Academic journal article Ethnologies

Consuming the Reality TV Wedding

Academic journal article Ethnologies

Consuming the Reality TV Wedding

Article excerpt

Cet article enquete au carrefour des noces, de l'industrie du mariage, de la consommation et de la tele-realite en considerant l'emission de tele-realite Trista and Ryan's Wedding. Cette emission montrait le mariage reel de Trista Rehn et Ryan Sutter, qui s'etaient rencontres lors du tournage de The Bachelorette. L'auteure soutient que l'emphase mise par la tele-realite sur le << reel >>, ses techniques narratives (y compris l'association a des biens de consommation) et le fait que l'industrie du mariage pousse a ce que l'on ait des noces << uniques >> convergent dans cette emission pour mobiliser les visions et les reves que suscite le mariage en blanc traditionnel afin d'attirer les consommateurs vers des biens de consommation specifiques. Elle en conclut que l'etude des noces dans la culture nord-americaine doit prendre en compte non seulement les pratiques et les rituels mis en oeuvre dans ces evenements sociaux et culturels, mais aussi considerer les manieres par lesquelles des formes culturelles populaires comme la tele-realite travaillent a produire des types particuliers d'images.

This article investigates the intersection of weddings, the wedding industry, consumption, and reality TV by considering the reality TV series, Trista and Ryan's Wedding. This show featured the real-life wedding of Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter, who met on the series The Bachelorette. The author argues that reality TV's emphasis on the "real," its narrative techniques (including product assimilation), and the wedding industry's stress on having a "unique" wedding converge on this show to mobilize consumer fantasies and dreams of the traditional white wedding around specific consumer products. She concludes that examinations of weddings in North American culture must take into account not only the practices and rituals involved in these social and cultural events, but also consider the ways in which popular cultural forms such as reality TV work to produce particular kinds of images.


Weddings have become an expanding business in recent years. According to the American weddings statistics site, Association for Wedding Professionals International (, (1) the US wedding market was projected to reach $30 billion in 2005 (cited in Schiering 2005: 18). A recent report entitled "The U.S. Marriage Market" by Packaged Facts (2) reveals that weddings offer a potential gold mine to manufacturers and retailers (2002: 11). Weddings have become big business, a point that Chrys Ingraham clearly evidences in her study of the "wedding-industrial complex" (1999: 26). This complex includes wedding dress manufacturers, popular movies, the travel industry, diamond excavations, even chewing gum manufacturers and a whole host of other industries seemingly unrelated to the ideological associations conjured up by images of weddings. The complex operates to capitalize on the richness and bounty of associating with weddings and wedding imagery.

Weddings make good business sense because they "serve capitalism by helping to create an industry based on women's fantasies of status and security built around marriage, symbolized in the wedding as a consumption practice" (Brown 1994: 57). As rituals, ceremonies, and social practices, weddings hold a special place within North American culture. Indeed, as Kristin Harris Walsh correctly asserts, "the image of the white wedding is one with which we are intimately acquainted," thus weddings provide ample room to manufacture consumer desires (2005: 239).

Those bridal desires and reveries have often been summoned in part through their representations within popular culture. Soap operas, for instance, help to produce wedding fantasies--the weddings of crucial characters not only advance plot lines but also focus viewer attention through their elaborate costumes, sets, and locations. Popular films such as Runaway Bride, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Wedding Crashers, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "chick lit" novels such as Wedding Season, Something Borrowed, wedding magazines, and other mass cultural forms also work to generate bridal desires by displaying the successful wedding as the culmination of women's life experiences. …

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