I am a fool for love stories and for weddings -- not enough to subscribe to Modern Bride, but enough to buy the People Extra devoted to weddings. ("Inspiring True Love Stories!" "Dogs in the Ceremony!" "Wild Theme Weddings!") I came away from this issue of People about as saddened as I would be by a loud reception filled with people doing the White People's Overbite. The problem is that People devotes so little attention to any spiritual element in people's weddings. A few photos show the bridal party standing in a church, but the locations seem more a case of happenstance than of design. In fairness to People, I will list every passage that has even the faintest spiritual element:
• In a story about Amber Osborne, who was in an auto collision when on the way home from a bridal shower:
"I could have died in that car wreck," she says. "All I did was break an ankle. That wedding day was a gift from God."
• "Last summer [Dr. Steven Neish] the divorced pediatric cardiologist, 49, read [Nina] Freidman's musings on love on her matchmaking site www.yentagirl.com."
• Two and a half years after they met, [Ed] Colaiezzi, a postman, proposed to [Angie] Rullo, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Immaculata University in Pennsvylania,m during a Sunday-afternoon sail in Baltimore Harbor. ... In October 2006 the couple wed at Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge National Historical Park.
• [Sgynman Gibbs] took horseback-riding lessons, rented a chain-mail suit and trotted up to the house he shares with [Steffany] Gonzales. "As I was pulling up, I was just praying I could get off the horse without killing myself."
• About Java, a ring-bearing Jack Russell terrier:
"The rabbi said, 'Can we have the rings?' and my aunt let him out of his carrier to go down the aisle," says Lisa. (Yes, he's wearing a yarmulke.)
• From the one-page closer, "A Celeb Showed Up At My Wedding": "David Letterman bumped into this smitten bride outside St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on April 14." (The Pope must have had a previous engagement.)
• The most detailed moments involving religion are from the story of Keisha Jackson, whose wedding was postponed by flooding in Bound Brook, N.J.:
"The water started to rise two blocks away," says Jackson, 29, who escaped to a nearby Presbyterian church with fiance Jonathan Denman and her two sons. "The kids were scared, but we had to leave straightaway with a bag and nothing else." The next day, as she and Denman, 24, sat in the church lamenting their canceled nuptials, the minister overheard them and said, "I can marry you." Although they'd left their rings in the apartment, Keisha had stashed her marriage license in her purse. They exchanged vows in the church office.
People's strongest feature is a spread on four different weddings that feature 20 or more bridesmaids. The list of relations is a festival of possessives and compound adjectives:
Groom's Brother's Son's Wife Wife of Groom's Grade School Friend Good Friend the Bride Met at a Club Bride's Hair Stylist's Daughter Groom's Great-Niece Groom's First Cousin's Granddaughter
The champion tally of bridesmaids goes to Catherine Carroll, with 38:
The Nov. 7, 2005, nuptials in Columbus, Ohio, wound up featuring 38 attendants -- including nearly every cousin from her huge Irish Catholic family -- too many to fit at the altar. ... "I would've had more bridesmaids, but I didn't think the church could hold any more."
She adds in a callout that "It took one hour to get all the people down the aisle" and that one child was "Related but I don't know how." Those wacky Irish Catholics!
It will come as no surprise that more substantial reading on weddings is to be found this week at The New Yorker's website. Rebecca Mead discusses her new book, One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, which began as a New Yorker feature story in April 2003.
Spiritual matters do not show up much more in these two articles, except that Mead has written a trenchant critique of a wedding industry that helps persuade the average American family to spend up to $28,000 on the event.
Mead offers this helpful insight on why so many weddings (and receptions) have become such elaborate productions:
It used to be that a wedding was a definitive break in your life, and the new traumas of married life were real. Suddenly, you were waking up next to somebody with whom you'd never spent the night before. We don't have that anymore -- marriage is not the beginning of your independent life, it's probably not the beginning of your sexual life, and it's not your entry into adulthood, as it once was. So there's a sense in which what used to be the trauma of newly married life has been transferred to the trauma of planning a wedding, because we need a wedding to feel momentous, and one way to make it feel momentous is to make the planning of it complicated and difficult and an enormous production.
After reading through People Extra, my new heroine is Mary Beth Baptiste, who wrote recently in Newsweek about how she and her husband began their new life together for a total of $150.