Some thoughts on marriage, weddings and brides…a meandering developmental train of thought for a new project…
From Lisa Walker’s critique of Naomi Wolf’s article, “Brideland”
“In spite of the problematic aspects of bridal fashion and beauty, many women, including feminists, lesbians and women of colour, dream about transforming themselves into that most fantastic creature, the bride.”
“…a moralizing reading of fashion’s capacity to commodify women’s desires, alienate them from their bodies, and manipulate their insecurities about their social, political and economic identities does not address the complexity of fashion as a symbolic system, a language that is not only riddled with but enacts contradictory messages about female subjectivity.”
Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, Vol 19, No 2, Autumn 2000, pp 219-230
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship.
Kinship is a relationship between any entities that share a genealogical origin, through either biological, cultural or historical descent.
So, it’s about forging a familial relationship between two people who are not (usually!) blood related. About attempting to bridge the distance between two genetic strangers.
At its heart marriage is supposed to create a stable environment for the rearing of children, and thus, the perpetuation of the species. This is why it has been a central unit of social order. It is bound up in so much hope, yearning, aspiration- on an individual and social level- because it builds towards the “miracle” of birth: our trick of repeating ourselves, which is after all, the only thing we live for.
Sex is thus embedded in the marriage ritual, but in the contemporary western tradition it is no longer the explicit focus of it.
Some wedding symbolism:
Roses/Flowers: sexuality, fertility, also impermanence
Ring: eternity (in contrast to the impermanence of the flowers), bond, value, strength, link, chain
White: Purity, blank slate, shedding the old and becoming a new 3rd entity- no longer individuals, paving the way for a combined unit (or attachment to a male partner, erasing previous identity?)
Veil: transformation, becoming new, lifting the veil is revealing the new identity beneath
Dress: narrow waist, full skirt= fertility, ready to start a family. Also- its voluminous-ness- the sheer quantity of fabric used is very unusual in this day and age. It sets it apart from the rest of modern dress, which is designed to be as economical to produce as possible to maximise profit to the manufacturer. The sumptuousness of the wedding dress is a counterpoint to this- it is fitted, and usually made by hand (even if sent off-shore where labour is cheaper). It is only worn once, and then put away, whereas the trend for nearly all other types of clothing is against specificity and towards generality. It is “yours” in a way that other clothes aren’t, and it is “the one”, not one of many. At the same time, it is a costume- bound by a code, so it really is the same dress over and over and over again, with slight variation.
Lace, beading, detail: opulence, conspicuous display of wealth to the community, best craftsmanship available/affordable, investing in the couple/ the next generation, displaying faith, providing an auspicious start, creating a fantastical environment around this loaded union- costume creating a heightened state
Consent- “I Do”
Will add to this as I go