The surprise wedding of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck at A Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas over the weekend — as announced by Ms. Lopez — set tongues wagging across the internet. And, perhaps, it set a precedent for weddings to come (the copycat wedding gowns are already in production).
Perhaps most notable of all the emerging details was Ms. Lopez announcing that she was changing her name to Jennifer Lynn Affleck. The Styles team discussed this, the location and other morsels the newlyweds sprinkled through social media.
Vanessa Friedman: I can appreciate the impulse behind the Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck nuptials, having renewed my vows in Vegas myself a while ago. It’s like a bubble in time when you are on a conveyor belt of weddings, and everyone before and after you is simply happy. (When my husband and I renewed our vows, I made my bouquet from the flowers on a hotel table centerpiece, and then handed it over to the bride after me.) That said, there was something both very traditional about Jennifer and Ben’s marriage, and utterly singular, because of who they are: After three marriages, J. Lo became Mrs. Affleck; because she announced the wedding via her newsletter to her fans; because she wore two dresses.
Jacob Bernstein: Yes, there was a kind of duality to it. On the one hand, the quotidian description she gives of being on the line with those three or four other couples; and on the other, the speed at which she makes it this thing to be downloaded and consumed on her website — after you sign up for the newsletter.
Stella Bugbee: Perhaps you’re being a touch too cynical, Jacob. I can see why the fact that it seemed ready to be released might raise questions like, “Is this authentic?” But that almost seems besides the point. She wanted control, and she got it.
Sandra Garcia: Dispatching blurry night-on-the-town pics on Instagram is very “Hollywood,” but actively pretending not to be.
V.F. It strikes me as being part and parcel of the way celebrities are taking control of the image-making around their private lives, which is something both Rihanna and Beyoncé have done masterfully. They’ve essentially set the tone for how all this is handled, with stage-managed natural shots for fans, allowing them to see just enough to keep interest going, but not so much that it could be compromising or lead to over-saturation (which arguably has been an issue for Jennifer Lopez in the past). And when it comes to weddings, this goes back to the Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt nuptials, when just one or two tasteful black and whites were doled out to the world, rather than a paid-for Hello! magazine photo shoot.
J.B. Yes and no. I think Beyoncé and Rihanna (as well as Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston) have made it really clear how little they need to engage not just with the paparazzi but with the overall marketing of their private lives, and I think that’s partly a function of the fact that for them, what’s personal that they’re giving over is their art, while for Lopez her art is really what I would call “the art of being J. Lo.” She’s a great onstage entertainer, she’s superb in “Hustlers,” but she’s superb in it because what she’s being is J. Lo.
S.B. Being J. Lo is no small feat.
S.G. I watched her Super Bowl doc and she complains about being tired of celebrity, but it’s not her hits or her movies that keep her relevant.
J.B. Totally. She has not made an album like Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” or Madonna’s “Ray of Light.” She cannot summon Janet Jackson’s sheer exuberance. And Brad Pitt has become, in addition to an Oscar-winning actor with considerable range, a movie producer who is responsible for some of the last decade’s best movies. A friend of mine from the House of Xtravaganza says that J. Lo is “the best person in the world at getting out of the car.”
V.F. OK: So let’s go with her being her, or versions of herself. What is she being in the wedding pics? An old-fashioned romantic? Taking her husband’s name and wearing white (twice)? What does it mean that on her fourth husband she changes her surname? That this is the real one?
S.B. I think it’s one of the most public acts of submission that a person can perform. But that is especially true for celebrity women who make their money from their name recognition. It certainly complicates the conversation about power in heterosexual marriages when you have two famous people and one adopts the other’s name. Why didn’t he become Ben Lopez? What would that have done to his ego? We can never know what conversations go into those choices, but she’s one of the high-profile female celebrities to do it recently.
S.G. Yes, for example, both Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian eventually adopted their husband’s last name, but it wasn’t until later in the marriage and after children. J. Lo has her long history with Ben dating back 20 years.
S.B. Right. Surely that history must have factored into her choice this time around.
S.G. The big question I have is, will she go by Jennifer Affleck on a marquee? As one of Hollywood’s most highly compensated Latinas who does not speak much Spanish, her name did a lot to signal her background to audiences.
V.F. I wonder if it isn’t a covert response to the rumor mill that seems to surround any celebrity marriage and often corrodes it. Like: Yes, this is real; I am committed enough to change my name. And I wonder what effect it might have on others. Because historically, the name change was about becoming a man’s property, and then refusing to change your name became a declaration of independence and equality. And now — it’s a choose your own adventure.
S.G. Has taking a partner’s last name evolved into a power move? There is no doubt Jennifer is independent and a star in her own right. When such powerful women adopt their husband’s name — sometimes from husbands that are equally powerful — does it morph the symbolism into an even bigger statement of confidence?
J.B. I mean, isn’t this wedding sort of the ultimate “Jenny From the Block” moment?
S.B. Meaning what?
J.B. Oh, I mean, she’s known for having one of the best collections of rocks since Elizabeth Taylor. She’s known for creating spectacle, making an entrance — perhaps in a caftan-like Versace dress with a plunging neck. But this time, she’s not doing anything like that.
S.G. That’s the thing! Look guys, I’m still from the block. J. Lo hasn’t been from the block in decades, and I don’t need her to be. Why can’t she be Hollywood J. Lo? Give us glam, sparkles, a show!
V.F. This way she is both aspirational — she looks amazing and (I’ll say it again) gets two dresses, including one very elaborate Zuhair Murad number and one that harks back to a film wardrobe — and relatable, which is the ultimate consumer package.
J.B. Also, the perfect ending to so many J. Lo movies.