Opinions
Alastair Starke/the Gauntlet

I do, Inc.

The corporatization of marriage

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The "veil of ignorance" is a phrase that most of us have come to know through the writings of contemporary philosopher John Rawls. Recently, it's become somewhat analogous with the modern wedding, fraught with the trickery of sneaky vendors, more fine print than a constitutional amendment and all of the illusory and bogus pomp you could possible imagine-- to the power of 10. In fact, I suspect that some married couples' commitments scarcely outlast their wedding debts.

Corkage fees, decanting fees, cake-cutting fees, SOCAN (music) fees, bartending and gratuity fees all figure into the huge sum of money that you can expect to see (in some cases, only through a magnifying glass) in your wedding expenses. My own nuptials are scheduled to take place in July and it seems as though everything under the sun, from intricate floral arrangements to weight-loss supplements, have successfully legitimized themselves as wedding must-haves.

A few weeks back, Bridal Fantasy, a wedding exhibition, hit Calgary with more dry ice than a high school dance and more crinoline than a Victorian wardrobe, legitimizing the purchase of every imaginable good and fashioning a successful wedding (and even marriage) as primarily contingent upon material conditions. Although I did not attend Bridal Fantasy, it was reported by a friend of mine (who attended under familial coercion) that the corporate blurring of tradition into trend has driven many women to become bridezillas of the highest order.

I've decided to adopt the term "party" rather than wedding as part of my renegade bride stance against the wedding industry. Although the focus on bridal appearance is a key engine for the propagation of the wedding industry, all vendors are interested in getting in on the money-fest. Some examples of the benefits of having a "party" rather than a "wedding" are manifest in the huge price hike in flowers or clothes for weddings, while their identical "party" counterparts run for much less. We churn out weddings in mass quantities, encouraging each one to be unique while still aggregating a blend of genuine and mock tradition. I can't help but think that the wedding industry, for its emphasis on consumption and commodities, can take a seat right beside other vilified industries such as fast food, wireless technologies and insurance.

The proverbial kicker might just be the fact that the commoditization of marriage begins even prior to planning the wedding itself; it all starts with the (recent) advent of the engagement ring. DeBeers will be the first to tell you that a diamond is forever and in a world where we can scarcely churn out a majority of successful marriages, a diamond can outlast 50 per cent of marital "forevers." In fact, the notion of the dual rings (engagement ring and wedding band) is a modern phenomenon, and as to men's rings, according to sociologist Vicki Howard, "The groom's ring only became 'tradition' in the United States when weddings, marriage and 'masculine domesticity' became synonymous with prosperity, capitalism and national stability." And suddenly, flashing back to the Simpsons episode where Homer proposes to Marge with an onion ring, I am gravitating toward the enjoyment of an onion ring (meaningful symbolism notwithstanding) over the price tag of a wedding ring.

Although discussions of wedding commoditization are largely gender-based, I'm starting to think that the best argument for keeping my own name-- which I likely will-- is that it's free. I'll toast to that-- once I've scanned the contract for toasting fees.

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