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Wedding ceremonies

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Gryphos, Mar 30, 2015.

  1. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    I've recently had to come up with the basic process of a wedding ceremony in my world, and I'm wondering if any of you have had to come up with the particulars of them in your world too.

    When I was coming up with mine, the first thing I began to realise is that traditional western wedding ceremonies in the real world are rather sexist, what with the father 'giving away' his daughter like a possession to be owned by her soon-to-be husband. Or the simple fact that it's the man who stands at the altar and massive attention is put on the woman in comparison like she's some kind of greater spectacle than the man. Thinking about it leaves something of a bad taste in my mouth.

    So in my world I have it so that in a wedding ceremony the bride and groom (or bride and bride, or groom and groom) both walk up the aisle together, hand in hand, and alone (because seriously, what business do parents actually have getting involved in the wedding?). They get to the altar, where the main (a priest in my world) gives the speech and la-di-da.

    Then the bride and groom both give their speeches and shit, and whilst they do this they retrieve a 'wedding crown' from the altar and place it onto the other's head. These crowns are commissioned beforehand separately by each person, and can look or be made of anything they want (or can afford). Then the sain guides them each individually through their vows, which are identical to each person.

    Once they're both done the main says: "In which case, I honourably pronounce you married, in the sight of Saints Umbria and Pardinam, and in the presence of the Human Spirit. You may now embrace, as husband and wife."

    Then they kiss and embrace and shit, and everyone applauds.

    They take the crowns home and it's tradition to hang them on the wall over their bed. They also decide between them whose last name they're going to take, his or hers, and live happily ever after (unless they divorce, of course).

    But yeah, what I really wanted to achieve with this piece of world building is a ... well, a non-sexist wedding ceremony, which fits in with the world I've created as one with a much reduced sense of gender roles.
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I don't really understand the need to excrete during the ceremony... that would definitely make it different from any wedding I've seen.
    One question though... Is the Priest/Official needed to perform the ceremony?
    I've been to two Humanist wedding in the UK where there was an Officiant but they were mainly a caller to get people in to the right places at the right time. Their only official role was to counter sign the marriage certificate. In the UK, technically everything else is just for show. You do have to ask if anyone wants to stop the wedding and the those getting married have to declare their intention to marry, I think, but that is it.
    As for why "traditional" weddings seems like a property sale... [Again in the UK] up until The Married Women's Property Act 1882, it was... The woman and all she owned transferred from her father to her husband [I am generalising for effect - but not by much] at her marriage.
    I tend to have weddings [if they occur in my tales] more along the Hand-fasting design... very low key and more of an excuse to have a party with the people you love the most.
  3. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    Marriages mirror the overall society and mark the passage from one stage of life to another - in the same way that a coming of age ceremony does.
    As CupofJoe says -
    In many societies (including the west) the bride went to the grooms family (hence taking their name). This could possibly have long roots in prehistory.

    In a society (such as is now common in the west) where both groom and bride tend to leave home on marriage then it seems an anachronism.

    The major events marked by ceremonies in most societies are of course: Birth (including birth of children, grandchildren and siblings), coming of age (e.g. first kill or just reaching a certain number of years), betrothal, marriage, death and anniversaries).

    I think you have to place events such as these in the context of the culture in which they're found and mirror an invented culture's values in these types of life events.
  4. Noldona

    Noldona Scribe

    In the US, different counties require different amount of things that must happen. I have personally performed 3 ceremonies. Two were in Nebraska, and one was in Alabama. In the case of the Nebraska ones, the county required a minimum of the officiants signature, the bride and groom signatures, and 2 witness signatures as well as the bride and groom declaring the other as their lawfully wedded husband/wife in front of the witnesses. As the couples I performed the ceremonies for wanted bare minimum, the ceremonies were literally, "Do you? Yes. Do you? yes. Ok. Let's sign the paperwork." For the Alabama one, the minimum is just the officiant, bride, and groom signatures. The couple I performed the ceremony for actually did the legal paperwork over lunch one day at a restaurant, but later had a real ceremony. That couple was atheists, so the ceremony contained no religious stuff and included me reading a passage about humanity and life that they selected for me to read. Otherwise the ceremony was pretty typical. Other culture and other time periods use different requirements. A common practice among alternative faith couples these days is to use the Celtic handfasting ceremonies for theirs with different levels of symbolism.

    Marriage can be broken down into 2 or 3 aspects. The first is the legal aspect. What is required to be legal? The second is the social aspect. What does society expect for a marriage? This is where a lot of the symbolism in the ceremony comes from. The third aspect is religious and completely dependent upon the culture. If the culture is religious, what does the religion say must be done to make the marriage valid in its eyes?
  5. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

    I think the "need" for the officiant is pragmatic (beyond tradition). As you said above, there are several aspects of marriage: legal, social, and religious.

    Depending on the beliefs, the religious aspect may or may not require an officiant (Catholicism requires a Mass and a valid cleric to perform it so you can't get a Catholic wedding w/out him). But for many it is simply the commitment to one another that matters most (as in - god(s) know your intentions).

