The Magazine

With This Bling...

The wedding business and the business of weddings.

Nov 19, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 10 • By RACHEL DICARLO
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According to Mead's interviews with recent brides, the point is up for grabs. Weddings can be a celebration of family, of self, of religion, or just an excuse for a huge party. But each bride discovers that the wedding industry's survival depends on serving up endless expectations. The new wedding culture encourages brides to embrace the most romantic ideals of marriage, but then insists that so much more is needed to start a life together.

"We think we are better than that, but then we get caught up," one bride told Mead. "I feel so betrayed by the wedding industry. They are feeding me, and I am sucked into it, but I love it."

Meanwhile, Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, childhood friends from Greenville, Mississippi, strike a decidedly different tone in Somebody Is Going to Die If Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch That Bouquet, a portrait of southern wedding etiquette that follows their account of southern funerals, Being Dead Is No Excuse (2005).

One of the most important pieces of advice they give to anyone attending a southern wedding is to never-- nevah!--congratulate a southern bride. "To do so is an insult to southern womanhood," the authors write. "It hints that the bride has caught, rather than been caught. ... Congratulating the bride is the height of rudeness, and rude is the worst epithet there is in the Delta." The polite acknowledgment is to express to the bride and groom best wishes for their happiness.

Mothers are heavily involved in every step of the wedding planning process (including choosing the husband) but Metcalfe and Hays encourage mothers to smother their disdain if they don't approve. One mother told everyone in Greenville that her daughter's boyfriend didn't have the breeding of the family hunting dog. When her daughter accepted a proposal from him soon afterwards, she drove the length and breadth of town explaining that her future son-in-law descended from a Confederate general.

Meanwhile, the groom should remember that his role is to stay out of the way and pay the minister. His family is there to bankroll the rehearsal dinner and look nice--but otherwise be unobtrusive. His mother may enjoy some of the spotlight, but she should remember the bride and her mother are the real stars.

As always in the South, food is of the utmost importance. Metcalfe and Hays include Top Ten lists of food to serve at the Delta wedding reception (cheese straws, open bar, mints) and food to avoid (Cold Duck champagne, wings, and anything on a Saltine or Ritz cracker). Before a wedding the bride should at least pretend she knows how to cook, so the authors sprinkle recipes for southern staples like tomato aspic and shrimp remoulade throughout.

Unique as they are, Delta weddings have not been immune to recent national trends. "While weddings in the Delta have always been major social events, in recent years they've taken along the patina of a pageant," Metcalfe and Hays write. "Why have weddings turned into such extravaganzas? Because they are no longer life-changing events.... With the lovebirds already chirping at the same address, it is the [wedding] itself that must create that drama of the special, but not quite sooo special day, as it once was."

Rachel DiCarlo is managing editor at Hudson Institute.