Wrestling on the Table: The Contemporary Wedding Meal in Latvia


  • Astra Spalvēna Latvian Academy of Culture


wedding rituals, contemporary traditions, festive meal, food as symbol


The object of this paper is to examine the contemporary wedding meal in Latvia, focusing on one particular social group of well situated young couples who choose fine dining restaurants or rented venues for their wedding celebrations because they considered restaurant weddings more elaborate and modern. The desire to embrace a modern lifestyle is the way in which to obtain a new identity in a rapidly changing post-socialist world.The aim of present research is to reveal how different traditions intertwine in the wedding meal - new or borrowed, with ancient and national or Soviet traditions. While followers of a modern lifestyle are emphasising a challenge to traditions, it is nevertheless the wedding meal and symbolic practices connected with it that indicates a more or less intentional respect for tradition.I argue that the wedding ceremony reveals the shift from rites of passage to social distinction. This argument is developed by analysing how social and family relationships, value systems and the ethos as a whole have changed recently in Latvia. The use of the symbolic capacity of wedding food, denoting fertility and prosperity, provides the stability of the structure of the wedding feast, which also affects the structure of the marriage ceremony as a whole. 


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