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Marriage is Dead, Long Live Marriage! When the Marriage Ritual Comes to the Intitution's Rescue

Florence Maillochon

The importance given to weddings at a time when the institution of marriage itself is falling into disrepute leads one to ponder the current significance and new role of this event in the life of the couple. A re-reading of the works of Arnold Van Gennep and of Pierre Bourdieu with regard to the notion of “rites”, taken together with a field study carried out in France, indicate that marriage as such is no longer a “passage” in the life of the individual, but that the wedding itself ranks as a transition activity that is important to the couple, its power seeming to derive from the very fact that it is no longer either mandatory or necessary. Far from weakening the wedding ceremony, the decline in the institution of marriage seems, paradoxically, to have been countered by the maintenance of the wedding itself; this is an instance where form has replaced substance and now offers it a helping hand. The total commitment of young married couples to the organization of their marriage may then be seen as an indicator of the strength of the matrimonial commitment they wish or hope to thus demonstrate. The ceremonial of marriage is a space where the couple act out what the spouses hope to become.