Wedding as Text: Communicating Cultural Identities through Ritual

Wedding as Text: Communicating Cultural Identities through Ritual

Wedding as Text: Communicating Cultural Identities through Ritual

Wedding as Text: Communicating Cultural Identities through Ritual


A wedding serves as the beginning marker of a marriage; if a couple is to manage cultural differences throughout their relationship, they must first pass the hurdle of designing a wedding ceremony that accommodates those differences. In this volume, author Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz documents the weddings of 112 couples from across the United States, studied over a 10-year period. She focuses on intercultural weddings--interracial, interethnic, interfaith, international, and interclass--looking at how real people are coping with cultural differences in their lives.

Through detailed case studies, the book explores how couples display different identities simultaneously. The concepts of community, ritual, identity, and meaning are given extensive consideration. Because material culture plays a particularly important role in weddings as in other examples of ritual, food, clothing, and objects are given special attention here.

Focusing on how couples design a wedding ritual to simultaneously meet multiple--and different--requirements, this book provides:

• extensive details of actual behavior by couples;

• an innovative format: six traditional theoretical chapters, with examples integrated into the discussion, are matched to six "interludes" providing detailed descriptions of the most successful examples of resolving intercultural differences;

• a methodological appendix detailing what was done and why these decisions were made; and

• a theoretical appendix outlining the study's assumptions in detail.

Wedding as Text: Communicating Cultural Identities Through Ritual is a distinctive study of those who have accepted cultural difference into their daily lives and how they have managed to do so successfully. As such, it is suitable for students and scholars in semiotics, intercultural communication, ritual, material culture, family communication, and family studies, and will be valuable reading for anyone facing the issue of cultural difference.


This is the culmination of a long-term research project, larger than any I have undertaken previously, thus one more difficult to manage, and more time-consuming. As befits a large project, the research had multiple goals and its publication serves a variety of purposes. This project deliberately brings together what are generally separate areas of study in the United States (semiotics, language and social interaction, and intercultural communication) and studies interdisciplinary topics not generally the central focus of any of these (ritual, identity, and material culture), using a method (ethnography of communication) and a theory (social constructionism) that still are not those most frequently adopted by communication researchers to study a topic (weddings) that has attracted surprisingly little attention from any researchers, whether in communication or other disciplines. As a result of all of these influences, this book has as much to say about the ways we choose to conduct research, and the necessary interdisciplinarity of substantive projects, as about what we can potentially learn from this one investigation of weddings. It is my hope that even if the particulars of the study are not of paramount interest to a reader, at least some of the theoretical, methodological, or disciplinary concerns may be of value. It is for this reason that separate theoretical and methodological appendices have been included, placed at the back of the book so they are out of the way of those who are only interested in the primary data and analysis. Those primarily interested in weddings can safely ignore them, but other readers should seriously consider reading them before the body of the book, as they provide the framework for understanding what I have done and why.

First, this book is a contribution to semiotics. Specifically, it is a demonstration of how to use semiotics to analyze a particular ritual event. For this purpose, weddings serve admirably because they involve the combination of multiple signs and social codes, the building blocks of semiotics. In this guise, this book . . .

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