Consumer Society
"Elizabeth Pleck and Cele Otnes pair their distinct talents to offer us a lavish display of the lavish wedding. In fascinating and often surprising detail--across time and place--they make sense of why we have clung to and, in fact, have radically embellished this vestige of Victorian culture."—Gary Cross, author of An All Consuming Century: Why Commercialism Won in Modern America
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