Creative alternatives to the traditional wedding ceremony continue to crop up as young couples look for ways to make their commitment to each other truly unique and relevant. Not only have drive-through, sky-dive, and extreme adventure weddings challenged notions about how bride and groom should celebrate their union, but corporate giants have had a hand in the business too, especially in the United States, where brand names are ubiquitous in everyday life. Now you can get married in your favorite discount department store, home improvement store, or ice-cream parlor chain.
The trend benefits both businesses and consumers—stores get exposure for their brand, while bride and groom enjoy a setting which is meaningful and relevant. Often, bride and groom choose businesses where they have a history together—either they have met, fallen in love, or spent a great deal of time together in the store. Retail weddings are also characterized by a sort of pastiche combining corporate brands with popular culture. One couple in Santa Fe, New Mexico, held a Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed wedding in the garden department of their local Home Depot outlet, replete with a decorated arbor provided by the store stockroom itself. Meanwhile, Lisa Satayut and her fiancé, Drew Ellis, will be the first to hold their wedding ceremony inside a T.J. Maxx store when they recite their modern wedding vows in aisle 8 of the shoe department in a Mount Pleasant, Michigan location while family, friends, and shoppers watch. Yet another couple wedded in an Illinois Taco Bell last January while wedding guests and onlookers feasted on tacos and chalupas.
Another motivation for retail weddings is economic. Jillian Berman of USA Today quotes Rebecca Dolgin, executive editor of TheKnot.com, as saying, “In some cases, too, I think the economy might play into it, where people are really trying to be resourceful.” Often, large businesses host these contemporary wedding ceremonies, since it is an inexpensive form of advertising and usually the facilities are large and well-supplied. According to Berman, Stayut and Ellis will save about $150 by holding their wedding inside Home Depot, while other couples might save thousands. In addition, the furniture and décor supplied by stores are not wasted—they can be returned to the stockroom and sold after the ceremony.
The concept of a “third place”—vigorously promoted by Starbucks as a warm, friendly setting outside work and home—seems to undergird the fascination many Americans have will retail weddings. As more people integrate corporate brands into their daily routine, the most important ceremonies in those people’s lives will reflect a loyalty to those brands. In fact, the sentiment many feel for their favorite store can strike others as bizarre or misplaced. Satayut, who calls herself a “Maxxinista”, says, “The one constant in my life, no matter what, has always been T.J. Maxx”, not friends, family, a higher being or “Almighty God”, or even herself, but rather a discount department store.
Critics might call this trend tacky, irreverent, even profane (at least among those who view marriage as a spiritual or divine compact), since consumerism takes such a prominent position in such a “sacred” ceremony, but who is to judge the bride and groom who declare “I do” to an ordained reverend or minister perched underneath a Home Depot arbor while guests watch the spectacle on their pre-fabricated plywood pews? Sanctity, it could be said, is in the eye of the beholder, and as long as the ceremony reflects a profound commitment between bride and groom, why should not the rest of us feel happy for them?
The growth of retail weddings (like sponsored weddings, in which businesses fund the wedding under the condition that their products be used on the occasion) will probably not subside any time soon; it will only continue to take shape, using whatever wedding supplies and resources are available to make the ceremony both special and economically feasible. Inevitably, traditional attitudes will grow accustomed to the practice and, like everything else that becomes hum-drum given the passage of time, the fanfare will die down and we will look for an even more innovative way to tie the knot.