Analysis of a Ritual
The rite of passage refers to a ceremony that is devoted to marking a person’s change of social or other statuses (Monaghan & Just). It is performed exclusively on some important occasions. Pilgrimages refer to ritually structured travels that evoke long-lasting emotions and may even change people’s worldview (Dubisch). However, I would like to describe my sister’s wedding as one of the most influential rituals for my family. It was several years ago, and I was 14 years old at that moment.
My sister’s wedding was organized in a traditional way. The ceremony took place in the church, as both the bride and the groom were highly religious people and shared the same religion. All other key elements were also traditional. My sister chose a designer’s dress, and the groom wore the official tuxedo. There was a lot of flowers, and the entire atmosphere was extremely positive. The bride and the groom decided to use limousine services. As I am the sister of the bride, I have been positioned comparatively close to the center of the ceremony. Other relatives were also near me. The physical layout encouraged all people to follow traditional norms. It was a beautiful church, and the ceremony was formal. It was comparatively quiet, even though there were a lot of people. My perception was that it was not crowded because it was well-organized.
There were around 100 guests. Their ages, genders, and ethnicities were different, as almost all relatives and friends were invited to the ceremony. Several groups of people played different roles. First, the bride and the groom performed their traditional roles. Second, the relatives participated in this ceremony in accordance with their functions. Third, groomsmen and bridesmaids also helped to organize the entire process and tried to provide the psychological support to the bride and the groom. There was no social stratification during this event.
As the ceremony was organized in the church, the pastor played the central role in it. He explained that the bride and the groom made promises before God. Thus, it was the highest level of responsibility. When the couple confirmed the understanding of these basic principles, the pastor blessed the groom and the bride. People’s attention was maximal throughout the ritual. The overall tone of the event was formal but positive. The main emotions included both conviviality and utter responsibility. The language used was also formal. The pastor made a public statement and used the traditional style that is often present in the churches. Such organization helped to stress the significance of the event for all people. Other sensory experiences were also present. Special music and lightning in the church contributed to this atmosphere. It was a special spiritual experience for me. I felt that God had blessed this couple. I think that other people experienced similar emotions.
As Julia L. Cassaniti and Tanya M. Luhrmann point out, “we nevertheless want to make the case for the importance of comparison in understanding spiritual experience because … direct comparison actually strengthens the case that the social gets under the skin” (333). In general, weddings can be organized differently, but its traditional form is usually organized in the church. The church community and the pastor performed this ritual. I did not know much about the pastor, but he demonstrated high devotion to his work. The most striking element was when the pastor explained the significance of promises. They were significant not only in relation to each other, but even before God. The pastor explained it in such a way that all people in the church were significantly affected spiritually. However, the entire ceremony was well-organized, and people’s attention to all major participants was maximal. The groomsmen and bridesmaids also helped to create the necessary atmosphere.
The dominant emotions were twofold. On the one hand, all people were happy, because such a beautiful couple had emerged. On the other hand, everyone felt responsibility. Thus, it was not a usual type of conviviality. It seems that many people also asked God to help this couple in the future. It is difficult to describe all my emotions precisely, because it was a mixture of different emotions. I realized the significance of this ceremony to my sister and wanted to make my small contribution to her happiness. The emotions were very strong, and I had been experiencing them even several days after the ceremony. Even now, I remember numerous details of the ceremony very precisely.
The main themes promoted in this ritual were the significance of the family to all people and the couple’s responsibility for their promises before God. The pastor explained that creating a family had a spiritual meaning. Two persons obtained the uniform spiritual basis and should behave in the interests of each other as well as other social members. Moreover, they made these promises before God. Thus, they are subject to an even higher responsibility. It seems that these themes were not in conflict with one another. On the contrary, they were reinforcing and demonstrating the behavior that should reach the social and spiritual harmony.
It is possible to compare this ritual with the Run for the Wall described by J. Dubisch. The similarities include the involvement of a large number of people as well as a high significance of the ritual to all people involved. The main differences refer to the fact that my sister’s wedding had both religious and secular contexts, while the Run for the Wall was purely secular. All participants of the Run were equal, while the bride and the groom occupied the central position in the ceremony. I would like to report my conversation with my uncle. He was also impressed by the ceremony, but it was evident from his comments that he was concentrated exclusively by the bride and the groom, while my perception was also substantially affected by the pastor. His comments offer some new insights stressing the significance of the ritual in the church. In general, my perception was close to him, even though I was focused on all relevant details rather than only the bride and the groom.
The fact that I was the sister of the bride substantially affected my experience. I was not neutral in relation to participants and tried to demonstrate my love and support to my sister. I think that my close relationships with my sister made an impact on my perception, because my emotions were very strong. I felt empathy towards her and all other people present in the church. I also suggest that the role of the pastor was very significant, as he helped the bride and the groom to understand the significance of this event. If I were going to do more research on this ritual, I would examine wedding ceremonies in different countries and cultures. I would try to determine what underlying causes and factors influence the dominant wedding ceremony in a given region. I would also try to determine the existing tendencies and the future innovations that may occur in this regard. I could also make some research regarding the history of this ritual and its spiritual meaning for various participants.