Reversing Down the Aisle

This amateur video reached viral status during Summer 2009; within four days of filming, it had seen four million hits on YouTube. As of October 2009, that number was over 30 million. How might Reversal Theory help explain this popularity? Watch it, then keep reading…

Rethinking the Ritual

While every wedding is unique, most begin with a recognizable script: a group gathers in a serious and formal environment, the wedding party proceeds down the aisle in well-practiced form, punctuated by the entry of the blushing bride, accompanied by classical music to mark the weight of the moment. Once everyone is in place, the scripted ceremony begins – everyone on cue! The ritual has held for generations; every moment planned in advance and recognized by all. In Reversal Theory terms, could any event be designed to be more Serious (the very idea of “until death we part” seems to highlight the consequence of the day!), Conforming (ritual nature of the event itself), Mastery (everyone performing their parts correctly) and Other (focused on the couple all are there for)?

I believe this video went viral because it turned the traditional wedding into a eight state affair. Let’s see how:

Playful – This was an arousal-seeking, fun, exciting way to begin a wedding – experiencing the NOW of the moment: the best of the Playful state. But still Serious … and yet, there is goal focus here. This is not random dancing with no end game; it is clear that there is purpose here in getting everyone (eventually) to the altar before the song is over. There is both structure and form, which keeps the excitement tethered in a very positive way to the overall goal and closure of the segment.

Rebellious – This wedding took the traditional wedding entrance and turned it – literally – on its head. What could be more freeing and counter to the expected ritual than dancing down the aisle to pop music? But still Conforming… And yet, the rebellious “flip the bird at tradition” was still very much embedded within the ritual elements of a wedding procession. Even with the freshness of the approach, we knew what was generally likely to happen next, making the anticipation all the more poignant. Many who commented on the video online wrote that they cried when the bride entered. It was the climax of the show, made all the more enjoyable because of the creative surprise within the comfort of ritual.

Sympathy…The love in this video seems clear. This was not a professionally performed or filmed affair; the obvious awkwardness of some of the players and the hand-held camera tell us that this display was not about demonstrating dancing competency as a main goal, but rather, showing their care for a couple about to start their lives together… But still Mastery… And yet, it is clear that this event was well-rehearsed; there was nothing haphazard or thrown together about its performance. It’s actually a very well choreographed event, which requires the presence of the Mastery state – the ability to pull it off.

Other… The performers are clearly there to support the couple at the center of the act… But still Self… And yet, the individualism of each dancer shines through. There is a great deal of personal expression in this performance (Self), supporting the Other-oriented backdrop of the event.

This video captures both the power and complexity of Reversal Theory; states work together, come into and out of focus, and evoke both personal and universal emotion. What a great beginning for this new husband and wife!

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