In the first chapter of her book One Perfect Day, Rebecca Mead describes an event called “Wedding March on Madison”, in which Madison Avenue retailers invite brides-to-be to a weekend seminar which Peter K. Hunsinger, the then-president of the Conde Nast Bridal Group, promised would be an opportunity for a bride to “get her MBA in getting married”.
The audience members were certainly eager to learn from the editors of (the bridal magazine) Brides, and were full of questions. How far in advance should a bride start getting facials? As soon as she is engaged, said Denise O’Donoghue, the magazine’s beauty and jewelry director. “Just know that planning a wedding is going to be stressful, so take your fiance for a massage,” Donaghue advised. “You have to involve them in things that are fun for them. The thing to do is to enjoy your engagement period, so you have that glow.” Should a bride register for an engagement party as well as for the wedding? She should register for everything, said Donna Ferrari, the magazine’s tabletop, food and wine director. “Registering for gifts is one of the most indispensable tools in the entire wedding process,” said Ferrari. “It is a convenience and a courtesy to your guests. You can set up an account with a bank for a mortgage; you can register for sports equipment, for luggage, for tablewares. It lets you perpetuate old traditions, and create new ones. Start the registry process months ahead. Twirl those forks; bring swatches; have a clip book. A lot of people are going to say, ‘We don’t need all that stuff.’ You do.”
Aside from the fact that I’m grateful that my fiancee holds exactly none of these attitudes, I cannot help but think that there is very little here worthy of imitation by people who take their Christian spirituality seriously. The admonition of St. Paul, in I Corinthians 11, to avoid gorging oneself at the communion table while other people go hungry, comes to mind.
As for the last line, somewhere in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, a man named Wendell Berry writes novels and poems at a writing desk with a pen and paper, begging to differ with the idea that we need all of that stuff. Beyond the fact that it such over-and-above materialism helps us to commit ecological suicide, what does such love for material objects do to our love of this other person? What does it say that such a momentous self-giving as marriage is the occasion for such blatant, self-gratifying materialism?