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What Women Want (To Do): Wedding Planning and the ‘Postindustrial’ Economy

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Abstract:

Since the economic crises of the 1970s, women workers have been the victims of layoffs, factory shutdowns, and deindustrialization. At the same time, they have also been targeted to join a new workforce – but not simply as part of the rank-and-file of the growing service economy. Women have been told they can work “as their own bosses” doing the things they already love: selling makeup, hosting retail “parties” for jewelry and clothing, infiltrating their favorites stores and restaurants as “secret shoppers,” and – more recently – planning weddings. Women have invested much money in these careers and, while some have a measure of success, many find that these jobs are not entirely what they bargained for.
The “wedding industry” reveals much about the current social and economic climate in the United States. While the number of marriages has been declining in recent years, the amount of money spent on each wedding is on the rise. In 1945 American couples spent an average of around $2,240 on their weddings; this figure grew tenfold by 2010, averaging $25,000 per wedding, allowing this wide-ranging industry to bring in over $80 billion per year. The wedding industry includes everything that goes into planning and executing a wedding, including the material trappings such as rings, dresses, flowers, cakes, to the services including planning, catering, DJs, and travel. Wedding planners are hired to orchestrate these often complicated and expensive events, and are generally paid a percentage of the total cost of the wedding. So despite the fact that weddings are fewer, the potential for profit as a successful wedding planner remains a draw.
The ideologies and practices around marriage and weddings have become more diverse in recent decades, including higher divorce rates, gay and lesbian weddings, second marriages, destination weddings, and DIY “alternative” weddings. The wedding market has similarly diversified to satisfy consumer demand. Several authors have investigated current trends in the “wedding-industrial complex,” as some observers have called it, and what weddings tell us about gender, religion, sexuality, race, class, and consumer culture. This project explores the rise of wedding planning as part of a new feminized labor sector that attempted to expand, professionalize, and profit off of its ranks. This is part of a broader effort of women workers to find employment outside of standard channels and maintain a degree of autonomy while still doing something “enjoyable.” These new forms of “home work,” particularly wedding planning, provided income for women at the margins of employment, but at a cost: getting women into these jobs was itself a burgeoning industry. Companies such as The Wedding Planning Institute, which was started in the 1990s, was the first to provide certification in wedding planning. An exploration of the rise of wedding planning as part of both the broader wedding industry and the deindustrializing economy illuminates changing ideologies and practices of gendered work, consumerism, and weddings in American culture.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509504_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Hudgens, Molly. "What Women Want (To Do): Wedding Planning and the ‘Postindustrial’ Economy" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509504_index.html>

APA Citation:

Hudgens, M. "What Women Want (To Do): Wedding Planning and the ‘Postindustrial’ Economy" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509504_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: Since the economic crises of the 1970s, women workers have been the victims of layoffs, factory shutdowns, and deindustrialization. At the same time, they have also been targeted to join a new workforce – but not simply as part of the rank-and-file of the growing service economy. Women have been told they can work “as their own bosses” doing the things they already love: selling makeup, hosting retail “parties” for jewelry and clothing, infiltrating their favorites stores and restaurants as “secret shoppers,” and – more recently – planning weddings. Women have invested much money in these careers and, while some have a measure of success, many find that these jobs are not entirely what they bargained for.
The “wedding industry” reveals much about the current social and economic climate in the United States. While the number of marriages has been declining in recent years, the amount of money spent on each wedding is on the rise. In 1945 American couples spent an average of around $2,240 on their weddings; this figure grew tenfold by 2010, averaging $25,000 per wedding, allowing this wide-ranging industry to bring in over $80 billion per year. The wedding industry includes everything that goes into planning and executing a wedding, including the material trappings such as rings, dresses, flowers, cakes, to the services including planning, catering, DJs, and travel. Wedding planners are hired to orchestrate these often complicated and expensive events, and are generally paid a percentage of the total cost of the wedding. So despite the fact that weddings are fewer, the potential for profit as a successful wedding planner remains a draw.
The ideologies and practices around marriage and weddings have become more diverse in recent decades, including higher divorce rates, gay and lesbian weddings, second marriages, destination weddings, and DIY “alternative” weddings. The wedding market has similarly diversified to satisfy consumer demand. Several authors have investigated current trends in the “wedding-industrial complex,” as some observers have called it, and what weddings tell us about gender, religion, sexuality, race, class, and consumer culture. This project explores the rise of wedding planning as part of a new feminized labor sector that attempted to expand, professionalize, and profit off of its ranks. This is part of a broader effort of women workers to find employment outside of standard channels and maintain a degree of autonomy while still doing something “enjoyable.” These new forms of “home work,” particularly wedding planning, provided income for women at the margins of employment, but at a cost: getting women into these jobs was itself a burgeoning industry. Companies such as The Wedding Planning Institute, which was started in the 1990s, was the first to provide certification in wedding planning. An exploration of the rise of wedding planning as part of both the broader wedding industry and the deindustrializing economy illuminates changing ideologies and practices of gendered work, consumerism, and weddings in American culture.


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