Barefoot on the beach : the destination wedding as discursive cultural practice

Ching, April Holly
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2013]
The phenomenon of the destination wedding denotes a cultural shift in the way Americans assign meaning to the wedding ritual as a whole. Traditionally, the wedding was seen as a ritual rooted in community and performed in adherence to overall societal conventions. However, contemporary couples increasingly see the wedding as a ritual in service of addressing the historical conflicts inherent in it: the discourses of society and the individual, marriage and romance, industry and consumer. This dissertation tracks the variety of ways in which the tension between these discourses has been manifest in the practice of the wedding throughout its historical trajectory and shows how it can be seen as a way society and couples have addressed shifting social relations and changing social identities as shaped by popular media. Couples increasingly use media to negotiate the wedding experience; the commercial white wedding practice is re-contextualized by their production of, and interaction with, industry media. The destination wedding mitigates the tension between discourses constructing marriage by incorporating the discourses of intimacy as well as that of tourism. The destination wedding is sold by the industry as an escape, escape from the social, familial, and financial pressures of a large wedding. But it is also framed as a tool for building intimacy. Rather than promoting an individual escape, the destination wedding offers the image of an escape by a couple, in order to create a shared identity in a liminal space. The tropical beach is the ideal location sold by the industry for the wedding away because of its own discourse and ideology as an iconic tourist destination. For American couples the iconic beach location is Hawaiʻi. Its construction by the tourist and wedding industries represents the conflation of the competing discourses of the wedding as a social imperative, travel as an escape, and romance--as epitomized by the image of a tropical paradise. The increasing popularity of the destination wedding demonstrates an attempt by couples to negotiate and even change the meaning and purpose of the wedding ritual; and, as a result, the wedding itself is taking on new meaning.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013.
Includes bibliographical references.
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