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Religious Rituals: The Wedding

Updated on September 6, 2013
The main symbol of the wedding ceremony, the rings.
The main symbol of the wedding ceremony, the rings. | Source

Rituals are an essential part of human society. Through these rituals, rites of passages are preformed. One of the most important rite of passage in many cultures is that of marriage and having a wedding ceremony. The wedding ceremony is a practice that encompasses the cultural, religious, familial traditions, and ideals of not only the bride and groom, but also the families involved with the ritual. Although the ceremonies may differ throughout the world, the core essence of the ritual remains the same; it signifies the child moving on from their family to begin one with their partner.

The celebration afterwards with the reception.
The celebration afterwards with the reception. | Source

Family connection

Weddings connect two families and blend them as well as their beliefs together, even if they are members of the same church, or share the same religion, beliefs and ideals will become interchanged and reformed under the new family of the children who marry “Certainly, if rituals impose order, enable us to feel connected to others, and transform us in some significant manner, then weddings qualify as rituals.” (Pleck & Otnes, 2003, pg. 21) Through this ritual, the couple is bound together through many smaller rituals such as the exchanging of vows, prayers and song, the exchanging of wedding bands, and the public display of the ritual itself.

A Hindu Marriage Ceremony
A Hindu Marriage Ceremony | Source

Psychological Aspect

The psychological aspect of the wedding ceremony differs with accordance to the religion of the couple that chooses to marry. The couple, depending upon their religious preferences, will ask their god’s blessing before proceeding with the ceremony. Throughout many Christian marriage ceremonies, the Christian God is invoked many times to bless the man and woman who stand before the head of the church. Due to the factor of a wedding ceremony being an occasion for great joy, it is hard to see how one might utilize or the confidence theory. There is the psychological potential for the awe theory. “That religious experience is, in the nature of the case, touched with in- tense feelings of the grandeur of the universe in relation to the self and of the vulnerability of the self in relation to the universe.”(Moro, 2010, pg.18) This can been seen through the eyes of the bride, being the main figurehead of the wedding ceremony, dressed in a ceremonial gown, the color dependent upon the religious beliefs and virginal status of said bride.

A Jewish Wedding Ceremony
A Jewish Wedding Ceremony | Source

Functional Aspect

The functional aspect of the ritual is seen in the behavior of the couple toward each other and the other participants in the ritual. Prior to the ceremony itself, there are many rites that are associated with the wedding ceremony; the bridal showers, the engagement party, the bachelorette and bachelor parties. Even the announcement of the wedding itself has its own ritual. “What separates ritual from other types of behavior is the set of functions it fulfills (or is perceived as fulfilling) for both individuals and society.”(Pleck & Otnes, 2003, pg. 21) Though these other rituals may not have a religious under tone, there would be questions as to the validity of the couple’s intentions without these social pressures that are placed upon this religious ritual.

Traditional Ethiopian Orthodox Catholic Ceremony
Traditional Ethiopian Orthodox Catholic Ceremony | Source

Anthropological Aspect

The anthropological aspect of this ritual is filled with symbols and meanings that date back many centuries, such as the veil, the throwing of the rice, the carrying of the bouquet, and the carrying of the bride across the threshold after the ceremony is completed. Each of these traditions and symbols that accompany the rite of passage that is marriage are as essential as the rite itself in that it helps to define the right. “All sacred objects, beliefs, and acts, and the extraordinary emotions attending them, were outward expressions of inward social necessities, and, in a famous phrase, God was the symbol of society.” (Moro, 2010, pg. 18) In this aspect, the anthropological facet of the wedding rite embraces a sociological approach.

A Nigerian Bride
A Nigerian Bride | Source


Due to the master symbol of the bride during the ritual of marriage, I do not think that the bride, or the groom, is invisible as Turner suggests in his theory. The separation from the rest of society does not fit as well because a wedding is such a social as well as religious rite of passage. “It is Turners belief that the neophyte at the liminal stage has nothing-no status, property rank, or kinship position.” (Moro, 2010, pg. 95) With the rite of passage that is a wedding ceremony and marriage to another person, one achieves status, sometimes property and rank as well as a new kinship position in a maternal or paternal fashion.

No matter what the religious, cultural or familial background, the fundamental nature is the same; marriage and the wedding ceremony is a rite of passage that is social, functional, psychological and anthropological as well as religious. The ability to marry is not an option for all those who love at this time, and thus makes this particular rite of passage even that more sacred for those who can marry.


Moro, P. (2010) Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion: A Reader in in the Anthropology of Religion. Boston: McGraw Hill

Pleck, E H, Otnes, C., (2003) Cinderella Dreams : The Allure of the Lavish Wedding. Ewing, NJ,: University of California Press retrieved from


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