Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wedding Industrial Complex Propaganda

I received an e-mail from a company within the Wedding Industrial Complex. They wanted to share with me a free product they created for brides: coloring books that can be downloaded, printed, and passed out to the children at your wedding.

I actually think it's a great idea to think through ways to make your wedding more engaging for the little ones. And coloring is certainly a popular activity.

But their coloring pages were essentially propaganda for the Wedding Industrial Complex. Each page depicts a scene from a "classic" wedding and includes a description:

Traditionally the Rehearsal Dinner was paid for by the Groom's Family and was only the immediate wedding party. Now, out of town guests are often invited.

The reception that follows the wedding and is often a sit down dinner, but some have a buffet.

"Traditionally"? What about the actual tradition of throwing a potluck wedding? And what about the people who want to spend more time with all of their guests so they host a Welcome Party? Or what about the people who want to spend their time with only their immediate families before the wedding and skip the rehearsal dinner altogether? What about the people who serve food family style or decide to serve cupcakes and champagne rather than an entire meal?

I don't take issue with any of these components of a wedding. Couple should pick and choose (and modify and replace) to create a wedding that is meaningful and memorable for them. And I understand that these coloring pages are based on the "average" way of doing things at a wedding.

I do take issue, however, with feeding our children cookie-cutter images of what a wedding is. The more we do this, the more "average" becomes "normal." The implicit message of these images is: "A real wedding includes a bouquet toss. A real wedding unites a man and a woman. A real wedding happens at a church. A real wedding has a flower girl and a ring bearer."

A real wedding is about community, connection, and commitment (and, for me, fun!). That can look however the heck you want it to look.

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Anonymous said...

HAHAHA. My favorite part is what you named the images... ;)

Anne said...

Also: "At a real wedding, the groom is always taller than the bride, and they are the same race, as is everyone attending the weeding. Also, girls only wear dresses and pearls at a wedding or any related activities." Barf, indeed.

Jess said...

I love how the very first picture of the "American Wedding" clearly depicts a Christian church in the background. As if real Americans are only Christian, not Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, etc. etc.

megan said...

i was just thinking that Jess. wow. i'm all about many of the traditional components of a wedding, but indeed, they need to be tailored to the couple. the wedding i went to this weekend was a cookie-cutter catholic service (aside from the part about the bride castrating cows in FFA) and, as beautiful as it was, made me want to fall asleep. the more i read about ORIGINAL weddings, the more i want one.

i do like the idea about the coloring book, though.

Austin Weddings said...

Got the same email. Thought the same thing. Although the concept of having some kind of wedding related coloring pages for the kids at a wedding is cool, it shouldn't be an advertisement or a stereotype concept.

Anonymous said...

If we're choosing to start our own traditions and not buy in to culture's "traditions"... why are we upset when seeing pictures like this? Instead of opening our minds to new ideas... are we really just closing our minds to the old ones?

I was raised in a non-traditional family. I didn't expect other families to think mine was "normal". In fact, our different-ness was cool to me. Unique. It gave us family identity & brought us all a whole lot closer together! In a way, if everyone else had been living the same way as us, it would have just made "us," well, typical. Boring.

I think this coloring book is nice -- someone actually did a pretty good job with the drawings. Did it fit my wedding? Parts of it, yes; parts of it, no. If the kiddos at my wedding had colored on these pages, I would have invited questions like, "Why didn't you have a [fill-in-the-blank]?!" And this would have been the *perfect* opportunity to explain what I believe and why I do what I do.

I don't think the coloring sheets were made to offend. No offense taken.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with Anon. I feel this blog can be a bit judgy and negative about wedding ideals that are different than your own.

Mary Cyrus said...

Ha. "A real wedding is...", indeed. While I was telling my grandmother the details of our wedding, including wedding pie, mismatched bridesmaid dresses, male bride's attendants, and a hamburger buffet (as well as many more traditional things!!), the comment that my fiance wants to wear a tuxedo drew the comment from her, "Well honey, maybe he wants to have a REAL wedding!"

Ugh. I didn't realize what I was planning was a farce and won't actually result in us being husband and wife. Silly me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the anonymous chicks. Yes, this is a silly marketing tool and doesn't hide that. No, many of us don't have these activities depicted. But the pictures are cute and we always have the option to use just a few.

That and I will do anything to keep kids occupied.

megan said...

To Anon 1 & 2: It's not that we're judgy or closing ourselves off to tradition. Many girls here are having a traditional cerememony with not-so-traditonal elements. Here, we have simply found a place to celebrate what we love, just like those at TheKnot and Brides have found a place to celebrate what they love. There have been many a message board at the aforementioned where brides call each other's ideas "tacky" and "budget." Here, we build up each others' plans and marriage and if that means having a place to vent some of the wedding propoganda BS we see, then so be it.

I agree that this coloring book was cute, even if not PC. It's one of those things that if you don't like it, don't use it, or make one of your own. What mant of us here think, is that it is a bummer they didn't use this opportunity to show children other cultures or types of weddings.

Eilen said...

Amen, Megan! And while I'm at it, I don't think there's anything "judgy" about this blog. That's what I love about it. I'm tired of hearing that there's only one way to have a wedding (according to the coloring pages at elitedresses.com there are technically two--Chinese and American). The beauty of this blog is that it never makes that claim, and it calls people out on their BS when they do.

Becca said...

To add to what Megan and Eilen said, many of us don't object to coloring books (in fact, it's a GREAT idea to have a kids table at a wedding with coloring books, crayons, play doh, etc.) Nor are we objecting to any particular aspects of popular weddings.

HOWEVER, I'm objecting to the assumption in this book that "the American Wedding" is Christian - see the Church in the first coloring book page. I also object to the captions and assumptions that go along with these wedding images, not with the all the images themselves. For example, the Rehearsal dinner description is absurd. None of my grandparents had a rehearsal dinner or a sit down or a buffet dinner, but I would argue they had pretty traditional weddings. Intimate celebrations were hosted in the temple Social Hall and included punch and cake supplied by friends and family, which is actually FAR more traditional than sit-down catered affairs.

If you're doing a bouquets toss, that's great, and this post was not attacking it (or your Church, or your white dress, or your use of cute coloring book images). this post and comments were only pointing out that these images should NOT be the assumed norm and should be active choices to include in your wedding. Children learn their perceived norms via exposure to expectations like this coloring book that all American weddings follow the same format.

And to the Anonymous commenter who said this book would be a learning opportunity... perhaps with children in your home in a supervised situation. At a wedding, you'll be more likely to have five minutes per friend to catch up in a whirlwind of congratulations (unless it's a smaller or multi-day affair). I don't think this book was written to give intentional offense - I think it was written because someone genuinely believes in the white-dress-big-catered-party thoughtlessness that can take the place of thoughtful wedding/marriage planning.

Pichchenda Bao said...

one of my friend's daughters' favorite game is to play wedding, where one of them walks down an "aisle" with a bouquet of some sort, and then throws it to her sister. they take turns. it's so funny. anyway kids are totally fascinated with adult activities. weddings are cultural rituals that everyone recognizes and has been a part of in one way or another. sure, every wedding is different, but not really because at the end of the day, there are two people who just got married. we can rail against the WIC, but does it really matter? if the most important thing about a wedding is the marriage, then who cares if the wedding was planned on the knot or planned on a pad of organic, locally-produced paper? just my two cents.

Unknown said...

I just my Hispanic husband and I wouldn't be a traditional married couple.

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