24 July 2008

Marriage, Inc.

Author Kit Whitfield (known as Praline in Slacktivist comments; her book is available in paperback) has a post on her blog about the futility of having an affordable, sane wedding in London, though I imagine anyone in the United States faces similar obstacles.

The going rate for a wedding and reception seems to start at about ten thousand pounds. That's the baseline rate. For Pete's sake.

It was when the locations we checked out revealed that they only worked with certain catering companies, and those catering companies starting recommending photographers, and marquee hire companies, and lighting technicians, and string quartets, that I got a full sense of what we were up against. I knew the wedding industry was vast and profitable, but I didn't realise the extent to which companies strike deals with each other. Once you engage with any part of it, you're taking on all of it. Every location has ironclad deals with other companies; you simply can't get married in location X, it seems, without signing up for overpriced canapes.

The wedding business depends on presenting as essentials stuff that you absolutely and truly don't need. I don't know whether any businesses use the word 'essentializing', but that's what seems to be going on. And in locations that actually have a civil license, they're right: they don't let you hire the place without their particular caterers - and caterers charge you for hiring everything, from staff to spoons.

Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon has an interesting post on the dangers posed to egalitarian relationships by the institution of marriage. Her point is that accepting the label of "marriage" can subtly affect people into accepting the other traditional his-and-her gender roles that come along with it. The point is well-taken, but I don't quite agree. I don't believe the institution is so overwhelming that individual couples with understanding comrades can't put their own positive spin on it. I certainly understand the reasons why people would be skeptical, however.