A recent event, possibly the smallest in the world that was misrepresented by the media as spontaneous, featured more wedding planners than brides
By Jed Lonstein
Recently a story appeared in all of Ireland’s major media. It was an unprecedented protest. There were no scribbled signs or grim-faced anoraks, no barriers or batons. Five beautiful brides, one joy in white, one holding a bouquet, gathered like a troupe of smiling and smirking ballet dancers for the gathered photographers and press who outnumbered the belligerent fiancés who eventually added two guys for complete the number. They asked to be heard. Their demands were simple and atavistic: the right to a grand marriage with all their friends and family.
Within hours the news reached the government and – fearing the rising public, emerging from its collective cabin fever – the government caved in and granted its program of innocence.
It was a story of triumph over tyranny, five strong women who couldn’t stand it anymore. But, like so many Irish weddings, it had a dark side. Because it was also a story of exploited innocence.
While most of the articles pointed out who the “protest” was organized by – WIPA The Wedding International Professionals Association, they all referred to the lobbyists as brides-to-be and even – perhaps amusingly – bridezillas.
However, with chapters from Atlanta, New York, Chicago via Las Vegas to Seattle; and in Ireland the protest was the opposite of a popular eruption.
None of this is new. At the end of December 2019, Business postAaron Rogan has published an article on attempts to reform Ireland’s gambling laws. People were terrified that their earnings would be reduced by up to 50%. However, little has been done about whether winnings of € 5,000 or less would remain intact. Spot buses full of elderly people walking through Leinster House with signs saying ‘Hands off our balls’. Led by Jack Potts, a cat in a seven foot hat and mascot for his company which operates four bingo halls in Dublin alone, they were joined by Michael Healy Rae, and within days the government backed down. What appeared to be an organic response was actually curated by public relations guru Paul Allen.
The wedding ‘manifestation’, perhaps the smallest demo ever staged in Ireland (say, the intensity of a Renua rally), included Brianna Cullen, Orla O’Huadaigh, Orla Hogan, Ali O’Mara and Anna Killen . Brianna Cullen is a wedding planner working for Tara Fay who organized the event and is the founding member and president of WIPA Ireland. Fay is featured in Harpers’ Bazaar USA as one of the world’s top wedding planners. Orla O’Huadhaigh describes herself as a “talent acquisition partner” at ActiveCampaign, a corporate marketing company. Orla Hogan is a wedding planner – her Linkedin describes her as a final year student looking for event management experience. In her own words, she’s been following a wedding planner for the past year or so. Ali O’Mara may be a real protester and that’s why I won’t dwell on her further.
The story originally appeared on evoque.ie, who has already introduced some of the participants and is said to be well aware of who they are, although she found no reason to point out.
Photographed in the Irish Examiner is a photoshoot of Tony Barry – kneeling in front of Anna Killen. Tony is a self-proclaimed unemployed waiter, but as Time points out, he is the son of Claire Henley who looked after high-end weddings, before the pandemic.
Elsewhere in the Shimmering, a Paudie Herlihy is cited as showing support for the cause as her deeply married daughter is currently still thwarted due to the restrictions. As a father myself, I felt for him, but I was also uncomfortable about his wedding DVD production which he chose in a less endearing way not to disclose.
Maybe it just doesn’t matter. These are mostly people whose livelihoods have been affected by the lockdown and why shouldn’t they protest?
To me, this is a case of marketing and self-promotion masquerading as genuine and valid protest. If they had been clear about who they were and what their motives were, it would have represented some tasteless integrity. But no. This event was totally false. What makes it maddening is that every national publication as well as thejournal.ie and joe.ie didn’t care who the organizations involved were or were just complicit.
It’s the silly season and, on a sunny day in Dublin, five women photographed by
the brightest of photographers, in snow-white ceremonial attire, bouquets in hand and accompanied by tuxedoed gentlemen of endless glee was just too good to ignore.
However, in the age of fake news where people take their vaccine advice from random strangers who scream the loudest, I think this is precisely the time for real journalism to differentiate itself from the opposite – by strengthening verifiable sources and diligent background investigations.
After all, scruple is the only advantage, they have more thirty-character tweets, foil Facebook pages, and blind tribal quackery.
The mainstream media are fighting for their lives right now and when their credibility is called into question they lose a long-perceived unique selling point and, worse yet, open the door to manipulation by cynics and liars without.