114 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified 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. She doesn't seem to have a lot of sympathy for the sentimentalism of weddings -- which I think is a well-needed attitude, since so much of the uselessly expensive garbage of the wedding industry is sold using manufactured sentiment. ("But it's the MOST important DAY of your LIFE and of COURSE you NEED custom-printed M&Ms! Because how else will your friends and loved ones know what this day MEANS to you?")
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2007
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.
59 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2007
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. Some touches are plain obsessive, like the need to match the attendant's vests to the napkins. Mead calls these faux-ancient touches "traditionalesque"-- shallow imitations of tradition sold by people who have interests at heart other than launching couples into married bliss.
Mead takes us behind the scenes of the wedding industry and unveils the techniques that bridal planners and others use to keep their customers buying, buying, and buying. We meet low-paid Chinese workers laboring for pennies per gown in enormous factory settings. We meet the faux-ordained who tailor their services to their customers' desire for a churchy setting with but a veneer of religiosity. We meet the good people of Disney, that most profit-generating dream machine, who evolved from providing a few shots of the couple with Mickey and Minnie, to providing the entire princess package that includes a rented Cinderella coach ($2500 for a half-hour) with footmen and horses for brides who want to identify with their favorite character. We meet photographers whose repertoire of "iconic" not-so-candid shots varies little from wedding to wedding and videographers who slioce and dice their product into finely-edited packages that the couple must purchase separately and at great cost.
Mead often seems appalled by the crassness, venality and self-indulgence of American weddings, and only seldom finds a group that seems to understand that after a wedding comes marriage, which is more than the opportunity to watch wedding videos. She rhapsodizes over a British couple in Las Vegas, whose entire wedding party (including their parents and children) attended a ceremony in full Elvis regalia. For all the pop silliness of their choice, they seemed to understand the larger ramifications of their life together as a family, and Mead was touched.
Mead's writing is as elegant and dainty as the filigree on a lace doily. Sentence like this often appear, like pearls on a beaded white glove: "After a few hours, I was ovecome by a condition know among retailers as "white blindness," a reeling, dumbfounded state in which it becomes impossible to distinguish between an Empire-waisted gown with alencon lace appliqués and a bias-cut spaghetti strap shift with crystal detail, and in the exhausted grip of which I wanted only to lie down and be quietly smothered by the fluffy weight of it all, like Scott of the Antarctic." You have to admire a writer who can deliver an image like that and link it naughtily to a nearly-obscure historical simile.
Put all of this together and you get a well-written, fascinating and eye-opening look at one of America's most revered yet most abused traditions. After reading this book, one may indeed wonder whether the institution of marriage would be better off without the industry devoted to its initiation.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2007
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.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I read and enjoyed this book, I would have given it 4.5 if possible.
The first few chapters are entertaining and well written, but I felt like they were mainly capturing the material details of weddings and the wedding industry. The first few chapters are kind of like Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, but not quite as funny.
However, I think in the later chapters the author really gets at the heart of the matter, which is that some of the wedding culture is an attempt to substitute for a more general loss of meaning and community in an increasingly materialistic society. In that sense, I think the book has more in common with Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Community.
In the final chapter, the author asks "What is a wedding for?" If I were planning a wedding (which I am not), I think reading this book might help me step back and come up with my own answer to that question, rather than one that was marketed to me.
If you aren't planning a wedding, the book is still an interesting snapshot of how our relationship with love, marriage, religion and community are changing.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
It's the bits of wedding trivia that I liked. Like how many people know that pre WW2 most brides didn't have diamond wedding rings. Then DeBeers discovered they could sell rings and link them to love and marriage. Now I knew that brides of the past rarely wore a fancy white dress. One need only look at wedding pictures from before 1950 to see this.
Who knew how much most marriages cost these days and how short a marriage it often turns out to be. All to show off to people that you have more money than you do, or show off the fact that dispite all odds, someone actually wanted to marry you.
