White Weddings: Fantasy, Femininity and Consumer Desire Patricia Arend Advisors: Juliet B. Schor and Leslie Salzinger The white wedding, the dominant form of marriage ritual in America, is a key site for the study of gender inequality because it ritualizes, dramatizes and makes pleasurable patriarchal gender relations. While men and women are becoming more equal in education, the labor force and other social institutions, many women are opting for a traditional, highly gendered wedding ritual. This dissertation unpacks this paradox through the use of qualitative methodology on women's subjectivity and subconscious experience. My methodological strategy includes participant observation, survey research, free association narrative interviewing and photo-elicitation. These varied methods reveal not only that the majority of my respondents desire a traditional, white wedding complete with a standard package of goods and practices, but that in so enacting heteronormativity they seek a singular emotional and romantic experience. Study participants express varied attitudes to their own desire, however. Those without major ambivalence--both straight and a few lesbians--take their desire for a white wedding for granted, an attitude emerging with apparent seamlessness from their emotional experiences attending other people's weddings, the sharing of wedding-related evaluations, perspectives and activities through female-centered social networks, and their prior consumption of wedding related media. Wedding media are consumed by engaged women like an instruction manual, while others often view it with other women, socially. Not all of the participants' relationships to this ritual is so straightforward. Some feel guilty for wanting a wedding they have come to see as sexist or wasteful. They cope with this guilt through a complex process of dissociation and projection focused on other women- a process we find in other aspects of consumer society as well. In addition, a much smaller number of women who identify as lesbian selectively do not conform to the full white wedding format and feel good about their choices. Yet none of these women desire the "camp" elements found in previous studies of lesbian commitment ceremonies and most incorporate some aspects of the white wedding, indicating a trend toward greater conformity. Identifying as a feminist was not correlated with a desire for a particular type of wedding or the experience of desire, which I argue relates to the complex historical context of the movement for marriage equality, the cooptation of feminism by advertising as the "new consumer feminism" and contemporary third wave feminism, which emphasizes individual identity and a liberal politics of choice.