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Married in Hell:


OK, that's not the point, but that's what it looked like when the article first pointed out the interior.

A different thought, though possibly an idiosyncratic one: The bride's wedding dress strikes me as a delightful alternative to the usual wedding dress -- it presents the image of a confident, adult woman, not a young girl or a historical copy of the young girl. I understand such dresses are more common these days in second (and later) weddings; but I like them for all weddings, especially those of women who are past their early 20s. Lovely as ordinary wedding dresses may be (and any friend of mine who's getting married always looks lovely), I like nonspecialty dresses much better.

CEB:
Ditto on the groom's suit. I've never understood why men would want to spend one of the most significant days of their lives dressed in a rented costume that some kid wore to the prom the week before.
2.5.2008 6:17pm
J.Prufrock:
>>I like nonspecialty dresses much better.

So? Good for you.
2.5.2008 6:22pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Well, some people actually own tuxes. Mine is the most comfortable suit that I own. I don't see the point of renting, but there are lots of times where a tux can come in handy.
2.5.2008 6:28pm
Tax Lawyer:
No accounting for taste, I supppose. While I concur in your general observation about non-specialty dresses, I still think the dress should be special. The dress in this photo, while not unattractive, looks very ordinary to me.
2.5.2008 6:29pm
alias:
So? Good for you. Thanks, Prufrock. One could respond that way to every blog post one reads. If you don't like it, you're free to ignore it.
2.5.2008 6:45pm
Loophole1998 (mail):
Makeup is also overrated. Why paint your face up like a clown?
2.5.2008 6:46pm
alias:
2.5.2008 6:47pm
Laura (mail):
I like them [nonspecialty dresses] for all weddings, especially those of women who are past their early 20s.

Wow. For a second marriage I can definitely see wearing something different, but speaking as a woman who got married for the first (and only) time at 32, the only reply I can manage here is "F____ you."

My wedding photos look like I just got married, not like I just attended a cocktail party or a Bar Association dinner. The idea that the long white dress seems less appropriate for me simply because I wasn't twenty years old when I met the right man....

Dude, I didn't wear knee-socks or a school uniform or pig-tails; I wore a sleeveless, beautiful, long white gown. What about that fails to "present the image of a confident, adult woman" and instead makes me look like "a young girl or a historical copy of the young girl"?

Grrrrrrr.
2.5.2008 7:04pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
Prof. Volokh please ignore Prufrock and feel free to wear whatever dress you like, specialty or not.
2.5.2008 7:10pm
andy (mail) (www):
I loved the title of this post.
2.5.2008 7:15pm
theobromophile (www):
While I concur in your general observation about non-specialty dresses, I still think the dress should be special. The dress in this photo, while not unattractive, looks very ordinary to me.

Unfortunately, "special" often equates to "really fricking expensive" and "something you can never wear again, so you'll beg your daughter to wear it, 25 years of out fashion."

Non-wedding dresses are probably more comfortable, too. All the better for dancing. No trains to fuss with.
2.5.2008 7:24pm
JeanE (mail):
While the dress in the picture may be the dress the bride wore for the wedding, it is quite common for couples to change from their wedding clothes into dress clothes (like those in the picture) when they are ready to leave the reception. Since the crowd is obviously gathered to send off the newlyweds, I think that is the case here.
2.5.2008 7:25pm
Freddy Hill:
Whatever. It is a great picture, with excellent composition. I particularly like the bride looking up at the bubbles. Full of implied movement, but crisp. And it was taken at night with available light! I need to get me one of them Nikon D3s (and a second mortgage)
2.5.2008 7:27pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Lovely as ordinary wedding dresses may be (and any friend of mine who's getting married always looks lovely), I like nonspecialty dresses much better.

Perhaps in weddings in Hell, the bride is doomed to care what some man (whether her fiance or any of her male friends or relatives) thinks of her wedding dress. Here on earth, though...
2.5.2008 7:56pm
TerrencePhilip:
Laura, you need to lighten up!

As for the picture: my first thought was, 'the bride's really hot.' After which I thought she looked like Kirsten Dunst.

