Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 26:4, pp. 467–487.

doi: 10.1177/0265407509350872


Copyright © 2009 SAGE Publications. Used by permission.


This qualitative study investigated 80 young-adult stepchildren’s talk about one of their parents’ remarriage ceremony. The remarriage event was celebrated in six types of ritual enactments, five of which celebrated the couple’s marriage and one of which was family-centered in its celebration of the beginning of the new stepfamily. Three factors led stepchildren to find the remarriage ceremony empty: (i) a ritual form that was too traditional or not traditional enough; (ii) a ritual enactment that failed to pay homage to either the stepchild’s family of origin or the stepfamily as a unit; and (iii) a ritual enactment that failed to involve the stepchild prior to and during the ceremony. Results support the characteristics of empty rituals posited in ritual theory.