Customs related to love, courtship, weddings, and marriage vary significantly from one culture to another and throughout history. Consider this theme as a way to approach standards in social studies.
Young children enjoy dramatic play involving weddings. Add a bride costume to your dramatic play area, or an assortment of wedding veils (available inexpensively at craft shops) and artificial flower bouquets. Have a few fun wedding themed picture books:
- Eve Bunting’s The Wedding tells of a cow on the way to her wedding helpfully providing transportation for the various animals who will be helping out at the wedding.
- Angelina and the Royal Wedding has Angeline Ballerina attending a very posh wedding.
- Miss Spider’s Wedding continues the story of Miss Spider with luminous pictures and romantic verse.
- Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding incorporates traditional Chinese wedding customs and the universal experience of jealousy among young children when someone else gets to be the center of attention.
- Snapshots from the Wedding by poet Gary Soto gives a wonderful portrait of a traditional Mexican American wedding from a child’s point of view.
- There are also many, many books of the ___ at the Wedding variety, from Cam Jansen to Barbie to Biscuit the puppy. If your class has favorite characters, the chances of finding a wedding themed book for them are pretty good.
Wedding customs vary from one country to another, and from one U.S. tradition to another.
- Have students ask to see their parents’ or other relatives’ wedding albums and draw a labeled picture of their favorite photo from the album.
- Divide students into groups to research wedding customs in different countries, either online or at a library. A number of very interesting customs continue to be observed in the context of weddings, such as the fish skin wedding dresses of the Hezhe people and the old Scottish custom of breaking bread or cake over the head of the bride. Because quite a few questionable websites (websites that may damage computers with malware) will come up for searches on “wedding customs,” we recommend that online research be conducted in the school computer lab or library with strong security settings, rather than being assigned as homework.
- Interviewing individuals is another good way of gaining this information; a survey of wedding customs will make a very good oral history project.
- View clips of weddings from movies. As you watch, create a class list of customs observed. If you’ve done any of the other projects from this section, compare the customs shown in movies with the real life customs you’ve discovered.
Weddings and marriage customs have changed through time. One difference is that modern couples in the United States and much of the rest of the world now expect to choose their own marriage partners. This hasn’t always been true. Examine the idea of who should choose the spouse:
- A lesson plan introducing Romeo and Juliet asks students to compare their ideas of a perfect spouse with those of their parents.
- A transcript of a story on arranged marriages from Religion and Ethics Newsweekly examines Hindu and Orthodox Jewish examples of arranged marriages. Use the transcript as a reader’s theater script to introduce the topic of arranged marriage in the modern world.
Weddings can be simple or complicated. Look into the economics and logistics of weddings with one of these projects:
- A Webquest challenges students to plan a wedding for Romeo and Juliet. Not only does this provide some happily ever after for the star-crossed lovers, it also send students into research on the customs and mores of the time.
- Many modern couples employ a wedding planner. Research this career and create a business plan for someone starting up a business as a wedding planner. Use templates from the Small Business Administration and research online or in your community.
- As part of the oral history project discussed above, or through direct research, figure out the cost of a wedding. Students can be divided into groups and given budgets to work with, or the class can attempt to find price ranges for ordinary wedding expenses such as a cake, bridal gown, or wedding invitations.
- A Royal Wedding took place recently, as England’s Prince William married Kate Middleton. Collect news reports and study how the event was covered and how it affected people. There’s also an economic effect from a highly-publicized wedding, as tourists visit the area and interest increases. Compare the royal wedding with U.S. celebrity weddings.
A wedding is a terrific opportunity to think about design. A wedding must be a beautiful and special event, with lots of photographs and spectators. Yet the works of art created for a wedding also are intended to be worn, carried, thrown, eaten, and used for various ceremonial purposes. Challenge students to design a wedding cake, dress, bouquet, or other traditional item, keeping in mind the practical aspects as well as the aesthetic ones.