The novel qualities of modern marriage

This week’s column is for my dear friends Elizabeth and Jonathan Miller, who made the commitment to spend their lives together on May 26.

A week before her wedding, a friend of mine fell down the stairs and broke a rib. As a result, what for others is a screaming derailed rollercoaster ride into hell, was for her a relatively pleasant final week of preparations.

It is therefore my recommendation that all brides be given prescription painkillers on the week before their wedding. Hell, give them away free, put a basket at the checkouts in Michael’s. The celebration of the institution that many Americans are so determined to keep from gay couples has been taken over by an industry that profits from feeding brides’ neuroses.

These neuroses mutate, divide and conquer, turning relaxed and fun women into roaring Bridezillas who can then be used as fodder for reality television shows. The least that a $161 billion a year industry could do is throw in some free Vicodin for their troubles.

The average commercial wedding sets a young married couple (or their generous parents) back $28,000 and involves 43 professionals. These include consultants who sell dreams and prey upon marriage anxieties, caterers and florists who invoke celebrity weddings like faithful, admired saints, and videographers who could be mistaken for Alzheimer’s specialists in the way they predict a loss of memory without their services.

The average wedding dress costs $1,025 and one in four American brides gets theirs from David’s Bridal. They are sold by sales girls taught to pounce on what is known as the “Oh Mommy” moment; when the bride falls in love with a dress, a 3-pointer set up many years before by Disney movies and Wedding Barbies.

The Bridal-Industrial complex is a great example of the growing commercialization of American culture.

Whereas 20 years ago, wedding planners were only for the rich and famous, today they are ubiquitous enough to warrant a J-Lo movie.

“Traditions” like diamond engagement rings are actually only a few decades old and yet have already become essentials to couples embarking on a new life together.

As religious and familial ties have become less binding, emphasis has shifted to the monetary; before WWII one third of couples did not even have a reception or honeymoon. Couples today are not leaving their home for the first time, nor are they embarking on their first sexual relationship, and so the burden falls upon the table settings and flower arrangements to prove that a significant lifestyle change is taking place.

With all these changes that weddings have seen over the past few years, you would think that they would show more impact from the women’s movement. However, I think the TV show “Friends” has made more of an impression on the average American wedding. “Man and wife” is still a common phrase used to describe the hopefully happy couple, limiting the bride to her role in relation to the man.

And of course there is the anti-gay marriage movement; allowing gay people to marry would not open the road to the apocalypse, it would just open a new market for an industry that depends on people’s desire to fit in and keep up.

At the heart of the wedding industry are the couples who pledge to spend share their lives and health benefits and wish to celebrate that with the people they love, and they deserve a lot more than the hassle that it is to get married these days.