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Stripped Down Wedding: Don’t Let Marketers Plan Your Wedding For You

Published Monday, Aug. 8th, 2022

This is your brain on advertisements: Don’t let marketers plan your wedding for you!




A still image from the 1980s anti-drug PSA, "this is your brain on drugs", showing an egg frying in a pan

This is your brain on advertisements



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AMM Audio Articles · Stripped Down Wedding: Don’t Let Marketers Plan Your Wedding For You






Turn on the TV. 


It doesn’t matter which channel, or whether you’re an MSNBC or FOX person. Just watch for a few minutes. Pretty soon, the featured programming will fade out and the advertisements will begin. There will be an advertisement for a particular brand of car. Perhaps there will be an advertisement for shampoo, probably a few fast food restaurants. And since this is America, a couple of pharmaceutical advertisements. 


Pretty familiar right? 


But this time, instead of zoning out during the commercials, try this experiment instead: Block the brand names, product images, and promised services from your mind, and just focus on the people you see on the screen. 


If there’s a car advertisement showing a family piling into the vehicle after school, ignore the fact that it’s a Ford Explorer. Ignore the fact that it’s on sale, or that it’s the “safest vehicle in its class.” (That said, all cars are death traps that are destroying the planet, but that’s not the scope of this blog post). 


This time, your job is to just look at that family, the people in that family, and focus on how happy and fulfilled they are. Got it? 



A happy family riding around in a car, the daughter and father face the camera and give the thumbs up sign

Happy and fulfilled -- the American Ideal



Notice how they embody a kind of impossible existential achievement – the American Ideal – and how perfect every aspect of their relationship is. These people are comfortable, happy, safe, loved... 


The first advertisement flows right into the next, and you keep watching. This time, there’s a happy couple that genuinely loves each other without reservation. Then, a group of friends that share bonds that will last a lifetime. There are warm embraces, playful teasing, loved ones gathered around a table at the end of a long day. We see community, safety, love, peace. 


These television families and friends have achieved what we all crave in the most primal way possible, and it’s easy to start to project our own longings onto the characters we see before us… 



A group of friends laugh and smile together while walking happily outdoors

Advertisers tell us that these people are comfortable, happy, safe, loved...

And we will be too, if we just...



Now, remember the experiment you’re performing. Don’t get trapped in the marketing voodoo!


Start to put the brand names back, the products, the services. As you watch, notice the constant bombardment of brand messaging and marketing that’s actually infused into this celebration of human achievement and perfection. 


We’re promised that we too can achieve all of these things -- if we open our wallets. 


That’s the real magic of advertising. They aren’t selling us products, they’re selling us happiness, community, safety, even love. 



A young couple kiss at sunset on the wedding day

They’re selling us happiness, community, safety... even love.



What does all this have to do with weddings? 


Now, let’s try and unpack what just happened and how this relates to your wedding because we’re a wedding blog, right?


After a few decades of exposure to mass media, our subconscious minds are incapable of dissociating these portrayals of happiness from the material possessions that advertisers have associated with them. 


We may tell ourselves that this is not the case, but it’s not that simple. The pathways between materialism and happiness are well worn by a lifetime of market conditioning. 


Advertisements aren’t really selling us the product, they are selling us the feeling. 


When they appeal to these desires, they’ve done their job. Now all they have to do is to associate their brand with that feeling, and that’s the easy part. This isn’t anything new. Watch a few episodes of Mad Men, and you’ll quickly see how Don Draper’s awareness of his own, and society’s unconscious desires translates into such compelling advertising, and television. 


But the new car won’t cause that happiness to materialize. When you crack open that beer, friends won’t necessarily join you on the couch. And that new anti-gas medication won’t draw your friends any closer (actually this one might work). 


The point of this experiment is to help us realize how closely we have been conditioned to associate what we buy with our deepest yearnings. Once we understand how it works, we can make informed decisions about what we really want, rather than passively consuming ads and running up the bill because we think it’s necessary to be fulfilled.


In other words, we can make purchasing decisions based on what we need, not based on what we think will make us happy.


A happy group of friends and family celebrate a new marriage by tossing a wedding bouquet outdoors on the beach

You don't have to break the bank to create a memorable wedding ceremony


Which (finally) brings us to weddings. 


Weddings are expressions of perhaps our deepest yearnings of all — the primal desire for love and community. Our ultimate wish! 


So it’s not surprising that planning a wedding also triggers a visceral desire to spend money. It’s how we are conditioned – to believe that the more we spend the better we’ll feel. Every moment, every ceremony, every gesture now requires the purchase of something expensive, and we don’t even know why. That’s just the way it is!


The goal of the experiment above is to isolate our urge-to-buy from our emotional needs and responses. These needs are real, but the solutions we’re sold (in the form of Ford Explorers, a trip to Olive Garden, or Gas-X) are often fake or at best underwhelming. You’re still going to be stuck in traffic, shoveling empty calories into your mouth, and farting all the way home… 


That same mindset is where we should begin the wedding planning process. Not with consumption and spending, but with people and community, because despite years of programming, the two are NOT correlated. 


In fact, by overspending, we risk losing sight of, and properly experiencing, the real value of weddings which is, once again, people and community. 


Young couple holds hands during their wedding ceremony outdoors

Start with what matters and build from there



Welcome to the ‘Stripped Down Wedding’


And so we find ourselves with a ‘stripped down wedding.’ 


Starting with what matters, and building out from there, we can prevent materialism from overshadowing what really matters. 


That means starting with the ceremony, and the friends and family members who we want to celebrate with us. We start with what we want to say, the values we want to honor, our history, and our shared vision for the future. Not the flowers, the flashy decor, or the fifty-dollar plates.


This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spring for an awesome venue, flowers, an open bar, and all those other wedding features. We love a party! And we know that many of you reading this have spent years dreaming about your weddings, down to the table cloths and settings…


All we’re saying is, keep your true priorities in mind. Don’t let marketers plan your wedding for you! 


Related: 5 Great Reasons to Ask a Friend to Officiate Your Wedding



Memories are made from truly meaningful moments, and you are the only one who knows what matters most to you, not marketers. 


Take that magic, and move it to the top of your list. 


In practical terms, that means starting with the ceremony. It means having honest conversations about what we really want, not just for one day, but in the years ahead. 


It’s the understanding that weddings are the ceremonial start of our lives together. They’re an opportunity to set the tone, a declaration of what we value the most — each other.  



A young couple takes a selfie on their wedding day outdoors while holding flowers



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Lewis King
Lewis King

Staff Writer

Lewis loves exploring the space between power, discourse, and material reality where institutions like marriage are defined. He also wears other hats at AMM, like taking out the recycling and restocking the sparkling water.

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