The Ritual of Marriage

Topic: Ritual

Source: A close friends wedding on April 12th 2012, in Napa Valley California. The weather was warm and sunny, and perfect for her out door wedding. I was a bride’s maid in the ceremony. 

Relation: Robbins states that a ritual is, "a dramatic rendering or social portrayal of meanings shared by a specific body of people in a way that makes them seem correct and proper" (Pg 84). Marriage is a social portrayal of a meaning shared by a specific body of people in a way that makes it seem correct and proper.

Description: Analese was coming down the aisle with her arm hooked in the left elbow of her fathers. Her veil hid her face away from the public as it covered her face in layers of white chiffon. Her father walked her down to the end of the aisle, where they stopped. The preacher said, "Who gives this woman to this man," and her father replied, "I, her father, give her to Jason…" and then Jason stepped forward, and accepted Analese's hand from her father. Then the ceremony continues, they say their "I do's," they kiss, and walk back down the aisle as man and wife. 

Analysis/Commentary: In this commentary, I will be formatting the stages of the ritual based off of two reading (which I encourage you all to read). Those readings are: Planes of Classification in a Ritual of Life and Death, written by Victor Turner; and, The Anthropology of Religion (2006), second edition, chapter 6: Ritual Theory, Rites of Passage, and Ritual Violence, by Fiona Bowie. In both of these readings ritual is discussed as going through stages which are: Separation, Marginality / Liminality, and Re-integration. These terms will be defined contextually as I make my analysis. 

Separation-the stage of separation in getting married can easily be seen when the bride is "given away" by the father (or who ever she chooses to give her away). The bride walks down the isle with her father (or parent or guardian) and the father will give her away to her partner/marriage companion. This is symbolic for the cutting of ties from being under the fathers’/guardians/mothers protection, to being under the husband/partners protection. The bride is no longer the under the fathers care, but is now under their partners care. Therefore cutting the ties from being the "daughter" to the "wife."

Liminal- this stage is during the ceremony. The bride is not yet a wife, but has been separated from the role of daughter. This is when they are saying their vows, and the ceremony is in session still. The bride is transitioning from daughter to wife.

Re-integration- this is the stage when the ceremony has been complete. They have kissed, the wedding rings are on, and this is when the couple now turns from on another and marches back down the isle together. After the wedding ceremony is complete there is a reception where the couple/bride is re-integrated back into society in the role of wife.

Robbins Defines symbolic actions as, "the activities, -including ritual myth, art, dance, and music- that dramatically depict the meanings shared by a specific body of people" (pg 84). Getting married is an activity that depicts a life meaning shared by a body of people, that body of people being the majority of the world. People believe that it is a must to get married in life; in fact this myth of the importance of marriage is so impactful that governments provide special benefits to those who get married.  Marriage shows many values that are moral, and many that are shallow that our society still believes in. For example, a moral value would be how marriage involves love, being happy, and enjoying life with friends and family. However it is shallow in the sense that, it cost a fortune to have a “good marriage,” as well as that fact that marriage is only allowed between a man and a woman in most states. Which is ironic considering the fact that marriage is supposed to be about love. Nonetheless, marriage is a clear depiction of not just values in our society, but beliefs, myths, and practices. You can tell a lot about our society based off of one wedding ceremony.

The symbols that were used were: Rings- Wedding rings are symbolic for marriage, and commitment to another person. Kiss- The wedding kiss seals the deal so to say. It is like a handshake to a verbal contract, signing the contract with a kiss symbolizes their commitment to the marriage, and to one another. Daughter- this is symbolic for being under the care of the family, or guardian. I do take into consideration that not everyone is under their parents/guardians care when they are married. However it is still symbolic for being the child in a sense. Wife- this is symbolic for the life partner who undertakes the female position. Reception- this is the celebration of the marriage, and of the bride completing the stages. This is when the bride is reintroduced to the world as wife. 

Works Cited (That are not course related): 
 Planes of Classification in a Ritual of Life and Death, written by Victor Turner

 The Anthropology of Religion (2006), second edition, chapter 6: Ritual Theory, Rites of Passage, and Ritual Violence, by Fiona Bowie. 

Pictures Cited:


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