Wedding season is upon us. From the save-the-date card to the band's final Journey cover, has this first "event" of a couple's marriage merely become a detail-oriented presentation of the bride and groom's personalities? Rozann Carter, a self-proclaimed wedding blog addict and huge fan of the cutesy detail, explores the dynamic of the wedding culture as it relates to an age of self-expressionism and to the sacrament of marriage.
There was an article that ran in the New York Times earlier this year entitled “Generation Sell.” In the piece, author William Deresicwicz claims that the unique and enduring characteristic of the millennial generation, distinctive of earlier generations, is a hyper-entrepreneurship, a definition of self that is based on a creative self-salesmanship. He begins by asking the reader to consider “the Millennials’ characteristic social form…: food carts, 20-somethings selling wallets made from recycled plastic bags, boutique pickle companies, techie start-ups, Kickstarter, urban-farming supply stores and bottled water that wants to save the planet. Today’s ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it’s the small business.”
Deresicwicz goes on to relate this social form directly to the cultural personality of our time: “We’re all selling something today, because even if we aren’t literally selling something,…we’re always selling ourselves. We use social media to create a product — to create a brand — and the product is us. We treat ourselves like little businesses, something to be managed and promoted. The self today is an entrepreneurial self, a self that’s packaged to be sold.”
This idea of the "entrepreneurial self" extends into practically every aspect of our lives—our Facebook “likes”, our iTunes playlists, our resume-building service experiences, our Pinterest boards and Instagram shares. It affects where we shop for our clothes and what model of car we choose. Whether we like it or not, we are constantly advertising what it is that “makes me, me"...
Today, Ellyn vonHuben takes a look at the increasingly insatiable "wedding culture" in America, comparing it to the early native American tradition of the "potlatch" and pointing to the deeper reality of the sacrament of marriage.
The potlatch is one of the most well known traditions of the native people of North America. One tribal unit or family would entertain another with food, drink, entertainment and gifts, both practical and frivolous. This hospitality would be reciprocated - but with the intent of topping the largesse of the previous event. Prestige and social standing were dependent upon these increasingly elaborate affairs. By the end of the nineteenth century, the potlatch was outlawed in Canada and the United States as the governments tried to stem the financial waste of potlatch economy and assimilate the native Americans into the Christian culture of the settlers. Potlatch laws were difficult to enforce and by the middle of the twentieth century they had been repealed.
In the 21st century, there has emerged a comparable event. The wedding. Brides dream about it. Others may dread it. We all pay in some way...