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From Tradition to Personalization: Changing Marriage Norms in France Since the 1960s

Florence Maillochon  By the same author

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Marriage in France has evolved considerably since the 1960s. To what extent have the observed changes affected the way in which weddings are celebrated’ The Couple Formation survey (FC, INED, 1983–1984) showed that rituals became simpler between the 1960s and the 1980s. Thirty years on, the EPIC survey of individual and conjugal trajectories (Étude des parcours individuels et conjugaux, INED–INSEE, 2013–2014) provides an update. While the traditions surrounding the marriage institution (religious ceremony, betrothal, etc.) have weakened, those governing the visible trappings of the wedding celebration (wedding dress, large wedding party, etc.) are still very much alive. At the same time, new prenuptial ‘traditions’ have been imported or invented (marriage proposal, bachelor/bachelorette parties) and are rapidly becoming institutionalized. In an individualistic society where each wedding must have its own personal touch, certain social rules nonetheless remain in force. The norm of lavish display is widely respected, even for couples with children and for second marriages, formerly more discreet. The decline in marriage and the development of new forms of conjugality have brought an end to the traditional couple but not to traditional rituals – quite the contrary. Contemporary wedding ceremonies remain a powerful reminder of the gender order.