Sunday, September 21, 2008

Deep in the Heart of Excess

In 1974, Marcia Seligson published a treatise on nuptials entitled The Eternal Bliss Machine: The American Way of Wedding. Appropriately, the chapter on a Dallas wedding was called "Deep in the Heart of Excess." The conspicuous consumption, gluttony, frenzied attention to the minutest of detail was surreal.

In my weddings-to-remember history, one reception that stands out was the wedding of two co-workers, just acquaintances, at a rather run-down swim-and-tennis club in Las Vegas. Everyone from the company piled into vehicles for the 7-hour drive from southeast Arizona to Las Vegas for the festivities. Although the annual cost of the day-to-day wardrobe and grooming supplies of the high-maintenance bride seemed to rival the GDP of a small country, the wedding was decidedly casual.

The invitations advised packing swimsuits and athletic clothing. This was a departure! The low-key ceremony took place poolside, with the couple standing at the large 6' mark painted on pool tiles. Minutes after the big kiss, the groom announced, "Let's play," and play we did.

We rushed into the locker room, changed into athletic clothing and hit the tennis courts, volleyball sand, and basketball courts. Some people swam, others danced. There must have been a buffet-type dinner, but it's lost to memory. What I do remember was FUN! Lots of hard-hit balls from the baseline in tennis, kids running around, a lively beach volleyball game, the de rigeur event of a boss (and probably the groom, as well) being thrown into the pool, classic rock music. How fun was that! Now that was a wedding to remember!

A dear friend is now planning a small, intimate wedding for Spring at the Antique Rose Emporium. Today we visited a bridal fair in College Station, Texas. The preponderance of options for the bride-to-be was overwhelming. A myriad of photographers (and videographers), florists, bridal dress shops (with the requisite ugly bridesmaids dresses), bakers, caterers, wedding invitation printers, event planners of all stripes and sentiments, estheticians, a harpist, chocolatiers, and even a clinical psychologist promoting a new State of Texas-approved prenuptial counseling option...and venues-venues-venues! I am amazed these twin cities of just over 120,000 population can support this many gazebos, pavilions, chapels, tents, halls, rooms, country clubs, and B&Bs.

Even my friend and bride-to-be, taking her cues from a book about planning a small wedding, seemed entranced. A chemist, even her logical scientific sensibilities seem overwhelmed by the blitz of options for even a small wedding.

Of course, who isn't impressed by the pageantry of an elaborate wedding? But I think back to that long-ago play day, in its ease and fun, and wonder when the pendulum might shift back to a simpler time and the extinction of the bridezilla. Maybe tough economic times will bring the simpler affair back into vogue.

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