In her new book, "One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding," author Rebecca Mead weighs in on a day many little girls dream about: their wedding day. In her investigation of the $161 billion wedding industry, Mead found an entity that preys upon the emotions and vulnerabilities of brides and grooms to get them to spend lots of money for the "wedding of a lifetime." The following is an excerpt.
In the early years of this decade a new word, and a new stereotype, entered the public discourse: the Bridezilla. The creature characterized by this disparaging term was immediately recognizable. She was a young woman who, upon becoming engaged, had been transformed from a person of reason and moderation into a self-absorbed monster, obsessed with her plans to stage the perfect wedding, an event of spectacular production values and flawless execution, with herself as the star of the show. In her quest to pull off this goal she was blithely willing to wreck friendships, offend parents, harass caterers well past the point of patience, and burn through money more rapidly than a fire consumes forest in a dry August.
The alleged phenomenon of the Bridezilla spawned numerous newspaper articles that recounted her exploits with gleeful censure. The New York Times told of one bride who had demanded that her attendants all color their hair the same shade of blond; another who had procured a swatch of the purple wallpaper from the hotel suite in which she would be spending her wedding night so that her florist could find blooms that were an exact match; and another who insisted, before a barefoot beach wedding, that her husband's groomsmen all endure a pedicure. The horrors of encountering a Bridezilla, or worse, unwittingly becoming one, were such that Carley Roney, the co-founder of the wedding-planning company TheKnot.com, was asked on CNN how a woman might know when she had crossed the line into Bridezilla territory: "You forget that your friends have lives, that people might not be able to come to your seventeen fittings," she said.
The Bridezilla phenomenon moved into other media. A "Bridezilla" book was published with the subtitle "True Tales From Etiquette Hell," featuring on its cover an alarmingly oversized cartoon bride clutching, in one hand, a diminutive, frantic groom, with a tiny bridesmaid in a vile yellow dress in the other. Inevitably, there was a reality television show: In its first season "Bridezillas" followed the wedding preparations of nine overwrought and hysterical brides, one of whom was so concerned that her dress remain unwrinkled and her makeup unsmudged that she refused to let her new husband near her all night. And equally inevitably, newspaper reporters identified the so-called Groomzilla: the husband-to-be who becomes obsessed with the typeface on the invitations and undergoes a regimen of eyebrow waxing and facial microdermabrasion in advance of his big day.