Rites of passage are ceremonies designed to symbolize the passing of one stage to another within one’s life and recognizes a change in life status that shows development and some level of commitment. A wedding is one example of a rite of passage that is used in almost every religion and culture and worldwide, hence the reason why it will be analyzed in this paper. Weddings have taken place for thousands of years and are symbolic in the sense that they recognize the union between two individuals that is intended to remain intact for an entire life time. They are regarded as the official recognition by society of the binding of two people to one another emotionally, physically and symbolically for life.
Weddings adhere to the rituals and requirements of the rites of passage as they follow each stage including separation, liminality and incorporation. There is a series of steps involved with the process of a wedding from when two people become engaged to one another to when they are married and ready to take the next steps of life together.

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In adhering to the first step of a rites of passage ceremony, separation, a woman becomes separated from her family or starts this process when her counterpart proposes to her. This proposition, otherwise known as an intended engagement, marks the initiation and separation process whereby a man or individual requests that the other be separated from their family and united with themselves and their own roots. The woman or individual is initially tied to their family from birth and is then requested to separate physically and emotionally from their family to form their own. In many cultures worldwide, the male or individual proposing will normally ask the father or other family of their partner for permission to become engaged. This is also regarded as part of the separation process of the rites of passage ceremony. When the proposing individual presents their request to the other individual, they will also mark this separation process with the presentation of a ring, designed to stand out and be worn on the specific index finger of the individual’s left hand. This engagement ring also symbolizes the first stage of the rites of passage with respect to a wedding ceremony.

The second stage of a rites of passage in regards to a marriage known as liminality describes the transition period between when the individual becomes engaged with another and when they both attend a wedding ceremony and are announced as husband (man) and wife. This transition period allows both families to commence preparations for the final period of the rites of passage where both individuals are married and bound to one another emotionally and also legally. Such preparations as financial liabilities and the location and attendees of the wedding are organized and both parties can determine how they want to conclude the rites of passage ceremony. Furthermore, both religions of the individuals are determined and the culture and primary religion behind the ceremony also need to be confirmed. This period also allows both individuals to re-evaluate their lives and determine whether they want to proceed with the wedding ceremony. In many cultures and customs, individuals will be pressured into providing information on whether they want to proceed and whether they have any doubts about continuing the rites of passage process. There are many instances where people get cold feet and do not decide to proceed with the wedding ceremony whilst others will wait till later on when it might be too late. This stage of the process is also designed to ensure that the wedding ceremony is genuine and that it is also proper in its nature and representation for both families involved.

Once both individuals have passed the liminality stage of the wedding process (rites of passage), they move on to the final stage, which is incorporation and is marked by the actual wedding ceremony. The wedding ceremony itself involves a further proposition of a ring that both individuals can be presented with. The ring signifies the official binding of both parties and cements the relationship on a physical and emotional basis. The wedding is attended by family and friends and in many customs and traditions, a key religious figure will also be present to marry both parties in a legal and religious sense. There are also vows mentioned by both individuals and words proclaimed by the religious figure and individuals and members from both families where permissible. Music and other traditional and cultural events may also occur throughout the wedding process to signify the incorporation of marriage between both individuals and to serve as a form of celebration for the union of both individuals. Wedding ceremonies can also mark the incorporation process for both families and marriage can be regarded by many as a coming together of both families associated with each individual. Weddings are also preceded by a reception where the bride and groom are allowed to celebrate in a less conventional manner.

This final step of the rites of passage process makes the marriage official and both individuals then proceed forth with their lives together instead of on an individual process. Furthermore, both married individuals are presented with a marriage certificate that provides society with evidence of the completion of this type of rite of passage.

In conclusion, a wedding or marriage is regarded as a very symbolic example of a rites of passage ceremony and significant in the sense that it symbolizes the coming together of two individuals and their ability to start a new stage of their lives together as one.