No doubt all those who make big bucks off couples who marry, like wedding planners, florists, cake makers, rental places and a plethora of other businesses wont like this book one bit. But those who will are those with some common sense and feet planted firmly on the ground. Parents who may secretly hope their daughter doesn't get engaged. Or the bride and groom who have better things to do with their hard earned money than blow it on one day, that can never live up to the fantasy they have created in their heads. I also want to note how bad I feel for so many men who are hounded by the bride to be about how the wedding day is HER day. Run men run ...is my advise because any woman who is more concerned about HER production and not your feelings may mean divorce down the road.
I really hope more men read this book. As the mother of a son who married a lovely woman in a small ceremony with just family, I am so pleased that their money went into buying a home they can afford.
And yes I do agree with the author when it comes to women who wear white even if its their second or third etc wedding.
And I find it refreshing that the author even touched the delicate subject of what weddings were and what they have become. That until the last 10-20 years the holiness of marriage and a true sense of commitment is so often lost.
And BRAVO to the author for reminding straight on, Americans brides about the cheap labour that is producing the labour intensive goods that the bride wants for her wedding. Often in sweat shops. Something the wedding industry doesn't want you to know about.
The book is excellent about discussing the domino effect that spending big on a wedding, may mean bigger money problems down the road or big money issues that need to be discussed BEFORE a guy even buys an engagement ring.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2009
I bought this book when I got engaged and immediately began to stress out about the wedding. So many of the weddings we had been to were expensive and extravagent affairs and frankly very similar from one to the next. We thought about eloping just to avoid the big ticket costs of having a wedding because we knew our families would not be able to help financially with the cost. This book made me really angry that I and so many women I knew had been duped by a wedding industry that pressures you into thinking that you have to have some big expensive event to celebrate your union. Reading her book gave me the strength to say no to all the BS wedding industry standards. I feel bad for the people out there who spent thousands of dollars on things that have nothing to do with the true meaning of the wedding and are still paying off the cost that went on their credit cards. This book will empower any bride to take the wedding industry's fog out of their way and focus on what really matters better than any bride preparedness book out there. Most of those Wedding Planning books just instruct you to follow the industry conventions and don't explain where they came from and who's making the money from it. I feel lucky to have read this book before I nearly threw away a lot of valuable money because I didn't know any better.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2007
This book should be read by anyone in the process of getting married. I'm not the type person who is particularly interested in weddings, at least from the touchy, feely perspective; however, this book gives excellent insight into the strategies used by the wedding industry to squeeze every possible dollar from prospective brides, grooms, and families. Particularly interesting were some of the aspects of weddings that are conventionally considered "traditional" but are really conceived by the wedding industry itself. What really makes this book remarkable is that the author doesn't just stop with an extensive expose of the industry itself. She gives thoughtful insight questions such as: why in a "modern" society of feminism and double incomes are women driven to assume the (arguably sexist) role of a stereotypical bride and why is this one big day worth such extravagant expense to so many people?
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2007
When I got engaged last month, my mother went to buy bridal magazines, and I went straight for this book. In reading Mead's excellent and incisive journalism on the subject of the wedding industry, I feel relieved to know that I'm not the only one who thinks there's something fishy going on with planning "one perfect day."
Even for a person who is not in the throes of wedding hysteria, Mead's book is simply good journalism, strong writing, and effective social criticism. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in American cultural studies.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Next to coal mining and waitressing, one of the more under valued jobs in our society is that of the intrepid, well-informed skeptic, whose role in life is to question that which the rest of us have accepted without full examination. In her new book "One Perfect Day," New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead dares to question our sense of proportion when it comes to how we marry and what it costs us. Her thin but effective book is less an expose, than a sharply written consumer digest of the people and the practices behind that "one perfect day," when bride and groom are encouraged to surrender their financial and emotional sobriety to a $161-billion a year industry. Ms. Mead has done her homework, and offers it up in entertaining bite-size portions that will supply the reader with plenty of cocktail party conversation. While one reviewer found the book "too cynical" for her taste, I believe the author wishes to be more of a consumer advocate than a romance deflator. When she briefly shares the details of her own wedding day, she does so like any bride who's happy to show you the photos. A good read from one of our most observant writers.