Finally: if you look like her, you can wear almost anything and look great. Nice wedding pic!
2.5.2008 8:13pm
taney71:
Doesn't look like a wedding picture to me but to each their own.

I would guess in a few years that no one looking at photos of the lovely couple at their wedding reception will be able to tell its anything but a nice company dinner or any other event.

That is a reason why dressing up a bit more than just a plain dress and a suit is probably the way to go.
2.5.2008 8:54pm
Grisha (mail):
I'm with Laura. Even if one doesn't subscribe to Western- Christian meanings to wedding attire, one should try to present a better appearance than, say, a night at the theatre. It's supposed to be a once in a lifetime event (no matter how many times it's actually done)...dress like it.
2.5.2008 9:02pm
tvk:
Eugene, the only thing I can ask: what did your wife wear at your wedding?
2.5.2008 9:19pm
Houston Lawyer:
I'm with Laura

A wedding photo should be recognizable as such. While I'm a huge critic of the wedding industry, I think a bride should look like a bride.

That looks like an alter back through the door, so I don't think that this was in a bar.
2.5.2008 9:30pm
Visitor Again:
My mother got married in a nice albeit ordinary dress at age 21 in wartime England. White extravaganzas were either unavailable or considered unfitting given the war, but she looked lovely nevertheless. That she was very beautiful helped. Even when I was a teenager my schoolmates were still telling me how beautiful my mother was. She turns 86 this weekend. What a memorable life she has led; well done to my Mum.
2.5.2008 9:34pm
Visitor Again:
Correction: she was 20 when she married, not 21.
2.5.2008 9:41pm
Waldensian (mail):

Wow. For a second marriage I can definitely see wearing something different, but speaking as a woman who got married for the first (and only) time at 32, the only reply I can manage here is "F____ you."

Wow is right. It's incredible how demanding, obsessed, and self-righteous many women are when it comes to the trappings of weddings. And it's only going to get worse, what with the current craze of catering to young girls' princess fantasies.
2.5.2008 9:55pm
Randy R. (mail):
You're 32 and you are so sure you will never get married again? More power to you, but just so you know, life has a way of dealing unexpected surprises, and some of them are not fun.

A woman should wear whatever she likes, but I agree -- some of these contraptions are bizarre.
2.5.2008 10:30pm
I keep forgetting my login name (mail):
> > > the only reply I can manage here is "F____ you."

That seems a tad unnecessary, considering all he did was voice his preference for a more casual, stylish dress - also known as his opinion Clearly, it's different than yours, but that doesn't amount to a personal attack against you, as you seem to have interpreted it.
2.5.2008 10:50pm
some dude:
The picture was taken at twilight, which makes it a little strange. It is no longer a picture of what it was really like to be there.
2.5.2008 10:55pm
Gertrude:
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
2.5.2008 10:57pm
The Cabbage (mail):
If nothing else, the tradition wedding dress directs the sleazier groomsmen as to which woman they should not hit on that evening.
2.5.2008 11:03pm
theobromophile (www):
I would guess in a few years that no one looking at photos of the lovely couple at their wedding reception will be able to tell its anything but a nice company dinner or any other event.

That is a reason why dressing up a bit more than just a plain dress and a suit is probably the way to go.

Not to go all radical feminist... but if the only way to distinguish a wedding from another formal event (theatre, ball) is by the bride's attire, isn't that a bit problematic? "It doesn't look like a wedding unless the bride, and only the bride, is in this expensive weird dress"?

IIRC, white became the colour of choice for wedding dresses back in the Victorian era, so that wealthy persons could show off their affluence by purchasing an impractical dress that could only be worn once. Now, it's mandatory to purchase an impractical dress that can only be worn once. Let's not forget the creepy implication that brides who wear non-white wedding dresses are advertising their past. (Miss Manners, IIRC, said that it is downright tacky to imply that an article of clothing advertises the history of the body within it, but, nevertheless, the tradition remains. I'm all for anything that will put an end to it.)
2.6.2008 1:10am
Laura (mail):
... speaking as a woman who got married for the first (and only) time at 32

You're 32 and you are so sure you will never get married again?

Heh. No, I'm not 32 now; I was 32 when I got married.

