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A critique of wedding magazines by Elly of the Magic Square Foundation

Summer Adorn with the DIY Brides article is out!

Hello! My name’s Elly and I run the blog The Magic Square Foundation. Franca asked the Feminist Fashion Bloggers group if we’d like to write a wedding-themed post for her blog while she was on her honeymoon, so here’s my crack at wedding magazines.

Wedding magazines have continually been a source of amusement for me. I gave up reading regular fashion magazines a few years ago, not because of any particular feminist concerns but mostly because I couldn’t afford a Vogue subscription and the editorial was getting worse and worse. I’ve never in my life purchased a wedding magazine – mostly as I’m not married nor have ever been engaged – but a former work colleague used to purchase 3 or so on a weekly basis, which we would then pore over, picking out nice shoes, or cute jewellery, or whatever other ridiculous piece of finery they had documented in that edition.

While I understand why wedding magazines exist (hey, capitalism is the greatest infiltrator) what I don’t understand is why brides-to-be purchase them. At all. Here’s the rundown:

If you’re getting married, I’m assuming it’s because you want to spend the rest of your life with this person/demonstrate the sincerity of your relationship to others/have a big celebration of your love/financial security/UK’s Green Card. That’s fine! In fact, it’s wonderful. I love a wedding. So why does a bride (and I say bride because I have never seen a groom read a wedding magazine nor, in fact, do the magazines contain any real information concerning the groom) want to then purchase what is essentially a glorified catalogue? If it’s just for that, then good: a catalogue of interesting ideas or shops to get things from is brilliant for someone who may well be organising the entire thing themselves. And if it’s just for ideas, then also fine. But as a ‘magazine’ i.e. a publication containing editorial and all sorts of other cultural implications, they’re weird.

There’re aspects of wedding magazines that don’t make sense. One we read at work had a little ‘hot or not’ chart in the first few pages. How can you have a fashionability indicator about weddings? On this indicator, ‘drunk relatives’ was a definite ‘not’. What? Drunk relatives and a big sparkly dress are essentially the only indicators that a wedding is indeed a wedding and not a night out down the local stately home. Articles (hastily put together I imagine) such as, ‘How to have a successful marriage’ including the genuine advice: “Don’t argue over chores like dishes. Buy a dishwasher.” Wedding dresses were grouped in themes of what was fashionable right now, and if there’s one thing that exists outside the logic of time and space, it’s weddings. Having a fashionable wedding, to me, is in a similar madness bracket as having a fashionable birth or, indeed, death.

This isn’t to argue that brides should all be given a standard-issue dress with no variation in personality or design, or that the ceremony itself shouldn’t reflect the couple who are getting married: of course it should and to some extent, their choices before the day will naturally steer it in that direction. But to base a day, on which you will be declaring your love and loyalty to another human being in front of (probably) a huge number of people, on a theme concocted by magazine editors with advertising budgets to fill makes no sense.

Other very irritating things about wedding magazines include:

* Complete lack of groom involvement. He’s still human, people! He has opinions on stuff!

* Complete lack of non-heterosexual marriages. In all the months I worked with my colleague, all the wedding magazines I gazed at, in not one of them did I see a non-hetero marriage.

* Low level of marriages between people of colour. Not sure if this was intentional, accidental, or a whole other kettle of fish but again, very few marriages between people of colour, or between a person of colour and a white person.

* Contradictory financial advice and pressure. Although most magazines had lengthy articles on saving money on your wedding day, or ways to budget, the cost of some of the items advertising or used in shoots was phenomenal. Sample weddings from readers were also not described financially and so it appears as if you can have a hugely expensive, magical day for peanuts. And it also appears as though weddings can only take place with a gigantic financial outlay. Wrong.

Maybe this is a bride thing. Like I said, I’ve never been in a position to want (or need) to buy a wedding magazine. In fact, my entire position on marriage is something of a conundrum. Perhaps the purchasing of wedding magazines is an entirely normal wedding process in order to aid the bride(s)/groom(s) make some important decisions. Like which napkins to buy. Or is the wedding magazine phenomenon as completely bizarre to those involved with the marriage process as to those outside it? Is it another mechanism of capitalism to try and aestheticise and commodify an apparently sacred institution for the purposes of financial gain? Or am I doing that thing again and should realise they’re just great catalogues of ideas for those who need a hand?

Note from Franca: I never bought a wedding magazines, and the only one I’ve flicked through at the registry office did not inspire me to investigate further. It did seem like a catalogue, of stuff I didn’t want. Life’s too short and money’s too valuable to spend brain time and hundreds of pounds on cut flowers! And I never wanted a proper wedding dress. So yes, I find them weird too!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Judith Geier 21 September 2011, 8:10 am

    It's the same category as magazines about living at home, your furniture for example – sure, there are trends, too. But it's not the same with interieur design. You wouldn't buy another table oder cupboard every season because one that differs from your own is trending. Of course, there may be people who'd do so. But most people wouldn't. If you have to buy something new at all, many people would buy something that's modern and trending on this date. But for many people it's also very personal how they live at home. Like in things like marriage or birthdays. Nevertheless it's a great opportunity for the industry to earn money from it, whether that may concern presents, the dinner or other things related to it, so magazines like these exist – some people just have no ideas and like it to look at it, too – not everybody has the self esteem or knowledge about everything, that's why tutorials even for applying mascara on YouTube exist (okay, that's also because some people loves to act the "guru", but that's another story).