Recently, a huge wedding dress retailer filed for bankruptcy, leaving countless orders unfilled. The wedding industrial complex is now in chaos. In an article in the Arizona Republic detailing the demise of the dress company, I read the following: “I have known about this Disney collection since it came out,” said a grieving bride-to-be. “I always said I would have that dress when it was my turn to get married. It caused tears in my mom’s and grandmother’s eyes, and I was shocked because I didn’t think that was possible.”
I, too, was stunned, not thinking it possible. Not the loss of the gown or the weeping relatives, but the fact that a grown woman wanted to dress like a Disney princess on her wedding day.
A quick search of the Internet showed I could, in fact, purchase an Ariel-inspired wedding frock with mermaid features. (I’m not sure how a bride would progress down the aisle with a fish tail, but I digress.) If Pocahontas is your preferred princess, there’s an off-the-shoulder number for you. Cinderella, Snow White, Moana, Elsa, Mulan, pick your royalty. “All of these dresses are seriously enough for anyone to feel like a total princess on their big day!” raved one lifestyle blogger.
Why my unease at Disney-themed dresses? First, I’m a high school teacher. I sometimes share with my students the time-honored sequence of success: education, job, marriage, children. Note there’s nothing in that list about being scooped up and rescued by a handsome prince. It would appear some of the message is getting through. The age of first-time marriage in the US for women is now 27, for men 29. (Back in 1960, the numbers were 20 and 22, respectively.)
I wondered about the age of the women who aspire to Disney princess perfection. While I searched the Internet again, on the off chance that someone had actually studied this phenomenon, I found nothing assuring me that only very young brides succumb to this princess envy.
But here’s the thing. If you’re planning to get married, no matter your age, if you still desire to emulate a Disney princess, perhaps you’re just not mature enough to take the plunge. Let’s remember that today a typical wedding averages a little over $35,000, an all-time high, which is 63% of median annual income. And that doesn’t include the honeymoon. About one-third of couples admit they can’t afford to pay up front for the big day and opt to go into debt. Yikes!
Now, I must place a disclaimer here. When I got married, I had nothing to do with the plans. I was a busy reporter and quite happy to leave the details to my mom. I cared only that the cake was chocolate. (I do have certain standards.) That said, I recently sat with my partner of twenty-some years in a tiny restaurant on the coast of St. Croix. The centuries-old building faced the turquoise Caribbean. Sea breeze wafted through thick stone archways. Polly’s served grilled cheese sandwiches that I’m pretty sure were the best on the planet. A rum-soaked coconut cake was orgasmic. Marriage came up, and, though it’s possible Ryan only loves me for my teacher pension and my access to good health care, we discussed how that day might look.
“Here would be good,” I said from Polly’s patio, a cobblestone affair where a cheeky chicken – reminiscent of Moana’s dimwitted friend – lingered for a handout. “I’d wear white.”
Ryan paused, then raised both eyebrows, grilled cheese midway to his mouth.
“White t-shirt and shorts and socks and sneaks. And we’d have grilled cheese and coconut rum cake.”
Later, after a stop at the Captain Morgan Distillery, Ry and I sipped chilled adult beverages as we watched the sun set on the sea. We agreed that serving the Cap’n’s Black Spiced Rum might also be nice.
So, clearly, I am not a member of the Disney Princess Wedding Dress target audience.
My hope is that girls and young women find more non-princess role models to emulate. And so, I was delighted by a recent photograph in National Geographic. A tiny girl wearing a puffy white suit replete with boots and space helmet. Tethered to six shiny silver balloons, she appeared ready to lift off.
“Sophia used to wear princess dresses,” said her father, Juan Carlos Osorio. “But one day she decided to dress like an astronaut instead.”
Anne Montgomery’s new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.