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Something Old, Something New: Ethnic Weddings in Greater Lowell

Ethnicity involves social relationships with members of a group who have a shared sense of identity, history, cultural patterns and styles.  These cultural patterns and styles maybe esoteric to a particular group, yet they can be shared in obvious and open ways with members outside the group.

In Lowell, where over fifty different ethnic groups express cultural traditions in a myriad of ways, we can easily forget that people express their ethnicity by choice since ethnicity is an ascribed identity.  Members of the group decide for themselves the basis and the extent of their involvement within the ethnic circle.  Membership is by descent and sometimes by intermarriage.

When we look closely, we see a blend of ethnic traditions that are often brought about by intermarriage, immigration, and acculturation.  Because of this combination, brides and grooms feel at liberty to reformulate and reshape their own ethnic traditions and yet include "American" ones as well. 

Personal Identity: 
How does a couple fashion their own wedding so that it reflects their own personal identities and their identity as a couple?  What ethnic touches might be 
incorporated into the wedding ceremony, the food ways, and the music, which are three of the standard components of any wedding?  For the younger couples featured in this exhibit, creating a wedding often involved reviving past traditions and shaping them to modem circumstances.

In this exhibit, Something Old, Something New: Ethnic Weddings in Greater Lowell we see how seven couples of Greater Lowell create a personal wedding day that combines tradition, ethnicity and personal identity and celebrates their lives together.

1. Steven J. Zeitlin, "An Alchemy of Mind": The Family Courtship Story," Western Folklore, XXXIX: 1, January 1980:17-33.

William J. Fielding, Strange Customs of Courtship and Marriage, New York. The New Home Library, 1942.

Gail E Stern, ed., Something Old, Something New, Ethnic Weddings in America, Philadelphia: The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, 1987.

William Tegg, The Knot Tied: Marriage Ceremonies of All Nations, Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1970.


John E. Leuders Booth
Susan and Steven Chapman
Pauline Golec
James Higgins
Gretchen Sanders Joy
Seda and Dikran Kaligian
Louise and Melvin Longley
Sally Mederos
Juliet Mofford
Martha Norkunas
Diane Paley
Angel and Maria Rivera
Caroline and Walter Shanahan
Margaret Shanahan
Photine and Arthur Skandalis
Ted and Anna Szczechura

American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
Flowers by Albert
House of Concetta
Immigrant City Archives
Lowell Historic Preservation Commission
Lowell Museum Cultural Fund
Lowell National Historical Park
Lowell Office of Cultural Affairs
New England Folklife Center of Lowell

Commonwealth Folklife Associates is a new organization that works cooperatively with museums, cultural organizations, government agencies, businesses and educators to document, preserve, promote and present folklore, cultural traditions and folk artists throughout Massachusetts.

Project Director: Eleanor Wachs, Ph.D. 
Exhibit Designer/Project Assistant: Ellen Nylen