An Anthropology of Weddings:

5 Places, 50 Objects

Worshipping in ancestral hall
Athens, Greece


Botswana photos: Dr. Koreen M. Reece 

Jinmen images: Yanlin Chen, 霖的影像雜貨店 

Penang images: Professor Janet Carsten 

Virginia images: Jen Fariello for all images except – ‘Equality and Inequality – LOVE’ (credit Dr. Siobhan Magee). 

Athens images: Kontact Creative Studio by Elias Marcou. 

What makes a wedding? Why do weddings matter? How does the stuff of weddings - the gifts, decorations, clothing, and symbols - communicate ideas about marriage in different cultures around the world?

This exhibition provides a glimpse into how weddings and marriage are celebrated in five different countries of the world - and also how they are changing - through photographs and objects that we have collected as part of a collaborative research project in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. 

Social anthropology is the comparative study of human cultures and behaviour - including family forms, ritual, religion, politics, and economics - in their social context. The study of the variations between different cultures, and the common humanity which underlies them, is at its heart.

Our research programme, ‘A Global Anthropology of Transforming Marriage’ includes five different projects, each conducted by a different researcher:

Marriage in the context of the HIV/Aids epidemic in Botswana


Marriage under contrastive economic and political regimes in Taiwan and China, focussing on the island of Jinmen


Changing forms of middle-class marriage in Penang, Malaysia

Political, legal, and religious discussions around marriage in Virginia, USA


Marriage under conditions of economic austerity in Athens, Greece

Each project has involved long-term fieldwork conducted over a year or more, during which we have lived in these different places and engaged with as many aspects of marriage as possible. Weddings are just one theme of our research, which explores how marriage is changing, and the wider social implications of these changes. The objects you will see here are not comprehensive; they reflect the serendipity of fieldwork.

Although the places and cultures we are investigating are very different, some of the themes that have emerged in our work are similar. Weddings can be occasions for elaborate and costly exchanges between a couple and members of their families; the rituals provide opportunities to do things in a way that is similar to how they were done in the past, but also opportunities for innovation; they connect people to new sets of relatives, and to different generations of their families.

Project team

Janet Carsten


Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology

Dr. Siobhan Magee


ERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow


ERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Eirini Papadaki


ERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Koreen Reece


ERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow


The research team records grateful thanks to the following individuals & organisations

South-East District, Botswana

· The Moseki family

· The Mantle family

· The Serei family

· Annah Morwaagole and Re a Nyalana

· Senzokuhle Setume

Botswana ribbon


· Yanlin Chen, 霖的影像雜貨店 (wedding photography)

· Bingkui Chiu and Yating Lin 

· Ms. Chen, 風行百貨

· Mingyian Chen

Red ribbon


· Uma Kesaven Borah

· Rebecca Duckett-Wilkinson

· Goh Hun Meng

· Gwynn Jenkins

· Gareth Richards

· Dato’ Dr Hjh Wazir Jahan Begum Karim

Penang ribbon


· Jen Fariello (wedding photography)

· Research participants who recommended objects

Virginia ribbon


· Eirini A. Souri

· Roula Papadaki

· Elias Marcou and Kontakt Creative Studio (wedding photography)

· Thanasis Golemis and Giorgos Papadatos, Erato old bookstore

· Aigli Chatjouli


· The staff of Edinburgh Central Library

· Dr N. Lucy Bull (Exhibition Coordinator)

· Eirini A. Souri (The University of Edinburgh)

· Clare de Mowbray (The University of Edinburgh)

· Jack Thorburn (The University of Edinburgh)

· Michaela McCaffrey (The University of Edinburgh)

General ribbon

We have made every effort to trace copyright-holders of images used on this website.

If you have further information or concerns about permissions to use the images displayed, please contact us.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 695285.

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University of Edinburgh