As Long as We Both Shall LoveThe White Wedding in Postwar America

As Long as We Both Shall LoveThe White Wedding in Postwar America

Karen M. Dunak

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780814737811

Publisher: NYU Press

Abstract

When Kate Middleton married Prince William in 2011, watched by hundreds of millions of viewers, the wedding followed a familiar formula: ritual, vows, reception, and a white gown for the bride. Commonly known as a white wedding, the formula is firmly ensconced in popular culture, with movies like Father of the Bride or Bride Wars, shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Bridezillas, and live broadcast royal or reality-TV weddings garnering millions of viewers each year. Despite being condemned by some critics as “cookie-cutter” or conformist, the wedding has in fact progressively allowed for social, cultural, and political challenges to understandings of sex, gender, marriage, and citizenship, thereby providing an ideal site for historical inquiry. This book establishes that the evolution of the American white wedding emerges from our nation's proclivity towards privacy and the individual, as well as the increasingly egalitarian relationships between men and women in the decades following World War II. Blending cultural analysis of film, fiction, advertising, and prescriptive literature with personal views expressed in letters, diaries, essays, and oral histories, the book engages ways in which the modern wedding emblemizes a diverse and consumerist culture and aims to reveal an ongoing debate about the power of peer culture, media, and the marketplace in America. Rather than celebrating wedding traditions as they “used to be” and critiquing contemporary celebrations for their lavish leanings, the book provides a history of the American wedding and its celebrants.