The Wedding: Constructing Family Meaning through Ritual

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Julia CARTER, Canterbury Christ Church University, United Kingdom
According to Durkheim, rituals are acts of collective celebration around shared symbols and practices. Rituals comprise a set of shared symbols which confer shared meanings for shared practices in which individuals participate. These shared symbols and practices are annexed from everyday social life and become sacred entities; those which represent the group’s significance to itself and the relationships to one another. In order for a ritual to succeed, a shared definition and understanding of the situation and ritual itself is paramount. It is the purpose of this paper to demonstrate how in an age when marriage and weddings are no longer social or political necessities in Britain, contemporary couples still engage in wedding practices to achieve a sense of sacred significance to their relationship and family life. The wedding provides a means, as a ritual, to separate their relationship from profane everyday concerns to another plane of sacredness. This paper draws on three ways in which participants in a study on weddings in the UK narrated this separateness. The first is through the notion of performance before a gathering of family and friends, the second through the fantasy of extreme commodity consumption, and the third through the appropriation and reassertion of various wedding ‘traditions’ and ritualistic practices. Due to the shared nature of the practices and processes involved, a common understanding of the ‘wedding’ emerges, not only in the talk and description of weddings but also in popular culture, media and discourse where weddings appear remarkably similar. The ritualistic nature of weddings enables anyone to create one and yet, the impact of consumer narratives pushes the opposite agenda- to create a unique, one-off event. The result of the clash of these hegemonic discourses is what I call ‘individualised conformity’: narratively unique events with ritually similar construction and meaning.