Perhaps there is no better evidence that the industrial bridal complex thinks women are stupid than the bridal expos they roll through towns like cheap white satin bunting-bedecked Barnum & Bailey circus caravans. When a postcard arrived recently in the mail touting “The Great Bridal Expo” at the Renaissance Hotel, I reflexively turned to Frisbee it into the trash when I noticed that it had a code on it for two free passes. “Oh,” I thought, “well then of course I’ll go make fun of it.” A quick text message indicated that yes, of course she wanted to come make fun of it with me. Ever the Prompt Petunia, she was already halfway through a Starbucks non-fat latte by the time I arrived in the hotel lobby. Her eyes were the size of silver-dollar pancakes, so giddy she was to find herself in the middle of a flashmob of pink cotton candy bridal show insanity—cannon fodder for a cynical style writer’s soul. Steeling ourselves, we made our way toward the pulsing music of the ballroom.
Inside was a nightmare of Boschian proportions. Most of the room was devoted to a fashion show featuring gowns from a retailer to the bridal masses. Models bearing plastic bouquets and plastic grins to match strutted down the aisle, showing off gowns (many in solid colors not found in nature) that one could detect from even 30 yards away were highly flammable. Escorts in tuxes with matching accent colors joined them, twirling their “brides” in the cheesiest of choreography that included setting their chins onto their fists and checking invisible watches.
Horrified, we headed to the vendor tables and began nodding politely at salespeople hawking freeze-dried bridal bouquet services, cheap cookware, wedding photography that styled the bride and groom as princesses and princes, lingerie that made Frederick’s of Hollywood look like Coup de Foudre, and reception halls that appeared to have last been renovated just prior to the Steinberger Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo bar mitzvah. The lone vendor proffering food samples handed us petit four-sized bites of cake with the flavor and consistency of buttered chalk dust.
All this is not to say that I viewed with condescension those coming to the event with the intent of actually make some wedding arrangements. Rather I was left with overwhelming derision for the industry that seems to feel no inclination to provide quality, stylish goods for brides of moderate means. As I moved through the booths I silently thanked my lucky stars that my parents gave me a budget that will allow me to throw a tasteful wedding. Because while money by no means guarantees taste, it is increasingly evident to me that without money, one would be hard-pressed to make tasteful arrangements if they were turning to the mass-market bridal industry. There is no effort to follow in the footsteps of a retailer such as Target, which now devotes itself to offering quality fashion at lower price points.
Having had enough, we left the expo as an MC began another round of carnival barking into her microphone, speaking to the assembled women as if they were addled teenagers whom she couldn’t wait to pry free from their allowance money. They were not though. They were women who wanted to have elegant and enjoyable ceremonies and receptions, and dress in a way that makes them feel they are at the top of their game. Here’s hoping at some point the industry will start listening to them instead of shouting at them with cheap come-ons.