Excerpt: 'One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding'

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Chapter five looks at the wedding registry, and the way in which department store conglomerates attempt to use the opportunity of a wedding to secure the bride as a customer for life. In chapter six I consider the role of religion in the contemporary wedding and look at the ways in which nuptial spirituality is marketed. In chapter seven I visit two wedding-industry towns, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Las Vegas, Nevada, to see how the business of weddings -- in particular, the courtship of the so-called encore bride -- is conducted when it constitutes an important part of a local economy. Chapter eight considers the wedding from the vantage point of retrospection, and examines how brides are offered the irresistible promise by wedding photographers and videographers that their wedding day, and its attendant emotions, need not be evanescent but can be permanently preserved and endlessly revisited. In chapter nine I turn to the honeymoon and consider the role the travel industry plays in establishing the idea that the contemporary wedding, and the marriage that follows it, is an individualistic adventure rather than a community sacrament. I conclude by turning to the bride herself and asking the surprisingly difficult question: What, after all, is a wedding for?

This is a question that deserves consideration not just by individuals planning to wed, but by the rest of us as well, married or not. The American wedding -- with its softball games, its matching linens, and its $161 billion dollar industrial infrastructure -- is an expression of this culture's character and a declaration from this culture's heart. The way we marry, for better or worse, is who we are; and if we were to reexamine our commitment to the American wedding as it currently exists, we might be surprised to find that our ultimate happiness does not depend upon it.

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