A wedding ceremony involves the unification of the groom and the bride in a holy matrimony which is usually conducted by a legalized religious minister or government official. The ceremony is marked by various aspects of cultural norms, practices, and symbols that reflect specific meaning to all involved in the process. Various groups of people from the groom’s and bride’s sides play specific roles through their chosen representatives before, during, and after the wedding.
The setting of the event is in a church compound where a wedding ceremony between a man who is an African American and a woman who is of Caucasian origin takes place. Most of the preparations for the event had already been done and the ceremony was planned to happen inside the church hall. Thereafter, all the guests were to congregate in a nearby school hall where the reception party was to take place. The event was analyzed with the use of participants’ observation. This involved witnessing most of the happenings and interactions between various parties throughout the event while being one of the invited guests. Having been one of the invited guests, I also participated in most of the activities. This gave me an opportunity to make closer observations of various practices and symbols that were reminiscent with the occasion. Most of the attendants were on familiar terms with all people and therefore there was sufficient rapport amongst most event participants.
There are cultural observations that are made during the wedding in conformity with traditions. The parents of the bride accompanied her to the front part of the church and the groom’s parents did it likewise. However, the groom had to arrive earlier so that the bride could be presented to his parents and later to him. This was done to symbolically reflect the notion that the bride has officially left her parents’ home to that of her husband. The presentation to her parents in law signifies that she now has a new home and new parents. It is also noteworthy that the night before the wedding day the bride has to spend at her parent’s home. Then they converge on the church on the day of the event.
The groom is then supposed to receive his partner by first removing the veil that covers her face. The veil is an indication of protection for the bride and when a groom removes it, he becomes her protector. The bride and the groom then hold hands. The bride stands on the left hand side of the groom. This is done symbolically so that the groom’s sword arm can be free to fight off any attacker of his bride. This protection is perceived to continue throughout their lives where the man is the closest confidant to his wife and vice versa (Howard, 2006).
After making their vows, each of the spouses presents the other with a wedding ring which is a sign of commitment to each other till death. The rings are also an indication of eternal love and commitment for each other. As they walk out of the church, a group of women sprinkle the couple with confetti or grains of rice. This is done to symbolically indicate that guests wish them fertility. The matter is that a family is known to begin its development after a man and woman get married and want to give birth to children. This perpetuation is known to be the mainstay of the family and cultural lines.
After the ceremony, the bride throws her bouquet of flowers towards unmarried girls who can be seen in a group. It is believed that whoever among these girls catches the bouquet first, she will be the next to get married. This is done so that the young can be encouraged to wait for their day and not engage in unfaithful unions that may lead to unwanted behaviors such as early pregnancies. It creates interest and patience among the young girls and gives them belief that their day will also come. At the reception, guests present the newly married couple with gifts and presents to signify their confidence in the union and as a sign of appreciation. Some of the presents given are symbolic in their nature. The bride’s parents present her with a bed as a sign that she can no longer go back to their home. This is done to allow the bride to settle completely in her new home without any thoughts of leaving as divorce is not encouraged and should not happen in society.
It is evident that most of the practices and processes that are conducted during the ceremony have meanings in society. Most of these practices indicate that the society approves marriage and believes that it is the proper way to life. The presence of parents and relatives from both sides is an indication of approval that both families are behind the union. This is demonstrated by gifts and presents that are brought by the various guests to the occasion. It is a stamp of approval since the event demonstrates what is regarded as a rite of passage in society. It is therefore vital for one to understand these various symbols, images, norms, and values that are evident in various marriage ceremonies that are conducted in society as other cultures may have different practices which could have different meanings.
Howard, V. (2006). American weddings and the business of tradition. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.