Marrying into modernity: a social and cultural history of weddings in Scotland, c.1930-2018

McLean, Murray Andrew (2020) Marrying into modernity: a social and cultural history of weddings in Scotland, c.1930-2018. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the history of weddings in Scotland from the 1930s to the present day. The early part of this period saw significant growth in Scotland’s marriage rate, alongside the development of a highly visible wedding culture that has survived the decline of marriage in subsequent decades. Weddings have therefore been a dominant feature of Scottish society, both in terms of the number that have taken place and in their prominence in popular culture. Moreover, they exist at the intersection of categories that are often treated separately by historians, with the law, religion, economics, identity, popular culture, and community all having a role to play in the formation and celebration of a marriage. The thesis therefore treats weddings as nodes in complex networks composed of these different forces. From this perspective, their development becomes an index of wider historical change in Scotland and beyond.
Data provided by the National Records of Scotland, alongside published statistics, is used to trace the shifting demographic and denominational profile of weddings over the period, with local newspapers providing visual and written evidence of ritual features such as dress and venue. The local press is also used to explore the function of weddings within the wider communities in which they took place. These sources are supplemented by responses to a survey designed by the author to elicit further quantiative and qualitative insight into the experience of getting married in Scotland.
What emerges is the history of a culture profoundly shaped by modernity and its legacies. In section one, concerning the period from the 1930s to the 1970s, modernity is shown to have operated from below, in the spontaneous standardisation of popular practice, as well as from above, in the legal and ecclesiastical reforms that provided the parameters within which this occurred. Wedding culture is moreover shown to have been a constitutive element of community life. Section two traces the development of wedding culture ‘after modernity’, as its prior social basis unravelled from the 1970s onwards. No longer shaped by community or by a standardised lifecycle, weddings increasingly existed for their own sake, with both the law and popular culture placing increased emphasis on the right to individualised ritual. The ‘modern’ culture of weddings is thus shown to cast a long shadow, obscuring the underlying structural changes that have eroded its wider function in Scottish society.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: weddings, marriage, ritual, modernity, Scotland, religion, community, national identity, law.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Brown, Professor Callum
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Murray McLean
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81467
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2020 14:23
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2020 14:26

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