I have recently had a very pleasant resurgence of my avid reading habit. In large part I have my discovery of a local used bookshop to thank for this. There is something so relaxing to me about being surrounded by somewhat haphazardly constructed bookcases forming as close to a maze of books as fire laws will allow. I'm realizing now that this is a little odd given my tendency to feel claustrophobic, but I guess that's the power of being distracted by a book at every step. The local bookshop here extends back twice as far as one would expect, plus – they have cats! The categories in which they organize the insane collection of used books are so well grouped that I find myself retreating to the back corner of the store and quickly have an enormous stack of books that I have to par down to a reasonable purchasing number.
A while ago, my best friend was visiting me for the weekend. She just recently got married, and as earlier this year I moved more than 700 miles away, as a wedding gift I flew her out for a weekend visit (plus, I'm always a fan of gifts I benefit from as well). My friend perhaps reads more than I and I know shares my happiness in being surrounded by filled bookshelves. A walk to the bookstore was a necessity for this visit. It was here, joining my friend exploring categories I would NEVER ordinary glance at that I found Rebecca Mead's One Perfect Day. My friend quickly voiced that she had heard great things about it, and so for the first (and likely last) time, I bought a “wedding” book.
My interest in this book stems primarily by the fact that it is all about the wedding INDUSTRY and speaks very little to the emotional and cultural aspects of weddings, which I have very little interest in. I was really very pleasantly surprised by this book. I fully appreciate that it was written in a very gender neutral voice and at least from my perspective as someone who knows little to nothing wedding-related, did a fairly thorough job examining various aspects of the American wedding industry, from bridal gown manufacturers overseas to wedding planners and honeymoons. There was a great balance of history with anecdotes from various current wedding industry professionals.
My personal favorite topic discussed in the book was that of destination weddings, in which the book focused on Aruba. I've never been to Aruba, but I've traveled quite a bit and could very easily imagine the description given of the hotel area being in large part an artificial environment fed by a giant desalination plant providing beautifully groomed, often imported plant life. It gives the rest of the small island the feel of a desolate parking lot. I also couldn't help but smile at the mention of the obligatory wedding sunset on the beach photo giving an image of the couple in complete blissful isolation, but in reality just out of frame the beach feels much closer to that of “MTV Spring Break”.
Mead also focuses on the idea that these destination weddings are a construction of this new generation now beginning to marry. Not only do destination weddings avoid a lot of the hassle and stress that often comes along with the planning of a traditional wedding, but it is a peaceful solution for people who perhaps have less than ideal family dynamics (divorced parents who cannot stand to be in the same room), which I imagine has become an increasingly more common occurrence. Additionally, it's brought up that many of the individuals currently marrying (and this book is now 7-8 years old) are the offspring of often wealthy baby boomers. They have grown up with adventurous spirits and traveling a great deal, so it is only natural that they will want top their previous experiences for what is supposed to be the most amazing day of their lives. Mead does a great job filling out with several historical and cultural examples of how destination weddings can very aptly be seen as "the new elopement".
I will say that Mead also does an impressive job, even while frequently using the term “bridezilla”, not implicating that brides are brainlessly falling for all these manufactured wedding gimmicks. The epilogue in fact is very worth reading as it reveals that during the journey of writing the book, Mead herself met a partner and married. It also touches on brides' awareness for the industry and the role it plays in their wedding planning.
I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed this book. As I'm getting to the age where many of my friends are married or on their way to married, I’m glad I found a source that could give me the type of information about weddings that I was looking for, without the information coming at me from the industry itself. While I'm of course very happy for my friends getting married, there has always been a cultural aspect to marriage that really puzzles me, and this book touched on exactly my concerns and questions. In particular, the books discussion about gift giving (both for showers and weddings) made me feel more confident in my hopes that eventually it will be equally as socially acceptable for single people to chose to have wedding sized house warming parties complete with registries, or welcome a new family pet with a baby shower.
I will be packaging this book up this week and putting it in the mail to my friend!