And anyway, my unhappiness at Eugene's post was more his idea that 1)a "traditional" white wedding gown is somehow more appropriate for a woman in her "early twenties" and 2) therefore a bride who happens to be in her thirties and wears the wedding gown is trying to look like a "young girl," not a "confident, adult woman."

It's kinda insulting, this notion that only the freshest young things look appropriate in the wedding gown, and once a woman gets out of her early twenties— well, who is she tring to fool?

For a first marriage, the white wedding gown looks beautiful and special and not immature and, most importantly, unique to the occasion. Given what a huge occasion a wedding is, I believe it's entirely appropriate for a "confident, adult woman" to wear, even if she is *gasp* so old she's already finished undergrad.
2.6.2008 2:22am
TruePath (mail) (www):
I'm about to get married and my fiance is in her early 20s and we have no intention whatsoever of having a traditional white wedding dress. Not only does the whole symbolism of chastity bother us I also find most white wedding dresses unappealing. Usually the desire to be even more fancy mucks up the asthetics and white dresses aren't that striking anyway.

On the other hand I prefer almost any dress to the one pictured here. I really don't understand why people like these things but to each his own.
2.6.2008 5:00am
Tracy W (mail):
Not only does the whole symbolism of chastity bother us


White wedding dresses can easily be read as not expressing inexperience of sex, but expressing inexperience of marriage. If a woman thinks there is nothing more to marriage than having sex, she is certainly inexperienced enough to wear white. :)

That said, your fiancee is certainly welcome to wear whatever you like. My mum got married in purple. Very definitely purple, not lavender, and my parents' marriage seems to be perfectly happy. I just have a bee in my bonnet about misinterpretation of brides wearing white.
2.6.2008 7:03am
A.C.:
I have a bee in my bonnet about spending $4,000 for ANY dress, even one that will be worn many times. I've been saddled with nearly $1,000 just to be a bridesmaid. The brides always say they pick dresses that we can use again, but of course they always miss that mark by miles.

Please folks, normal clothes! Dressy ones, of course, and they can be white and long if people want -- but in the same cut and price range that a person would choose for any other black tie outfit. Women over 30 just look better in styles (whatever the color) suitable for very formal GROWNUP occasions. There are sleeves and necklines that look great at age 18 and ridiculous at 42.
2.6.2008 9:03am
Tom952 (mail):
Why is the guy smiling?
2.6.2008 9:12am
Bama 1L:
Why is he carrying his mail?
2.6.2008 9:52am
JBL:
Dress? What about the cake? Don't wedding cakes have an obligation to be extra fancy too? I'm curious what the fancy cake looked like. Unless it's that altar-looking thing in the back of the room. Now that would be something special.
2.6.2008 10:07am
Hoosier:
Even if one wants to be practical, why BROWN?

In addition, the tabernacle at the back of the photo looks rather RC. Which would mean that the wedding was taken to be a sacramental event. Which, in turn, implies that a plunge-neck dress with bare shoulders would have been totally inappropriate.

A few stores where my wife and I shopped tried to interest her in strapless gowns and so forth. She looked INCREDIBLE in them. But we went with an RC Church wedding. So even though we went small and rather informal, there were things that just aren't done. And showing that much skin at Mass is one of those things.

I've been to a few Jewish weddings, and the bride has never been attired in a slinky cocktail dress.

So who's got the wedding-cleavage-thing going on? Is it those Frozen Chosen?
2.6.2008 10:11am
A.C.:
I checked out the blog, and it turns out to be a Unitarian church. Also, the reception was not that day, so perhaps the couple will turn out in full historic costume for that event.

The usual solution I've seen for Catholic churches is a little bolero jacket over a bare-shoulder dress. This can be removed for pictures and the reception (or to perform surgery, if the bride needs to do so in her wedding dress).
2.6.2008 10:48am
Elliot Reed (mail):
Why does it matter how old the woman getting married is? Were child brides very common in Soviet Russia or something, so that Eugene associates the "traditional" white wedding dress with being a "young girl"? Never having been to the wedding of a woman younger than her early 20's, and lots older than that, the white wedding dress seems like a thing for an adult woman, not a young girl.
2.6.2008 11:34am
Hoosier:
Elliot--I don't think Eugene is using Russian child-brides as his frame of reference. If I recall correctly, Emily Post used to make a point about this: Ladies past a certain age would do best to be married in off-white, candle-light, or something along those lines.

