Ethnography of the Ritual:
I went to my cousin’s wedding in Grand Rapids back in June. My cousin and her fiancé are extremely religious so the ceremony itself took place in an old church with stained glass windows and old, red brick walls. This church can be said to be the status quo as far as churches are concerned. There were long, brown wooden benches laid out in rows on the left and right sides of the church with a carpeted walkway down the aisle. The aisle lead to a marble floor with an altar where the couple would ultimately be wed to one another. The bride wore a long, white dress patterned with many different jewels and different cuts of material. The groom was dressed in a grey suit, blue shirt, and suspenders. The bridesmaids wore matching light pink dresses that cut off around the knees, and the groomsmen wore grey suits just like the groom. My cousin, the bride, was walked down the aisle by her father while the organist played his best rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon in D, which is known to be a common wedding entrance song. Once the bride had met her fiancé at the altar, the priest, who was actually my second uncle, conducted a traditional catholic mass. The ceremony was filled with tears and laughter, and the audience certainly chimed in with some of the more humorous moments when they saw fit. After the couple exchanged their vows, and placed the rings on one another’s fingers, they were officially husband and wife. They then walked hand in hand down the aisle, out of the church, and into a limousine that took them to the site of the reception. The reception was at a large wedding hall that could fit about four hundred people. The venue was filled with large circular tables with bouquets of flowers and bottles of wine as the center piece. A three course meal was provided, as well as speeches from friends and family, and musical entertainment from a DJ. The lighting in the venue was extremely dim to give off a romantic vibe. The reception was open-bar, so guests were free to drink as much as they liked. At the entrance to the venue there was a table with a wedding book and a place to put gifts. It was common courtesy for the guests to fill this book with nice messages of good luck and love for the new happy couple.
Analysis of the Ritual:
The ritual began with the organist playing Pachelbel’s Canon in D, which signified that it was time for the guests to rise, and turn their attention to the back of the church to watch the bride be walked in by her father. The song choice was meant to set the mood of the serious yet romantic nature of the event. The ritual is meant to bring two different families or communities together. During the actual ceremony the two families sit on different sides of the church, but by the time the reception rolls around, everyone is intermingling together. This signifies that a bond has strengthened between the two groups. When the bride’s father gives her away at the altar, this also signifies the joining of two families. My cousin was no longer just a part of her family, but also a member of her husband’s. The ritual of marriage is one of the oldest traditions in world history, and it serves as a reminder to how important and how meaningful love can be, as well as the start of a new journey together as a couple and as a family.
The typology of this ritual would be a Rite of Passage. This typology has a function of stressing responsibility, in this case, in the meaning of the vows that the couple shared with each other, as well as the rings they placed on each other’s fingers. These vows and rings represent that it is now up to the new husband and wife to protect, love, and honor one another for the rest of their lives. This wedding also represents a Rite of Intensification. As stated earlier, the ceremony brought to separate families together and made them one. Even the friends at the ceremony who are not related by blood, are considered family to the new husband and wife.