How did weddings become such wallet-busting extravaganzas?; Carol McD. Wallace delves into nuptial history in All Dressed in White.
Why do brides wear white? Much of it originated with Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert in a white satin dress in 1840, it's a question of the average citizen seeing what the upper crust is doing. White is hard to beat as a status symbol because it's so impractical.
And the veil? It became popular in the early 19th century, when excavation showed that the ancient Romans wore veils. It's mysterious. You can't see clearly through it. The husband gets the first look. And when it's removed, how can you resist? It's theater. It's drama.
When did wedding hype begin? In 1863 P. Barnum arranged the wedding of Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, two little people. The striking difference was that the press was there to witness it. Weddings weren't routinely covered by newspapers until the latter part of the 19th century.
What do weddings cost today? Outside of New York City, the average is about $20,000. In the 1960s everyone was sitting on folding chairs, even at the poshest of weddings. Now even the chairs have tulle and bows.