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MARTHA SEZ: Turn that frown upside down for the June bride’s wedding gown

June 2, 2017
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

June is the month of roses. It is also, traditionally, the month of weddings. The June bride!

We picture her in a long white dress, crowned with a flowing veil and carrying an armful of flowers. I remember when I was 4 years old coveting what I called the "bride and broom" figurines from the top of a wedding cake.

It was the wedding-cake bride, of course, in her beautiful gown, who mattered. The little groom, in his conservative black suit and top hat, was merely incidental, necessary in order to showcase the bride, but with no intrinsic value of his own. His relationship to the bride was the same as that of a Ken doll to Barbie, a relationship best defined by my daughter Molly when she was about 7 years old while playing dolls with some of her friends.

"Here, let me fix Ken for you," I said, or words to that effect. I had just seen his head where it had rolled under the staircase.

"No, that's all right, Ken's busy with Barbie right now," Molly told me.

"But he doesn't have any head."

"That doesn't matter."

"Would it matter if Barbie didn't have a head?"

Molly looked up at me, incredulous. "Well, of course it matters whether Barbie has a head!"

I recently overheard Molly's 4-year-old daughter, Emma, playing with her Barbies. Sometimes her Barbies bicker among themselves, but at this moment they were getting along very nicely.

"Oh, Charlotte!" one was gushing to another, "I never seen your wedding dress before!"

All of this is not to say that husbands are not important, even integral, to a marriage. Of course they are! It's just that the wedding is all about the bride. The bride has known this, consciously or unconsciously, since about the age of 4.

Queen Victoria of England popularized the white wedding gown in 1840 when she was married with royal pomp to Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Her dress was a lavish affair that incorporated precious handmade lace.

According to British historians, Victoria did not actually introduce the white wedding gown-such gowns had been worn for many years in England and Europe-but she made it the archetypical wedding dress for brides who came after her in Great Britain and the united States. The white Victorian wedding gown is the prototype for the heartbreakingly expensive, wear-it-once-in-your-life confections of lace, beads and satin you can watch on the drama-filled television show "Say Yes to the Dress."

The historians point out that a bride's wearing white has nothing to do with virginity. White in this case symbolizes not purity, but wealth.

As I mentioned in last week's column, women during my grandmother's childhood, in the 1880s and 1890s, did the laundry by hand. It was hard, heavy work. A white dress was an extravagance, an extremely impractical luxury. A dress made of yards of costly silk and lace that would never need washing because it was to be worn once-and once only? An even greater extravagance.

The white wedding gown became a symbol of luxury and ostentation. Oh, yes, and also the desire of little girls who dreamed of being princesses. Little girls who, after being sent upstairs to change out of their church clothes, might be found jumping up and down on the bed wearing their white crinoline half-slips on their heads, chanting "I am a bride, I am a bride." I mention no names. You know who you are.

Not every couple wants a big, expensive wedding, and not every bride cares to wear white. During World War II, many a war bride dressed plainly and modestly. I have a black-and-white photograph of my mother as a bride wearing a tailored suit with dark pumps and a little hat with just the suggestion of a veil. I can't tell what color her suit is, but it is not white. Of course, she looked beautiful.

Now, it seems that every vendor and venue triples the price of anything wedding related. There are still people who have simple, inexpensive weddings. On the other hand, we see young couples who could tour Europe or buy a Lamborghini for the price they pay to get married. Say yes to the dress that will set you back as much as the cost of a new Buggati, a starter home or your first child.

Wait, what's that rolling across the living room floor? Oh, never mind, it's just Ken's head. Have a good week!



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