Matrimony in Four Parts
Ceremony: A rite or observance usually regarded as formal or external; or is it an empty form? Often regarded (and articulated to us) as symbolic or traditional.
My Fair Wedding, a television show hosted by famed wedding planner David Tutera, asks women from across the states to put their wedding in the hands of an expert at absolutely no cost. The rousing reputation that follows Tutera is that he’s not known for planning a wedding under $100,000. He makes the venues more grandiose, the wedding dresses more extravagant, and incorporates intricate floral and décor designs that could rival Martha Stewart on her best days. Networks such as Women’s Entertainment loop shows like this one on continual reruns, as well as Say Yes to the Dress and Bridezillas, to teach us the twenty-first-century ideology behind the ceremony: the spectacle. Should we care about companionship or about the designer dress adorning our bodies? Should we put our faith in everlasting love or the eight sets of fine china listed on our registry?
Weddings in China seem to exist not only to bind two people together, but also to display the family’s impressive wealth. Ten course meals for guests are common, and the bride is on display in up to three different wedding dresses throughout the event to demonstrate the impressive opulence of their social status. In Italy, after guests have gorged themselves on a plethora of pastas, the bride dances around with a satin bag in her hand, the sole purpose being to collect funds to help pay for the ceremonious affair.
We’re told through the art of subtext that it is undesirable to be alone. Dating websites cater to us to help find a significant other, even doing all the grunt work to search for your soul mate, saving you the months (or years) of soul searching and isolated anguish that is associated with dating, all for a reasonable monthly fee. Some websites even simulate the existence of a significant other so your friends and family won’t conclude you are a lost cause. Imagine being out to dinner with a date and things seem to be going well, but slowly your date becomes taciturn and distracted. Do you have lettuce stuck in your teeth again? Should you not have mentioned still living with your parents? Your phone buzzes on the table next to you and as you preview the text message, your date, abruptly possessed with intrigue, asks who it is. You tell them (with a knowing smirk) it’s another potential date. For twenty-five dollars, that scenario could occur as an artificial Internet wizard behind the curtain will lovingly dote on you through text messages and emails to give the appearance that your life has meaning because you found a partner. What about the prospect of living an independent life? At what point did we decide that we absolutely had to be coupled? Is it happening for pleasure or profit?
The wedding industry has evolved into just that: an industry. Capitalism got its hungry hands on newly engaged couples and cashed in on their impulsive, lovesick minds, forcing them to reconsider their intimate church wedding of twenty for the razzle-dazzle destination wedding of two hundred. Weddings in America are competitions now; within each lavish ceremony are brides looking to one up each other to prove their lives, and love, are more powerful than others. You can see the subtle expressions of boastful egotism if you look hard: in the seven-tiered cake; in the twenty piece band; in the three-hundred-plus guest list. Marriage marks a certain level of success; a box checked off on a long list of to-dos. Our society has successfully sold a tradition as an exhibition.
Is it still about love? Are we now being conditioned into getting married?
Initially, I was dazzled by the rings I was given as a “token” of tradition: 1.5 carats, 34 diamonds, white gold bands. The intoxicating glimmer, however, is all part of the spectacle. I was, at one time, entirely swept up in it. Sometimes I look down at them and I just see something that I have to wear.