“Marriage, for instance, isn’t just about the relationship of two people. Other people have to recognize the couple as a couple. What it means to be married is that other people treat you like you’re married,” Professor Chwe says, noting that two people who never see each other may still be regarded by others as married. (Conversely, two people who consider themselves a couple may be denied recognition by others.)
The need for common knowledge means a wedding is more than the exchange of vows by two individuals. “When you go to a wedding, it’s not just about you seeing the two people getting married. It’s also very important that you know that other people know,” Professor Chwe says. That’s why the vows themselves matter less than the ceremony.
“You might have a New Age reading or you can have a very traditional Catholic wedding. But having everyone being together in a wedding is extremely important, regardless of what is said,” Professor Chwe notes. “You’d never have a wedding by just sending a fax to everybody.”