    From a social standpoint Rites of Passage must be witnessed (and accepted) by members of the community in order to validate them. If marriage was simply an exchange of vows in the private setting how do you keep children with little crushes from getting "married"? Likewise, what if someone wants to marry a goat? The social status of being married is different than being single so having witnesses really ensures that the marriage is valid and accepted and the social titles may therefore be conferred. (Kind of like when a new government forms - how do we define whether they're a new government or just rebels in power?- It's based on other nation's choices to publicly recognize them as one or the other).

    Of course the legal standpoint very much mirrors the social. You need witnesses and (as in religious) there should be someone with an official capacity able to declare it. (Again, if all it takes is any 3 people there's be lots of kindergarteners & their friends that are married.)

    I think a marriage ritual (valid in all social, religious, & political aspects) by necessity needs at very least the bride and groom + the officiant. Other witnesses are probably preferred but optional.
    There should be an exchange of vows and the use of something symbolic to mark the transition from one social state to another (single to married). Western trads would be things like jumping over broomsticks, unity sand, unity candles, lassos, (giant) rosaries, crowns, exchanging rings etc. My personal favorite is (in Hinduism?) the bride and groom dip their feet in (red) paint and walk down a runner together- they record their first steps together as a married couple.

    You touched upon the issue of dowry. While it's true that there were concerns over this, as I understand it, the dowry was (supposed) to be set aside for the woman in case the husband died. She would then have the land/wealth off of which to live (or if she joined a monastery) the property might transfer to their holding and offset the costs of taking in new members.
    In addition to dowry (from bride's family to groom) in (I think Germanic cultures?) there were "morning after" gifts. It was essentially the same as a dowry but given from the groom directly to his bride (rather than her family). It was more or less a gift of resources to the wife that they would share or she would enjoy alone. So ... if you want something more equal and don't want to eliminate the dowry altogether, you can make the dowry an exchange of property between both families or you could leave the families out of it entirely and make it an exchange of resources between the husband and wife (they're both bringing more than just their bodies to the arrangement).

    The exchange of crowns in your ceremony seems to be a subtle inclusion of this.

    If you need it to be entirely equal, require two officiants : one man and one woman and the ceremony is incomplete without them. There would be 2 ways to take this : the first is that you need both genders to get things done, the other would be that neither officiant can perform the other one's duties (and is therefore still restricted along gender lines). It kind of depends how you look at it.

    I think you're on the right track already though.
  6. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    I want to point out that originally marraiges were an economic contract, the likes of wich still exist today in very small trible groups in places like africa and south america. The 'giving away', the dowry and a lost of aspects of marrage are due to how valuble a young woman is to the family and hence society, I'm talking about 20 to 30 individuals. Women are the sole means to further the well being of the clan/fmilial group/society. This is where the idea of dowry comes in, this is dependent in inheritence and the cultre if the dowry is for bride or groom. The family gives a valuble member of to another family and the dowry is paid as an equal exchange. Also the decision of the parents or father on who their children are to marry is about the well being of the child in question, they want their children to survive so effort is made to ensure a good match is made. It has little to do with control or sexism and much more to do with survival of their children and the group as a whole.
  7. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    I wouldn't think so. The Saintry (the main religion of the world) doesn't really take as much of an interventionist attitude into people's lives as, say, the Catholic Church historically has. In reality I would say all that would be needed was some sort of official, like a magistrate. Saints would mainly be there just to lead the ceremony and do all the speeches and stuff, but they wouldn't be a vital presence. The vital presence would probably be some kind of legal official like a magistrate just to witness and file the paperwork. But if, say, two people were to get married and didn't want to have a showy ceremony, all they would need would be a magistrate and probably a handful of witnesses.

    Perhaps, but I still find it a bit strange that it's the woman who's being 'given away' by her family to the groom, like a possession. Why isn't the groom given away as well, walked down the aisle by his father and/or mother? That's the bit that always made me uneasy, the one-sidedness of it all.

    I can see historically why these misogynistic traditions developed, but I still don't like it, and I made a conscious effort to avoid it and other similar traditions in my world-building.
  8. Tuxedo Mark

    Tuxedo Mark Dreamer

    In the world that I'm developing, the royal family that rules a certain kingdom (and, once upon a time, the entire world, until there was a war) is in communion with the creator goddesses, who let their will known to the royals, who let it known to the common people. The religion (if it can be called that) has no ritual, no scheduled worship, and no sacred buildings. Instead, the goddess' will is spoken and written by the royals and then distributed around the kingdom (on the community bulletin board of the local tavern, for example). The royals are also judges, and there are also royally-appointed judges. I suppose, in the absence of any formal clergy, these would be the ones to perform wedding ceremonies, though I haven't worked out the details of that yet.

