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Wedding paradoxes: Individualized conformity and the ‘perfect day’

Duncan, Simon; Carter, Julia


Simon Duncan

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Julia Carter
Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology


© The Author(s) 2016. Marriage rates in twenty-first-century Britain are historically low, divorce and separation are historically high, and marriage is no longer generally seen as necessary for legitimate sexual relationships, long-term partnership or even parenting. Yet at the same time weddings have become more prominent, both as social aspiration and as popular culture. But why have a wedding, especially an ornate, expensive and time-consuming wedding, when there appears to be little social need to do so? Similarly, weddings have never been more free from cultural norms and official control-so why do these supposedly unique and deeply personal events usually replay the same assumed traditions? We draw from a small qualitative sample of 15 interviews with white, heterosexual celebrants to address these questions. While existing accounts posit weddings as a social display of success, emphasizing distinction, and manipulation by a powerful wedding industry, we argue that weddings involve celebrants necessarily adapting from, and re-serving, tradition as a process of bricolage. This shapes the four major discourses interviewees used to give meanings to their weddings: the project of the couple, relationality, re-traditionalization and romanticized consumption. At the same time many couples did not want to be distinctively unique, but rather distinctively normal. This is what we call ‘individualized conformity’.


Duncan, S., & Carter, J. (2017). Wedding paradoxes: Individualized conformity and the ‘perfect day’. Sociological Review, 65(1), 3-20.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 18, 2016
Online Publication Date Apr 14, 2016
Publication Date Jan 1, 2017
Journal Sociological Review
Print ISSN 0038-0261
Electronic ISSN 1467-954X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 65
Issue 1
Pages 3-20
Keywords weddings, marriage, couples, bricolage, tradition, Britain
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