Cinderella Dreams

Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding

Cele C. Otnes
Elizabeth H. Pleck
Series: Life Passages
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 399
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pn8tw
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  • Book Info
    Cinderella Dreams
    Book Description:

    The fabulous gown, the multitiered cake, abundant flowers, attendants and guests in their finery. The white wedding does more than mark a life passage. It marries two of the most sacred tenets of American culture—romantic love and excessive consumption. For anyone who has ever wondered about the meanings behind a white dress, a diamond ring, rice, and traditions such as cake cutting, bouquet tossing, and honeymooning, this book offers an entertaining and enlightening look at the historical, social, and psychological strains that come together to make the lavish wedding the most important cultural ritual in contemporary consumer culture. With an emphasis on North American society, Cele C. Otnes and Elizabeth H. Pleck show how the elaborate wedding means far more than a mere triumph for the bridal industry. Through interviews, media accounts, and wide-ranging research and analysis, they expose the wedding's reflection—or reproduction—of fundamental aspects of popular consumer culture: its link with romantic love, its promise of magical transformation, its engendering of memories, and its legitimization of consumption as an expression of perfection. As meaningful as any prospective bride might wish, the lavish wedding emerges here as a lens that at once reveals, magnifies, and reveres some of the dearest wishes and darkest impulses at the heart of our culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93750-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Chapter 1 ROMANCE, MAGIC, MEMORY, AND PERFECTION
    (pp. 1-24)

    On June 22, 2001, millions of viewers watchedGood Morning Americaas retired firefighter and cancer survivor Lorenzo Abundiz married Peggy Beeuwsaert in the middle of New York City’s Times Square. The bride and groom had won a contest, sponsored by the program, in which viewers voted for the couple they felt was most deserving of a “fairy-tale wedding.” In the weeks leading up to the event, viewers watched as Peggy and Lorenzo selected their wedding gown, cake, flowers, and bridesmaids’ dresses. After taking their vows, they were serenaded by British classical star Russell Watson, given a honeymoon to England...

  6. Chapter 2 THE RISE OF THE LAVISH WEDDING
    (pp. 25-54)

    “Ellen,” who was married in 1966, recently described how she and her fiancé spent less than $500 for the knee-length wedding dress she bought at a department store, her flowers, a professional photographer, and the reception. The groom wore a dark suit and tie. Her reception was held at a local restaurant, but there was no music or dancing. Ellen remembered:

    We paid for everything ourselves, because our family wasn’t too happy about our marriage. My parents were upset that he wasn’t Catholic and his parents were upset that I wasn’t of the same ethnic background as they were. ....

  7. Chapter 3 THE ENGAGEMENT COMPLEX
    (pp. 55-80)

    Given the amount of detail involved, the lavish wedding obviously does not happen overnight. Engagements in the United States now last an average of thirteen months, a far cry from Emily Post’s admonishment in 1922 that “A long engagement is trying to everyone. . . . It is an unnatural state, like that of waiting at the station for a train.”¹ Of course, in case the bride and groom are unsure of how best to use this time, bridal magazines and etiquette books provide detailed checklists of goods and services that must be acquired, altered, maintained, and stored for the...

  8. Chapter 4 THE RITUALS OF WEDDING SHOPPING
    (pp. 81-104)

    The engagement ring is on the bride-to-be’s finger and the planning for the parties and showers is in full swing. And now the bride, who these days probably already has a full-time job, takes on what will seem at times like another one: selecting the important ritual artifacts for her wedding day. As we will discuss, in about half of couples, the groom will help with certain aspects of shopping. In 1995, a new retail chain called “We Do” was launched. The chain attempted to be a “category killer” and put everything a bride would need under one retail roof....

  9. Chapter 5 THE WEDDING WEEKEND
    (pp. 105-133)

    A groom married in St. Louis, Missouri, in March 1992 recalled his wedding three months later: “The wedding was a hit,” he gleefully confided. “The white orchids gracefully arched over the center of each table. The cake—chocolate French cream with raspberry filling and braided icing—seduced all die-hard dieters. The dancing didn’t stop until midnight and the videotape caught it all.” Late in the evening he held his bride in his arms and danced with her to the strains of “You Send Me.” He had only one question. Would the picture of this dance grace the walls of the...

  10. Chapter 6 FROM THE CABIN TO CANCÚN
    (pp. 134-163)

    As the 98 percent of newlyweds who take a honeymoon know,¹ the wedding festivities may be over, but after months of planning and hours of meeting, greeting, and standing, another ritual lasting approximately eight to nine days usually begins immediately thereafter. It was not always so. As the wedding and reception lost their moorings as home-based rituals expressing ties to family or kin, the same became true of postwedding trips. Instead, the first trip of a married couple has become a perfect chance to collect lifelong memories and pay homage to the ideals of romance on magic Maui, at the...

  11. Chapter 7 HOLLYWOOD HOSTS A WEDDING
    (pp. 164-196)

    Why buy a bridal magazine, asks the Wedding Guide 2001 Web site, when you can rent the 2000 blockbuster movieThe Wedding Planner, which demonstrates the wisdom of signing up for a few dance lessons before the big day? The site observes sagely, “Nobody does nuptials better than Hollywood.” The guide also suggests paying special attention to the kiss at the end of the wedding ceremony in the 1950 version ofFather of the Bride: “It’s the perfect at-the-altar smooch, a passionate embrace that says ‘I do, I do!’ without messing the bride’s lipstick.”¹

    In all likelihood, a bride-to-be can...

  12. Chapter 8 THE LAVISH WEDDING GOES GLOBAL
    (pp. 197-227)

    Many middle-aged women in the People’s Republic of China who have been married for years now appear at bridal studios to pose for portraits in rented long white wedding dresses. Aunts sometimes try on their nieces’ gowns and ask to be photographed in them. These daughters of the Cultural Revolution were probably married in gray or blue Mao suits, consisting of tunics and trousers. Their eagerness to own a photograph of themselves looking like a coiffed, made-up Western bride testifies to the pervasiveness of bridal fantasy and to the visual and sensual pleasure photography, fashion, hairstyling, and makeup provide.¹ These...

  13. Chapter 9 VARIATIONS ON A THEME
    (pp. 228-263)

    Although millions of couples all around the world participate in lavish weddings, others have chosen not to marry in an extravagant manner or have been unable to do so. For the most part, however, the absence of a lavish wedding has had less to do with a lack of desire and more with the fact that until recently, strict social constraints dictated the types of couples allowed to indulge in these types of events. Others find that family conflict, especially that stemming from interracial marriage and parental divorce, makes planning a lavish wedding more trouble than it is worth. Then...

  14. Chapter 10 LUXURY, LAVISHNESS, AND LOVE
    (pp. 264-280)

    We began this book by describing a televised wedding that took place on a sunny July morning in Times Square in the summer of 2001, the grand finale to a contest sponsored byGood Morning America. The bride in that ceremony had chosen a long, white wedding gown and a traditional tiered white wedding cake. Just under ten months later, on May 17, 2002, ABC televised another winning wedding forGood Morning America. This time the successful couple—who, in their late twenties, were quite a few years younger than the 2001 winners—deviated a bit from the practices of...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 281-332)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 333-364)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 365-384)