The Dread Nuptial Ritual: Can It Be Done Ironically?

There’s a new and ugly wrinkle to Bridezilla, that monstrous, wedding-obsessed creature baptized back in the innocent days of early 2001 by The New York Times Sunday Styles section, whose well-thumbed end pages remain the sine qua non for the wedding-obsessed, even though the announcements therein no longer fall under the comfortingly musty rubric of the society desk. (Indeed, they’ve evolved to include homosexual “Celebrations”—complete with implicit exclamation point and a strewing of pink confetti. But I digress.)

Meet Ironic Bridezilla, who questions every aspect of the modern American wedding (rightly so, as they’re almost inevitably overpriced, overblown, tedious affairs) and yet submits willy-nilly to every step of the planning, somehow telling herself that a detached, cynical attitude toward the proceedings makes her less of a victim of feminist backlash, outright commercialism, etc. Meet Hana Schank, founder and president of an eponymous “information-architecture and user-experience consultancy” and the recipient of an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from Columbia.

Hana Schank is also a bodacious blonde, as she repeatedly reminds us in this vellum-bound countdown to her nuptials, which totals over 200 pages. “I have … queen-sized pillow breasts, matching hips, and a waist three sizes smaller than the rest of my body, which is great if you’re a porn star but not so practical if you’re trying to look like Carolyn Bessette,” she protests on page 29, in the midst of her search for the perfect slip dress. On page 124, shopping for a chuppah with her fiancé at an Upper West Side Judaica store: “I glanced down at my hip-hugging jeans, my tight low-necked sweater, suddenly feeling overtly slutty and large-breasted.” On page 150, Ms. Schank experiences a traumatic flashback to a bridesmaid dress that “required a major hydraulic system of lingerie to keep my breasts in place.”

At least her ample endowments helped her land a real prince: a grad student in Russian literature named Steven who gives her “my own little chunk of ice,” which she amusedly regards as a “foreign entity” as it twinkles on her hand. She dismisses his proposal as “a slice of American kitsch.” Savvy urban intellectuals that they are, Hana and her guy are absolutely determined not to be one of those nauseating couples who micromanage every last detail of the Big Day, who subject their attendants to color-coordinated outfits and shepherd helpless guests around to activities as if they were teaching a kindergarten class. Instead, they mull strolling down the aisle to the sepulchral strains of Elliott Smith; joke that the theme of their casually Jewish bash will be “Anti-Semitism Through the Ages” (Steven balks at wearing a yarmulke); and proudly refuse to register for the $200-per-setting Wedgwood china service at Bloomie’s. “You promised me we’d be Hip Married Couple!” whines the groom-to-be when his beloved momentarily deviates from the plan by initiating an unsuccessful apartment-shopping trip in suburban Riverdale.

The bride’s reluctance to embrace with open arms a conventional modern wedding has another, more intriguing motivation, which she analyzes all too fleetingly: Her parents have been divorced for years, after being married in a hippie-dippy ceremony (Mom wore a white velvet mini-dress and was too stoned to remember the reception—awwwright!). This union did bequeath to her a large and far-flung cast of “wacky” relatives, including a cousin with a peculiar spectrum of food allergies (capers, chestnuts, aspartame) and an appealingly grumpy grandmother. “It’s a stupid waste of money,” barks “Gammy” upon learning that she’s expected to buy a new frock for Hana and Steven’s event (scheduled for a charming Vermont inn where they first vacationed together and enjoyed the “tangy local cheese”), “but I guess that’s what weddings are about.”

I regret to report that this book, despite occasional flashes of wit, is also a stupid waste of money: a deadly-dull catalog of one bride’s obsessive-compulsive quest for the perfect wedding— and then I caved and went to Kleinfeld, and then I fretted about save-the-date cards, and then I had my big ribbon crisis—with some half-hearted social criticism thrown in, lazy musings floating down the river of the author’s intellect. (This so-called professional information architect consults a mere dozen secondary sources.)

Dare one suggest that she wanted to have her wedding cake and eat it too? (Actually, she eschews wedding cake for a “dessert table,” an example of the pernicious phenomenon she calls “that whole personalizing-your-wedding mania”—a mania to which she is, regrettably, far from immune.) Yes, Hana Schank is right: The chance to be princess for a day turns scads of right-thinking American women into simpering mini–Martha Stewarts. Perhaps interviewing a few of these women—R.I.P., Betty Friedan—might have produced a more radical and interesting treatise; as it is, A More Perfect Union feels like a simple exercise in narcissism.

Alexandra Jacobs is features editor of The Observer.