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One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding Paperback – July 29, 2008

3.8 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In its nascence in the American lexicon, the term "Bridezilla" has inspired articles, reality television and watercooler tales of brides gone mad. This phenomenon piqued New Yorker staff writer Mead's interest, sending her on a three-year investigation of the current American wedding and the $161-billion industry that spawned it. "Blaming the bride," she writes, "wasn't an adequate explanation for what seemed to be underlying the concept of the Bridezilla: that weddings themselves were out of control." Interviewing wedding industry professionals and attending weddings in Las Vegas, Disney World, Aruba and a wedding town in Tennessee, Mead ventures beyond the tulle curtain to reveal moneymaking ploys designed around our most profound fears as well as our headiest happily-ever-after fantasies. Goods and services providers alter marital traditions—and even invent new ones—to feed their bottom line. Stores vie for bridal registry business in hopes of gaining lifelong customers. Women swoon for what retailers call "the 'Oh, Mommy' moment" in boutique fitting rooms—an unsettling contrast to the Chinese bridal gown factory workers who make them possible, sleeping eight to a room and scraping by on 30 cents an hour. Part investigative journalism, part social commentary, Mead's wry, insightful work offers an illuminating glimpse at the ugly underbelly of our Bridezilla culture. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Reminiscent of Jessica Mitford's I^ The American Way of Death (1963), although written in a considerably lighter vein, this eye-opening book looks at weddings not merely as unions of two people who are in love with each other but also as products of an industry that is in love with money. Mead begins with a fascinating overview of the Bridezilla phenomenon, a recent coinage that quickly entered the language as a term to describe an excessively self-absorbed, tyrannical, my-way-or-the-highway bride-to-be (the term has inspired books and reality TV shows). In 2006, Mead notes, the wedding industry took in about $161 billion. Magazine publishers, she explains, now add value for their advertisers by holding seminars on how to get married (featuring displays of wedding-related products, from fashion to cookery to linens). Similarly, bridal registries--the first was established in 1924--have become crucial sources of revenue for department stores and specialty shops. Once-peripheral features, such as wedding planning and videography, are fast becoming industries unto themselves. And on and on. Weddings, Mead argues in this revealing mix of popular history and social criticism, are reflections of who we are, and the wedding industry is a reflection of the culture we have created: ruthlessly organized, product-oriented, fiscally irresponsible, but still, somehow, retaining a bit of romance. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (July 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143113844
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143113843
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rebecca Mead was born in London, and grew up in the south-west of England. She was educated at Oxford University and at N.Y.U. Since 1997 she has been a staff writer at the New Yorker, and is the author of "One Perfect Day: the Selling of the American Wedding" (Penguin Press, 2007) and "My Life in Middlemarch" (Crown, 2014). She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, George Prochnik, and their son.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not married but I've been to 5-6 weddings a year the past few years and am in 2 this June. I have been totally flabbergasted that so many of my friends -- very thoughtful and unconventional in every other aspect -- swallow the most meaningless consumerist drivel when it comes to their weddings. I'm a professional designer and out of all those weddings, I can't remember a single bridesmaid's hairstyle, a single centerpiece, or what any of the cakes looked or tasted like. I'll never eat a wedding dinner that's as well-prepared as any of the San Francisco restaurants that I frequent, and some of the best wedding food I've had was mostly purchased from the Whole Foods deli -- around $1,000 instead of $10,000. What I remember and enjoy is the ceremony and the symbolism of two people getting married, and the fun of celebrating afterwards with friends and family. The fact that my girlfriends spend months and tens of thousands of dollars agonizing over useless stuff completely astounds me. I don't understand why everyone gets so neurotic about it!

What I liked about Mead's book is that she does not seem to be writing from within the dominant paradigm: she doesn't take it for granted that a meaningful wedding requires matching bridesmaid hairstyles or that it's a daring, hand-wringing proposition to (gasp!) let members of the wedding party choose their own shoes. I suppose that I find so much of what brides worry about to be utter nonsense, and I wish there were more voices (besides from the fabulously stodgy Miss Manners) that did not assume that the only way to properly symbolize a marriage is with $10,000 of floral arrangements.

This book is not comforting. The author's tone is dry and you can tell from the language she uses that much of the industry seems over the top to her.
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Format: Hardcover
I think some of the reviewers are missing the point. Mead's book is not an instruction manual in helping brides avoid manipulation. It is a sociological examination of how we choose to celebrate marriage and what this says about American culture. I mean the book wasn't shelved in the wedding section at the book store where I purchased it. It was shelved under socoiology.

"One Perfect Day" offers fascinating insight into how the significance of the ceremony has increased as the differences between pre-married life and married life has decreased for many couples.

While looking at this cultural shift, it explores the role of the industry that has sprung up to maintain it. None of the vendors and industry representatives come off looking like bad people. But they are business people and businesses exist to make profit.

I would, however, have liked to see more about the role that parents play in pushing their daughters into the role of bridezilla. In my experience, both parents are usually the primary drivers behind the more, more, more philosophy of wedding planning -- and often push girls who wanted to have a simple wedding into an elaborate affair. I would have especially liked to read an analysis of parental interactions with the bridal industry.
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Format: Hardcover
As we stagger into the third millennium, nothing is what it once was. That goes double for weddings. Once, weddings were a celebration of the transition of young people from parental control to their own control under the watchful eye of a beneficent Deity. Now, with the loosening of parental control, with the rise of cohabitation, the decline in church attendance, with the separation of sex and baby-making, and with the rise of a self-oriented consumer culture, the stage has been set for massive change in the way couples view marriage and the ceremony that kicks it off. Actually, the stage is far past set: we are well into Act II.

Author Rebecca Mead could have taken a number of approaches to this new culture. She could have been censorious about its narcissism, or applauded its liberation from its ancient anchors. Instead, she adopts a somewhat bemused, slightly aghast tone that allows her subjects to speak for themselves. And speak they do! Mead's main focus is the wedding industry, which is at an enormously-profitable dream machine. She obtained her information from a close reading of bridal journals, interviews with the industry's visionaries, attending trade shows and visiting sites from Wisconsin to Las Vegas to Aruba to China. What she sees is either refreshingly or depressingly the same all over. Brides (and an increasing number of men) are being sold on the idea that they must stage a dream wedding with all the "traditional" touches that expresses their personal sense of style. And the more money spent the better. Mead makes it clear however, that many of the features considered traditional are not all that old. Only since the 1920s, for instance, have the majority of American brides been married in white silk gowns.
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Format: Hardcover
Its no surprise that anyone with financial links to the wedding industry would resent Rebecca's well-written expose. The basic message of the book seems to be that many women and their families are hit by an unbelievably hard commercial sell at one of the most susceptible stages of their life. To say that these women, and those close to them can always say " No!" is unrealistic. Decisions made at this point in peoples' lives are too often based on emotion rather than realism; the industry realizes this and hones in on it. Rebecca's book is not a manual for how to run a wedding; its a cautionary message suggesting that the true meaning of being married should not be lost when exposed to the industry's pitch.

Rebecca leavens her hard-hitting message with fascinating examples and good humor. Its an excellent read.
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