I must admit, this was an edition from the 1950s, and I, alas, don't have it anymore. But I think there's long been a tendency for women marrying for the first time past, say, mid-thirties to select what I'd call second wedding attire. There's no reason why they would *have* to do so to be decourous. And a friend of mine wore a white gown at age 41 a couple years ago. But if the question is "What have people done in the recent past?", then I think Eugene is in the mainstream.
2.6.2008 11:45am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Even if one wants to be practical, why BROWN?
Brown was the preferred color for wedding dresses in America (and I think some parts of Europe) into the middle of the 19th century. I was quite startled by a clothing museum I was in that explained that all these wedding dresses were brown not because of age, but because white is recent.
2.6.2008 12:04pm
dearieme:
A "tux" is evening dress - quite wrong for a wedding. If he wants to dress up, the man should wear morning dress including a topper. If you're going to swagger, do it properly.
2.6.2008 12:58pm
MXE (mail):
I actually don't think the notion of white wedding dresses symbolizing chastity or purity is very old. Not even as old as the tradition of wearing white wedding dresses, which (as pointed out elsewhere in the thread) goes back less than 200 years.

But I have no idea why wearing a traditional white dress would make someone look younger or less confident.
2.6.2008 1:02pm
LizardBreath (mail):
As I understand the history, until about a century ago in the US (UK may be similar, I don't know anything about the rest of the world), the traditional wedding dress was a new party dress; the sort of thing you'd wear in your ordinary social life to the sort of parties you ordinarily went to. And then you'd expect to wear it to social events again after the wedding. Also, young girls were expected to wear white or very pale colors for dress-up clothes; bright colors indicated sexual experience and were only allowable for married women. (For an illustration of this, there's a Bette Davis movie, Jezebel, where she wears a red, rather than a white, dress, to a ball in the ante-bellum South, and is shunned for it.)

So an 1890 bride would often be wearing a big puffy white dress, because that was the sort of thing she'd wear for social events regularly. If she were widowed, or enough older that she wouldn't have been socially expected to wear white generally, she'd wear whatever color she liked. Somehow, the tradition froze, and 'big puffy white dress' became the standard, rather than 'new party dress, of the sort you'd normally wear.'

I have to say I'm with the post, in that the current tradition is wasteful and annoying. On the other hand, I buckled to convention to the extent of wearing a white off-the-rack evening gown when I got married. And I can perfectly reasonably wear it again the next time I go to a Nutcracker themed costume ball and need to disguise myself as a snowflake.
2.6.2008 1:15pm
KeithK (mail):

IIRC, white became the colour of choice for wedding dresses back in the Victorian era, so that wealthy persons could show off their affluence by purchasing an impractical dress that could only be worn once.


By the standards of the Victorian era just about everyone in America is pretty darn wealthy (standard of living having increased so dramatically and all). So the fact that women are still choosing white, impractical wedding dresses doesn't seem so strange.
2.6.2008 1:17pm
theobromophile (www):
The brides always say they pick dresses that we can use again, but of course they always miss that mark by miles.

We can wear them again, to other weddings, as bridesmaids, if the other bridesmaids happen to have the same ones. :)

When my mom remarried, she told my sister and I to "pick something you can wear again!" We went to Ann Taylor with our aunt and picked out lovely cocktail dresses. I've worn mine about a half-dozen times since, just not with the shoes that were dyed to match.

If a bride wants her bridesmaids to wear the dresses again, she's going to have to send them to Ann Taylor, Bloomingdale's, or Nordstrom's for the dress, not David's Bridal (or any other bridal store).
2.6.2008 1:25pm
Randy R. (mail):
:"IRC, white became the colour of choice for wedding dresses back in the Victorian era, so that wealthy persons could show off their affluence by purchasing an impractical dress that could only be worn once. "

I recall reading that when Queen Victoria got married (she wasn't yet queen), she wore white, which had never been done before. Since she was so popular, it became the instant fashion, and has remained so ever since.

