When Same-Sex Couples Say 'I do': Display Work and the (Re)Production of the Wedding Rite

Elizabeth Mamali, Lorna Stevens

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Abstract

Weddings are collective rituals that enable couples to show their solemn commitment to an invited audience. In this sense, weddings can thus be viewed as important forms of ‘display work’. Whilst there are clear commonalities between rituals and display work, particularly in terms of their emphasis on spectacle, demonstration and audience, little attention has been given to how display work can inform and indeed transform wedding rituals. We use display work as a lens for exploring how same-sex couples construct and enact their wedding. In particular we show how heteronormative, gendered traditions that underpin the wedding rite are negotiated. Our findings demonstrate the interplay between display work and normative ritual elements. We identify four tactics of ‘reflexive display’: strategic compliance, playful appropriation, annexation and conspicuous absence. Together, these show how the wedding rite is done, undone or redone, to reflect each couple’s unique relationship and perspective on same-sex union.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociology-the Journal of the British Sociological Association
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Feb 2020

Keywords

  • display work, rituals, same-sex weddings, wedding rituals

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