The modern American couple starts life with a heavy financial burden: In a big city like Chicago, the average wedding costs between $22,500 and $37,500. Yet in the 1930s, it was cheap, costing around $400. There's no question that wedding prices are out of control. What went wrong?
I went to the Chicago History Museum, where historians have figured out how it happened.
Timothy Long is the costume curator of the museum, which (surprisingly) is thought to have the second-largest fashion collection in the world. Decades of wealth have found a repository in the museum's stacks, including the paperwork from the legendary Marshall Field's department store, which dates to the mid-19th century and was the king of the world's department stores for generations.
While poring through the museum's holdings, Long realized something important about the modern wedding: It became a massive, ostentatious production around the time the retail pioneers at Marshall Field's decided to turn the ceremony into a consumer event for Chicago's high society.