Last summer in the English countryside, Kate Moss married some guy from the Kills. She wore a simple, lacy Galliano dress inspired by Jazz Age icon Zelda Fitzgerald; there was no hint of the stuccoed makeup or scalp-tugging, vertical-éclair updo that afflict many brides. Moss’s hair, like that of her young pre-Raphaelite bridesmaids in their ballet flats, was long and flowing.
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Continuing with the low-maintenance theme, Moss and that Kills guy had the reception at her house (okay, a three-day-long reception at her £2-million house).
According to Vogue, archways were draped with roses, while vases of delphiniums and daisies were propped up by antique chaises longues under tents. In other words, every effort at effortlessness was made.
Behold the accidental wedding, where the pretense is unpretentiousness: “You guys want to come over? We’re just hanging out, barefoot in the fields with our caterer and a priest.”
In the fantasy realm where the modern wedding exists, “rustic” is the latest fever dream. According to Google, searches for the phrase “rustic wedding” increased 161 per cent from January of 2008 to May of 2011. Given this evidence, it may be time to say goodbye to caring whether the seat covers match the invitations; caring too much is passé. On TV, the successful TLC series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (which now has a U.S. counterpart, My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding) is no exercise in bridal longing: Top hats, horse-drawn carriages and dresses the size of a condominium are displayed not to be coveted, but to be laughed at. A tacky, opulent wedding is unfashionable, even comedic, à la the movie Bridesmaids.
Nowadays, rejecting excess may seem like a natural response to the snail’s-crawl economy, but in fact the wedding industry remains robust. According to Wedding Bells magazine, the cost of the average Canadian wedding did decrease 3 per cent from 2010 to 2011, but has gone up 20 per cent since 2008. The price tag is now around $22,000, not including the honeymoon.
If there is any doubt that weddings remain a profitable endeavour, RBC introduced the MyProject MasterCard last month. The new credit card is billed as “the perfect solution for your home renovation and landscaping projects and for big events, such as a wedding.”
Thus are newlyweds encouraged to commence their lives together at the gooey bottom of a debt pit.
On the surface, the rustic wedding hitches nicely to the concept of sustainability: “Honey, book the fleet of Priuses, not the limos.” Type “rustic wedding” into Pinterest and you’ll see inspiration boards featuring a broken hay wagon used as a gift table, groomsmen wearing Converse with their tuxes and bundles of ribbon-tied lavender as centre pieces. Popular DIY websites such as Offbeatbride.com offer inventive budget-conscious wisdom to prospective newlyweds (fall outdoor wedding tip: create an aisle by lining up baby pumpkins).
At the spring fashion shows, a bohemian bridal aesthetic was ubiquitous, with lace and eyelets on everything from miniskirts to tank tops. Valentino’s spring couture collection featured dresses in flowing antique-looking fabrics and flower prints, inspired by Marie Antoinette playing milkmaid.
Willfully or otherwise, the bride who takes her cues from Valentino and Stevie Nicks is either resisting or ignoring one of the grand truths about weddings: They are inherently conformist events.
At the moment, it’s hard not to be cynical about weddings when they have been reduced to chest-thumping election sloganeering for politicians or Kim Kardashian theatrical events. By eschewing the kilos of tulle and taffeta and by steering the wedding ship toward something simple and pared down, the rustic bride is aiming for sincerity. Paradoxically, though, this scaling down can turn the rustic ceremony into a high-end product (akin to artisanal cheese), while the big banquet-hall wedding becomes the mass-market alternative (the equivalent of the Kraft slice). Busing granny and 78 second cousins to the woods may not be as cheap as it sounds; all those Mason jars full of wildflowers can add up.
Of course, the cheapest, most earth-friendly wedding would be no wedding at all, but that’s no fun. In her 2007 book about the wedding industry, One Perfect Day, Rebecca Mead writes: “The foremost product peddled by the wedding industry is the notion that a wedding, if done right, will provide fulfilment of a hitherto unimagined degree, and will herald a similarly flawless marriage and a subsequent life of domestic contentment.” Among other attractions, the low-impact wedding attaches itself to the power of the rural, throwing away notions of wedding-day perfection for an unvarnished prettiness – even toughness – that hopefully foreshadows the marriage to come.
Ultimately, the dream of those Mason jars and the vows in the barn and the diaphanous gown that grandmother wore is the dream of the pastoral. The rustic wedding valorizes the simple, pure life far from the debased city – even if, more than often, that’s where the actual marriage will take place.