Synopses & Reviews
What's white, costs billions of dollars, and embodies the American dream?
For years, a white-gowned bride, multi-tiered white cake, and shiny gold rings have been the central icons for a grand American tradition that remains vibrant despite changing times. Now Katherine Jellison gives us a comprehensive cultural history of American weddings since World War II, examining the development of our precise and expensive standards for celebrating weddings and the staying power of this phenomenon in the face of enormous social, political, and economic upheaval.
Jellison's book is the first to examine wedding culture in the context of postwar cultural change, analyzing the mechanisms that disseminated, updated, and sustained the specific tradition of the white wedding. Tracing the ritual back to the rise of consumer culture in the postwar boom, it also examines how Americans guaranteed the survival of the white wedding into the twenty-first century by amending the ideology that supported it and reinterpreting the functions it served.
Jellison examines the ways the bridal business, the media, and consumers responded to new norms that expanded the notions of who was an appropriate white-wedding bride. She particularly examines the key influences that have sustained this cultural phenomenon for sixty years—the bridal-wear industry, celebrity weddings, movie weddings, and media coverage of the weddings-next-door—to show that the white wedding has become a unifying experience that crosses gender, class, and racial lines.
Here are the mystique of the perfect white wedding gown, a cavalcade of iconic brides from Grace Kelly to Carolyn Bessette, and the proliferation of reality weddings in magazines and on television. Jellison draws on pro-wedding writings of contemporary feminist authors, as well as oral histories of bridal couples from diverse backgrounds, and examines contemporary issues such as the legalization of same-sex marriage—and its backlash—and the post-Katrina "Hurricane Brides" project.
Engagingly written and lavishly illustrated, It's Our Day tells how a fantasy event survived counterculture movements and organized feminism to become a multi-billion-dollar industry supporting clothiers, caterers, jewelers, and florists. But more than an expos of commercialism, it is a testament to the flexibility of the dream it represents.
"Love may be the catalyst for the American white wedding, but hosting an elaborate celebration also demonstrates a family's prosperity and material success, argues Jellison in her compelling economic and social history of how this ritual survived despite the major cultural and political changes of the 1960s and beyond. Jellison, an associate professor of history at Ohio University, argues that while the white wedding of the 1940s may have celebrated youth, virginity and a patriarchal family structure, Americans have reinterpreted the symbolism of satin and lace: the 21st-century bride evokes the tradition of female-focused celebration and uses the elaborate and costly event as a display of her professional and social success as she marks a life transition. With chapters on celebrity nuptials, silver-screen I-dos and the latest batch of reality TV brides, Jellison demonstrates how advertisers, media and brides themselves slowly reshaped the white wedding into an act of organized feminism. This book is in the same genre as Rebecca Mead's 2006 One Perfect Day and will attract both academic and lay readers. The well-footnoted prose is accessible, and the 50 photographs and advertisements vividly demonstrate the changing trends Jellison outlines." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The first comprehensive cultural history of the postwar American wedding. Lively writing and lavish illustrations combine to reveal how the fantasy event survived counterculture movements and organized feminism to become a bulti-billion-dollar industry—and a testament to the flexibility of the "American dream."
Table of Contents
1. The Best of Everything: The White Wedding in American Culture, 1945-2005
2. Look Like a Princess: The Wedding Gown
3. Like a Royal Wedding: The Celebrity Wedding
4. Watching Cinderella on Video: The Movie Wedding
5. Addicted to the Show: The Reality Wedding