Professor John O’Hara
October 17, 2011
The Socialization of Marriage in American Culture
In America, marriage is an institution often idolized and sought after; for some, starting at a young age. Young children, young girls in particular, can be seen playing marital games, dressing up as brides and acting out their dream wedding. But why is it that such an unstable institution is held in such high esteem, to a point where the act of getting married, not the marriage itself becomes an imperative piece in an entire nation’s culture? The average duration of a marriage in the U.S. today is 11 years, with 90% of all divorces being settled out of court (Culture). In a society where the divorce rate is half the marriage rate, why is it that people still spend on average $20,653 to $34,421 on wedding preparations and ceremonies? Marriage, once seen as a sacred ritual has now become a more materialistic, showy practice following the multiple socialized construction of today’s American society. In “Gender and Ritual: Giving Birth the American Way”, essayist Robbie Davis-Floyd defines a ritual as “a patterned, repetitive, and symbolic enactment of a cultural belief or value. (107)” Marriages in nature are symbolic proclamations of a couple’s commitment to one another. Typically, the couple dates for some time before any proposal is made, and during this period of courtship, a relationship is established between the couple and their parents. It is usually imperative that a parent or parental figure approves of their child’s lover before any further relationship plans are made. Following the dating stage, there is typically a proposal of some sort. In the “traditional” relationship, the man proposes to the woman, and depending upon her answer, an engagement ring is placed upon the woman’s finger, marking that she is promised to the man for marriage. Today, while women have been making striking foregrounds, very seldom is it heard of...