October 11, 2011

{Princess Redux} Part One

[excerpt from upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Diana Exposed the Princess Myth & Other Royal Fables that Kept Women in Their Place]


In my work with thousands of brides since the early 1980’s, I’ve observed many ways a woman experienced feeling ‘special’ as a bride. I considered that when she “felt like a princess” in her pretty ceremonial outfit that it was a sweet, natural and feminine way to express the experience. But the commercialization of weddings during our media-blitz’d, celebrity-obsessed age the last couple of decades has fueled the “being a princess” desire into a brash explosion, making a spectacle of weddings as well as many brides who lose themselves in the fantasy. Women approaching their wedding can get stuck in their heads, not knowing how to center themselves in their hearts (i.e., they are “thinking” more than “feeling.”) The princess tug is so strong for some women they acknowledge that to be able to feel and dress like a princess was the main reason for wanting to have a wedding and get married. (Yikes!)

The Princess Myth
The “fairy princess myth” stirs deep in many women from an early age and it’s easy to see how it can overlap into the dream of being a bride (a shimmering-in-white princess-for-a-day) surrounded by all the trappings the wedding pageantry includes. Is that because, in a frenetic culture hungry for intimacy, the modern wedding ceremony is one of the few times a woman, all dressed up in this costume of a princess, can be the focus of attention where all eyes are on her? We’re a culture needy for approving, admiring attention (or simply to be noticed.)

However, scholar Elizabeth Freeman, in The Wedding Complex, points to a more unattractive and showy side of attention in relation to the twentieth century industrial phenomenon that’s become the “white wedding.” She asks: “Why does the white wedding make the couple, especially the bride, look sacred and untouchable even as it puts them on an often embarrassing regulatory display? Why does it englobe the couple in mystique, and yet also seem to make them run the gauntlet of spectators and pass a series of tests?” When did weddings and marriage become separated? When did ‘being a bride’ sever itself from ‘being a wife’? Does the heart of the “wedding complex” reveal, as Freeman says, a woman’s “longings not for marriage necessarily but for public forms of attachment, ceremony, pageantry, and celebration”? ~

[Photograph of wedding ceremony: David Willems]

[Part Two of “Princess Redux” will be posted in a few days; all are excerpts from the soon-to-be released book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Diana Exposed the Princess Myth & Other Royal Fables that Kept Women in Their Place.]

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