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THE CANDLELIGHT CEREMONY: A House Divided

The South takes the “Ring-by-Spring” phenomenon to an entirely different level. And it’s especially evident in sorority life. I mean, I guess it can’t not be more evident in the heavily Greek and predominantly evangelical Christian SEC. After all, not only do Southern sratties get engaged on the regular and throughout their undergraduate careers, but they also announce their engagements in a big, weird ole ceremony WITH CANDLES!!!!

The candlelight ceremony is a super-special, super-secret, super-super ritual in which the super-sister anonymously leaves a candle on the president’s desk. Then, after chapter, we stand around, both excitedly and begrudgingly, and do some stuff to figure out who it is and squeal when we hear the proposal story. That is to say, if some grainy mupload of the lucky gal’s left hand or a YouTube video of the proposal shot from behind bushes or with a telephoto lens from across the street and topped with voiced-over Bible verses about love and wives being their husbands’ slaves hasn’t spoiled the fun already.

Not that I blame the girls who can’t wait to spread the happy news. Nothing says, “You won’t regret this early onset life-altering decision! We’re proud of you!” like 149 Facebook thumbs. And no bouquet is more beautiful than one of “CONGRATULATIONS!!! =0:D” posts from Internet acquaintances. But I digress. There’s a lot to love about the candlelight ceremony, simply because of its strange effect — it simultaneously brings about the best, worst, cattiest and most touching elements of sorority life in one simple process. It pits people of different faiths against one another, breeds cultural and political debates and strengthens bonds between women who don’t normally see eye-to-eye. All at once. With a mere lit candle. It’s incredible. It’s like the UN for people who all get their periods at the same time. And as someone who’s experienced my share of candlelight ceremonies, I’d like to think I have a rather solid grasp of the dynamics one creates within the chapter — mine, at least.

So without further ado, here’s a lil’ breakdown of the players in any given candlelight ceremony:

The Genuinely Happy Friends: 20 percent

These girls are the sisters in friendship and ritual and faith and small group and whatever. They’re the future bridesmaids, but that’s not the reason they’re most excited about the bride-to-be. They’re just good people with the best intentions, and they completely believe the engaged girl will have a perfect wedding/life/first time. Bless their hearts. Really.

The Pretend-Happy Jealous Bitches: 15 percent

To the bride-to-be: “OH MY GOSH! Are you so excited??? Girl, you’re radiant. Girl. Your boy is such a catch! Can’t WAIT to sing rush songs at the wedding!”

Behind her back: “Well, he kind of has gayface, so…she can have fun with that.

The Genuinely Concerned: 25 percent

Newsflash, brides-to-be: that’s not an ugly pretend smile from this sorority cohort. That’s a casually dressed worry grimace. The Genuinely Concerned are just that — they wish the best for their sister, but they’re afraid they’ll see her as a divorcee at the Alumnae Easter Egg hunt in 10 years.

The Outwardly Skeptical: 40 percent

There’s no secret as to how these girls feel. They’re the eye-rollers. The heathens. The ones whose clearest glimpse of marriage in the near future is when they go out as a fake bachelorette party to attract alumni bros and get free drinks. They openly refuse to attend each other’s down-the-road weddings unless there’s an open bar involved. The meanest ones even make a death pool for their sorority sister’s marriage. It’s messed up, but it’s not uncommon.

Of course, maybe it seems I identify with that 40 percent. I think it varies on a case-by-case basis. I’m always skeptical, but I’m also concerned for my friends when they decide it’s a good idea to make a lifelong commitment in their teens or early twenties. Who wouldn’t be concerned? Then again, maybe at the core, I’m just a jealous bitch.

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