    Also, on my world, the sexes are equal by divine precept. Some backwards, macho men might take issue with that, but the women are a match for the men, physically. Females might even unofficially be considered "more equal", because the deities are "female" (though, of course, there are competing/breakaway religions that dispute that as well).
  9. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    I have a question Gryphos. What is the point to marraige in the culture? What are the social, economic, legal or religious implications of marraige? What changes among the married? I think These are questions that may help figure out the actual ceremony. For instance, if marraige started out as an economic contract between two parties where wealth was joined or exchanged as I mentioned above then moved towards religious then it could be the person officiating the marraige acts as a religious middle man/woman for the exchange. The crown could be a symbol of wealth that the families of both bride and groom agreed upon to give the the bride and groom jointly, a nest egg for the newlyweds. Maybe the economic factor is what is important point and the religious one not so much.

    How has the social status among the bride and groom changed?

    This is what I did. In one of my cultures a person is not considered a full member of society until they have children, so marraige is the starting point to becoming a full member of society. It marks the point where they start to take part in the affairs of their tribe in a supporting role. More importantly it marks the point where they have power and responsability towards eachother, so the marraige ceremony includes a series of questions and trails overseen by the elders of the family tribe or clan (depending on cercumstances). There is even an archaic trial where the couple make a pilgramage to the encestrial tombs in the desert (this is both a religious and social aspect that shows commitment to eachother and the god and ancestors). Each is enchanted with a different handicap, blide, mute, deaf before they leave (mostly religious/mythology it's also a test on how they are individually and a couple. I weeds out the childhood infatuation). They have to go to the tomb and come back where they are asked questions, mostly pertainint to eachother and the trials they endured, this part takes place away from the public eye and only the elders know what is said (religious). Then they cloth eachother (social and economic to signal a visible change in status) and exit for the public portion where they exchange gifts, these gifts are the last items that personally belog to each of them, everything afterwards is jointly owned (social, economic). Before the end the families give gifts to establish the new houshold (economic with some religious implication). Then 7 days of festivities that is organized by the bride and grooms families (economic for their fiamilies but social in how it reflects upon their union).
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2015
  10. spectre

    spectre Sage

    The Meaning Behind the Wedding Tradition: The Father Giving His Daughter Away

    I think what you should look into is symbolism, because that's what you are envisioning the wedding process as, and not an arrangement. Explore global wedding ceremonies, historical ones, and there is a lot of real world based material to help kickstart your memory. You could always just be you and put a completely self-envisioned spin on your rituals for the story. That's what I'd try to do, I was writing about a funeral and realized the Living Word was Judeo-Christian, which I didn't want to incorporate into a fantasy novel. Upset me, because it sounds very nice as a ceremonial rite. But then, maybe I will.
  11. SD Stevens

    SD Stevens Scribe

    Ascanius you make some great points there that are worth jotting down as reference when even deciding to put marriage, bonding, hand fasting and whatever else there is out there, into a story. It has to have purpose to the storyline not just what words are said. A fade out is handy there, is the actual ceremony needed. A ceremony where nerves can lead to some much needed humour or to bring out some deep aspects of a character would be worth writing.

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  12. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    Interesting questions. I wouldn't say that marriage is a religious sacrament in any way. The only reason a sain usually conducts the ceremony is more because, well, almost everyone follows the Saintry, and the Saintry does have two patron Saints of lovers, St. Umbria and St. Pardinam, so they might as well have a Saintry-infused ceremony.

    I imagine marriage started out in my world as an outward expression of love, as well as making a union of the two parties' wealth. It was probably used, much like the real world, to create alliances between noble houses in the past, etc. But in general the core concept is that these two people are, in a way, making their bond of love official.

    The legal implications probably aren't too extensive, and probably vary a bit between the different countries of my world. Universally, the couple chooses whose last name they'll share, and when they divorce they each go back to their original last name. If the one who gave up their name is widowed, they keep their married name, but if they remarry, they must take on their new partner's last name. But as I said, the legal implications wouldn't be too extensive. The State would just officially recognise them as a couple.

    Perhaps, only I would say the bride and groom themselves would arrange for the creation of the crowns and not their families. Of course, the family may well supply the money for that, but that's not the set tradition or anything. The involvement of the family is very downplayed in my world with regards to marriage (in the post-industrialised period of my world, at least. In the past marriage would probably be a political tool for noble families). The only people who really matter are the couple themselves.

    I would say the purpose of the crown is to be symbolic of the grandeur of love, or something like that. The couple are the king and queen of themselves and their hearts. The crown in question doesn't have to be expensive. I imagine quite a few couples would just have crowns made of platted twigs or even daisy chains. Of course, that's only in the modernish time the setting is currently in. In the way way past the crown probably does have its roots in economic symbolism. Also, for the swag.

    I dunno, I still find it a bit iffy that it's the woman whose 'given away' and not the man, and the fact that the woman walks down the aisle while the man is already at the altar. Why doesn't the guy get any grandiose in his entrance? It's like he's being given a present, gift-wrapped in a nice white dress. I just can't shake that feeling.

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