Taking a Wedding Private: How Mark Zuckerberg Forever Changed the American Wedding

Mark Zuckerberg is no stranger to disrupting industries.

In his handful of post-adolescent years, Zuckerberg has turned the global communications industry on its head, disrupting photo, video, advertising, social, search, email and publishing, just to name a few. When a NASDAQ computer glitch botched Facebook’s IPO last Friday, Mark Zuckerberg added Wall Street to the list of industries he’s sent scrambling. The IPO put his net worth at around $20B.

Which industry will this tech wunderkind’s influence rock next?

Will it be education? Medicine? Ecommerce?

I think it’s weddings.

Taking a Wedding Private

Facebook’s IPO is a big deal, but, for anyone who didn’t actually invest in it, the really interesting stuff happened the following day, when the freshly-minted billionaire married the freshly-Dr. Priscilla Chan in a backyard ceremony at his house.

The wedding had fewer than 100 guests, who’d arrived under the impression they were attending Priscilla’s med-school graduation party. The bride wore an off-the-rack dress she purchased at the Little White Dress Bridal Shop in Denver. Guests ate from family-style plates from the couple’s fave sushi and Mexican joints, and, instead of cake, they served chocolate “mice,” a hat-tip to their first date.

As for bling-bling? Dr. Chan walked away from the ceremony with a simple (or, as a flabbergasted TMZ put it, “SIMPLE”) ruby ring, which Zuck reportedly designed himself.

The message is clear: Priscilla’s love don’t cost a thing.

But the message goes even deeper than that: This was clearly not a ceremony in which Dr. Priscilla Chan was being purchased.

A Quick Review of the History of Weddings

We have a lot of really great wedding traditions! These traditions are super special mostly because of how far back they date. In fact, most of them pre-date the very recent historical era in which women are not property.

For instance, a groom’s best man used to have duties beyond hiring the strippers. When the groom rode into a neighboring village in the middle of the night to abduct his bride from her home and family, he was going to need backup. He definitely used his “best” man for this mission.

At the wedding ceremony, he needed someone to stand next to him, well armed, to protect him if the bride’s family launched a rescue mission. (The bride stands to the left of the groom at a wedding so that his right hand is free to grab a weapon.)

When this charming groom took his bride back to his home to consummate the marriage, his best man stood watch so that the groom could defile his bride without interference from her concerned family. (The groom carries the bride over the threshold of the bedroom not as a chivalrous gesture, but because she was often terrified and unwilling to go voluntarily.)

When a marriage was agreed to by a bride’s father, it was customary for the groom to give him a precious stone as a part of the dowry, to signal his sincere intent to go through with the marriage. Diamond engagement rings come out of this tradition of men buying and selling women.

All those flowers you absolutely have to shell out thousands for? That’s thanks to the tradition of women walking down the aisle with a bouquet of garlic and herbs to drive away evil spirits.

Tying shoes to the back of the getaway car is a friendly reminder of the days when a bride’s father took her shoes away on her wedding day and gave them to the groom. It was a symbol of the transfer of power: Now she answers to her husband. It sends a convenient second message: She can’t run away. They took her shoes.

Blatant misogyny aside, the “traditional” American wedding – the one that averages $26,000 today – didn’t exist until the mid-1800s. A growing American middle class saw Queen Victoria marry Prince Albert in a stunning white satin gown, and an entire industry cropped up around weddings, with a new breed of professional cranking out cookie-cutter special days for hefty fees.

After the social upheaval of the 1960s, some ‘70s brides opted for alternative and unique weddings, but Princess Di’s fairytale wedding in 1981 put a quick kibosh on that. We went straight back to whitewashed extravagance.

Weddings by Mark Zuckerberg

In a questionable economy, with soaring credit card debt and stagnant real estate values, most couples don’t have $26,000 – or even really $5000 – to put toward a wedding. But they go into debt to do it.

Why?

Because it’s a very important tradition that everybody does.

The Zuckerbergs – who could have hosted their ceremony on the White House lawn and their reception on the moon and then served bars of gold alongside the surf and turf – chose a simple wedding that focused on their unity as a couple, their respect for one another, and on the support of their inner circle of friends.

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