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It’s Wedding Time

By Staff | Jun 30, 2008

It happens every summer. You know it’s coming, but the swarm surprises you nonetheless.

They show up on your doorstep. On your company bulletin board. Dropping on your kitchen table, begging for attention. They hide as bookmarks in your latest novel; breeding, it seems, like two wire hangers in an otherwise empty closet.

And so how many wedding invitations have you gotten this year?

A bunch, I’ll bet, but why watch yet another white-clad woman walk to her wedding? In the new book “It’s Our Day” by Katherine Jellison, you’ll say “I do” to reading about America’s love for all things bridal.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, amid all the pleas for help, shelter and homes for displaced pets, someone organized a pipeline for brides. All those future-Mrs. lost their dresses in the flood, and while basic necessities were obviously the most import, having a beautiful dress and lacy veil in which to wed were a close second in many betrothed minds.

Why do we cherish the idea of a formal white gown? Why do so many women long for a Cinderella-princess wedding? Jellison says we’ve been conditioned to want it, even though weddings weren’t always this way.

In the years preceding the Depression, wedding gowns were simple, often utilitarian and often homemade. Queen Victoria was the first to wear a white wedding gown, but from her 1840 ceremony until after the Depression, only brides from well-off families could afford the frivolity of a white dress they’d wear just once.

Once incomes rose, middle-class brides had money to spend and were willing to become avowed consumers. As families used weddings to confirm their middle-class-ness (or to announce their “arrival” to affluence), the popularity of elaborate gowns grew and never wavered. 

Since World War II (the years in which Jellison starts her examination of weddings), through the 1950s (and pastel bridesmaids’ dresses), 1960s, (when mini-gowns vied for popularity with “traditional” dresses), the 1970s (when feminism made weddings seem anachronistic and quaint), the 1980s (skyrocketing divorce rates), and beyond (think: “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?”) women marched down the aisle clad in lace and vowing that “being a princess” was their wedding day dream.

Are you looking for a bridal planner that will help you with your storybook wedding? If so, look elsewhere. This book isn’t going to give you Happily Ever After, but it will make you understand why you’re feeling pressure to get it.

While “It’s Our Day” is sometimes a little dry, author Katherine Jellison explains America’s obsession with The Perfect Gown and bride as icon. She discusses rising wedding costs, and how bridal gowns went from the useful-after-the-wedding frocks of great-grandma’s day to heirlooms that modern brides hope to pass on to their daughters (despite that the wedding industry wants nothing less). Jellison also examines weddings in African American families and same-sex unions.

If you cry at weddings, or if you’re curious about nuptials and brides, then scoop up this book. “It’s Our Day” is the perfect marriage between curiosity and ceremony.

Contact Terry at tschlichenmeyer@graffitiwv.com