Sara's Reviews > One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding

One Perfect Day by Rebecca Mead
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's review
Jan 08, 2008

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Recommended for: Brides and people who know them. Feminists.
Read in August, 2007

This book is immensely likable right away for its authorial voice, a sort of ironic Anthony Trollope meets Miss Manners wryness married (no pun intended) to a fierce ability to handle subordinate clauses. Very nice, and refreshing in a mass market non-fiction work.

The book's ambition is to offer an ethnography of the current wedding industry and its consumers, and in doing so, makes several good points. Sceptical that the "bridezilla" stereotype reflects a cultural rise in crazy self-absorbed women, Mead points out that in an individualistic American culture that prides itself on disdaining all tradition, the American wedding bears the entire weight of a socially "traditional" ritual in which the whole community can participate. And of course, the about-to-be-married woman is expected to provide this traditional experience for the entire community, even though she's probably been trained in things like computer skills and marketing, not in etiquette, liturgy, and party planning. And -- if she fits the profile of women about to be married in the US -- she also has been living away from home for a number of years, cut off from previous generations who might help her with something that is genuinely traditional. Thus the "bridezilla" -- a woman who is being asked to do something she genuinely can't do, and yet who is expected to be perfect at it. It would make you kind of pissy too.

Mead paints a picture of the wedding industry as stepping into the void, offering its services to help the overwhelmed bride, and yet also helping to create that bridal feeling of being overwhelmed, by inventing an ever-proliferating number of "traditions" and "things every bride does" (toasting flutes anyone? teeth whitening?). She is at her best when she writes about the brides who are shell-shocked about what's expected of them, but at the same time, who genuinely want to do something to bring people together in a meaningful way, as they makes a lifetime commitment.

Unfortunately, Mead keeps repeating vignettes of this impasse without advancing her book much. Her own wedding makes its appearance in the book as if it was going to offer a variation on the theme, but Mead sees herself as escaping the snare of the "perfect day" mirage simply by knowing it was all hooey. Irony, apparently, will save the bride, even as it doesn't do much to answer our genuine longing for real moments of community.
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01/27 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Marye Pat (new)

Marye Pat Oh, my, sure glad this wasn't around when I was planning mine. Thank God for Grandma Pat and a very small budget. Small is very good. MP

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