Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bridal Propaganda Blues

"That was a stupid commercial," I said rather emphatically, and rather out of nowhere, while watching TV at my sister-in-law's house the other day.

I sank back in my seat after voicing my inappropriately loud and absolutely unsolicited opinion, a little embarrassed at my apparent zeal and lack of discretion.

It certainly wasn't the first time I'd thought a commercial was stupid--nor was it the the first time I'd shared such thoughts with the group. So why did I feel so awkward?

Well, this time the object of my dissatisfaction was a seemingly enchanting David's Bridal commercial, full of soft, lovely images of brides and dresses and promises of bliss.

It should have made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. But it didn't.

The commercial, called "The Invisible Man," is narrated by a fictional groom whose monologue states, "I'm not the focus of anyone's attention. I'm not the reason people cry or get all emotional. I'm the invisible man--a mere cog in the wheel of this carefully choreographed extravaganza. Because, let's face it, the wedding is all about the bride. And for the bride, it's all about the dress."

Now, I am not trying to start anything here. I know this is a harmless bridal-gown commercial, and the company would be silly if they did not convey concepts that translate to dollars in their bottom line--besides, they're just stating conventional wisdom.

It's not an evil commercial. The selflessness and devoted deference the groom shows to the bride are almost somewhat touching.

What I can't stand, however, is the "it's all about the bride" propaganda that defines heterosexual weddings in our culture--and even worse, what this kind of message does to a marriage once the vows are exchanged and the dress is all boxed up.

I graduated from college in 2006. Since then I have been to fabulous weddings that fizzled into divorce faster than I could down a second glass of champagne; I've watched Facebook friends' names change once, twice, sometimes three times; and I can't help but wonder: Does our wedding culture set us up for this?

Couples are bombarded with nuptial nonsense granting the bride a heightened sense of entitlement and self-importance, meanwhile, basically telling the groom that his time and efforts are best spent elsewhere--he's just a cog in the wheel, after all.

And if the couples accept these roles for the duration of their engagement, can they be expected to simply abandon them once he carries her across the threshold?

The marriage certificate doesn't come with an "activate unity and partnership" button. If those things aren't cultivated before you say "I do," they are unlikely to materialize just because your union is official.

I am a wife. Once upon a time, I was a bride. And even though my bridal party wore blue jeans and my dress didn't cover my knees, I know how it feels to be a bride. You want to feel more beautiful than you've ever felt before. You want the night to be magic.

Well I did, and it was.

But it wasn't because the world revolved around me for one special night or every night thereafter. It was because that night I made a commitment, in front of everyone I knew who could hold me accountable, to honor and love a man who was more than just a cog in the wheel, a man whose smile makes me feel beautiful and whose presence makes every night magic.

I'm in favor of every bride and groom having the wedding of their combined dreams. But as a culture, let's try to put a magical marriage above one magical night.

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