Ironically, after Albert died, all she wore was black to the day of her death, and so black mourning clothes becamse fashionable to wear after the death of a close on. I'm not sure Victoria started that rage, but she certainly influenced.

But her biggest fashion faux-pas was that silly mini-crown she always wore. Egads!
2.6.2008 3:09pm
lucia (mail) (www):
dearieme-- My husband wore morning dress with topper. I wore a nice white dress with short sleeves that, oddly enough, was marked down as last years style at the bridal shop. (I didn't know this when I picked it. The shop hid all the prices. My mother gloated in the car about how she'd gotten off cheap because I'd picked the least expensive one on the rack. It fit great, no alterations.)
2.6.2008 4:35pm
Hoosier:
I wore a morning coat at our wedding. But under no circumstances will I ever wear a top hat. (I'm not a magician. Or an Abe Lincoln impersonator. So no real call for it.)
2.6.2008 5:05pm
Bride of Eugene:
I was a 34-year-old confident, adult woman on our wedding day and wore a poofy white dress with a big-ass bustle. It was fabulous! Sorry, sweetie, I'm with Laura.
2.6.2008 5:32pm
KeithK (mail):

So an 1890 bride would often be wearing a big puffy white dress, because that was the sort of thing she'd wear for social events regularly. If she were widowed, or enough older that she wouldn't have been socially expected to wear white generally, she'd wear whatever color she liked. Somehow, the tradition froze, and 'big puffy white dress' became the standard, rather than 'new party dress, of the sort you'd normally wear.'


Taking this as true then what probably happened is that the style for "new party dresses" evolved to a state where they were no longer deemed appropriate for a church wedding. At least in the eyes of the clergy and, more importantly, the parents. So the mother suggests/insists on a dress that would have been fashionable when she got married.

Total speculation. But it seems reasonable enough.
2.6.2008 5:37pm
no name today:
Are we to understand that "Bride of Eugene" is Eugene's wife?

LOL! Just too, too funny!
2.6.2008 6:15pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Pretty woman - and leggy too, which makes her picture a blessing to all mankind. But is she really shouting "YEE-HAW?"
2.6.2008 6:39pm
A.C.:
My grandmother got married in an ivory flapper dress (my mother's dress was far more old-fashioned), which shows that the notion of a party dress in the current style is hardly new. Although some party dresses are pretty awful, so it should be a NICE party dress.

And retro flapper style looks cool, now that I think of it. If we're going to mine historical styles for inspiration, may as well consider a broader range. How about Elizabethan or medieval?

But I agree with whoever said no tuxedos in the daytime. Evening dress is for evening. I'd love to see an Elizabethan groom in a codpiece, though.
2.6.2008 7:53pm
JoshL (mail):

A "tux" is evening dress - quite wrong for a wedding. If he wants to dress up, the man should wear morning dress including a topper. If you're going to swagger, do it properly.


Depends on the wedding and on "the man." If "the man" we're talking about is the groom, and we're talking about an evening wedding (say, 6PM or later, presumably with the reception to follow), shouldn't he be wearing eveningwear? Of course, it should probably be white tie, not black tie.
2.6.2008 8:10pm
Randy R. (mail):
White tie is ultra formal, today reserved mostly for violinists and other such musicians. (of which I have my own issues, but that's another post).

White jacket can be cool, but much more informal.

What is silly, though, is putting a guy in a tux who has never worn a suit, let alone a tux, in his life, and probably never will, until the day he is laid out. There is something to be said that a person's actual lifestyle should be reflected in the attire, regardless of what convention or Bride's says.

Bathings suits and bikinis of any sort are unsuitable under all circumstances, even if you are an Olympic swimmer.
2.7.2008 12:36am
A.C.:
What if you get married on the beach?

Actually, the only beach wedding I ever attended had the groom in a linen suit with bare feet and no tie. He ended up in the water in that outfit.

The bride wore a conventional wedding dress, minus the train, and bare feet as well. The main job of the bridesmaids was to keep the ushers from tossing her into the water too.
2.7.2008 2:02am