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The American Way: Marriage|
 "I do." To Americans those two words carry great meaning. They can even change your life. Especially if you say them at your own wedding. Making wedding vows is like signing a contract. Now Americans don't really think marriage is a business deal. But marriage is serious business.
 It all begins with engagement. Traditionally, a young man asks the father of his sweetheart for permission to marry her. If the father agrees, the man later proposes to her. Often he tries to surprise her by "popping the question" in a romantic way. Sometimes the couple just decides together that the time is right to get married. The man usually gives his fiancée a diamond ring as a symbol of their engagement. They may be engaged for weeks, months or even years. As the big day approaches, bridal showers and bachelor's parties provide many useful gifts. Today many couples also receive counseling during engagement. This prepares them for the challenges of married life.
 At last it's time for the wedding. Although most weddings follow long-held traditions, there's still room for American individualism. For example, the usual place for a wedding is in a church. But some people get married outdoors in a scenic spot. A few even have the ceremony while sky-diving or riding on horseback! The couple may invite hundreds of people or just a few close friends. They choose their own style of colors, decorations and music during the ceremony. But some things rarely change. The bride usually wears a beautiful, long white wedding dress. She traditionally wears "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue". The groom wears a formal suit or tuxedo. Several close friends participate in the ceremony as attendants, including the best man and the maid of honor
 As the ceremony begins, the groom and his attendants stand with the minister, facing the audience. Music signals the entrance of the bride's attendants, followed by the beautiful bride. Nervously, the young couple repeats their vows. Traditionally, they promise to love each other "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health". But sometimes the couple has composed their own vows. They give each other a gold ring to symbolize their marriage commitment. Finally the minister announces the big moment: "I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss your bride!"
 At the wedding reception, the bride and groom greet their guests. Then they cut the wedding cake and feed each other a bite. Guests mingle while enjoying cake, punch and other treats. Later the bride throws her bouquet of flowers to a group of single girls. Tradition says that the one who catches the bouquet will be the next to marry. During the reception, playful friends "decorate" the couple's car with tissue paper, tin cans and a "Just Married" sign. When the reception is over, the newlyweds run to their "decorated" car and speed off. Many couples take a honeymoon, a one- to two-week vacation trip, to celebrate their new marriage.
 Almost every culture has rituals to signal a change in one's life. Marriage is one of the most basic life changes for people of all cultures. So it's no surprise to find many traditions about getting married... even in America. Yet each couple follows the traditions in a way that is uniquely their own.
 “我愿意。”这句话对美国人来说包含深远的意义。它甚至可以改变一个人的生活，特别是如果你在自己的婚礼上说出这句话。发出结婚 誓言就如同签订契约一般。虽然今天美国人并不真正认为婚姻是一宗商业交易，但婚姻确实是件严肃的事。
 一切从订婚开始。在传统上，年轻男子先要请求女朋友的父亲允许自己娶她。如果女方的父亲答应，然后男方才能向女方求婚。男方时常 尝试以罗曼蒂克的方式“蹦出这个问题”，想给女方一个惊喜。有时双方只是一起决定，该是结婚的时候了。男方通常会送给未婚妻一只 钻石戒指作为订婚的象征。订婚期可以持续几个星期、几个月，甚至几年。当大喜的日子临近时，双方各自的好友在婚前派对上会赠送许 多实用的礼物。今天，许多未婚夫妻在订婚期间还听取咨询意见，以此为应付婚姻生活的挑战作好准备。
 最后就该举行婚礼了。虽然大多数的婚礼沿袭长期以来的传统，但是仍有发挥美国人的个性主义的余地。例如，通常举行婚礼的地点是在 教堂，但是有些人却在户外的风景点举行婚礼，少数人甚至在跳伞或骑马时举办仪式！新人可以邀请几百个客人，也可以只邀请几个最要 好的朋友。婚礼的色调风格、布置和音乐都由他们自己决定。但有些事情很少会变化。新娘通常都穿一件漂亮的长长的白色结婚礼服。按 传统习惯，新娘的穿着要包括“一点旧的，一点新的，一点借来的和一点蓝色的东西”。新郎则穿着一套正式的西装或无尾晚礼服。几位 亲密的朋友参与婚礼作为陪伴，包括伴郎和伴娘。
 婚礼开始时，新郎和他的陪伴同牧师站在一起，面对着来宾。当音乐响起时，新娘的陪伴入场，后面就跟着美丽的新娘。一对新人紧张地 跟着说出他们的誓言。按传统习惯，双方许诺要彼此相爱，“不论情况较好较坏，不论家境是富是穷，不论生病还是健康。”但有时两人 也可以编一套自己的誓言。他们互赠金戒指象征婚姻的承诺。最后，牧师宣布重大时刻的到来：“我现在宣布你们成为夫妻。你可以亲吻 你的新娘！”
 在结婚喜宴上，新娘和新郎向宾客表示欢迎。然后他们切开结婚蛋糕并互喂对方一口。来宾们一边享受蛋糕、混合饮料和其他食物，一边 相互交谈。之后，新娘将她的花束投向一群单身女孩。相传抓到花束的女孩会成为下一个结婚的人。喜宴期间，爱闹的朋友用薄纸、锡罐 和写着“新婚”的标牌来“装饰”新人的小汽车。宴会结束后，新婚的小俩口就跑向他们“被装饰好的”小汽车，迅速地驶走。许多新人 会去度蜜月，即一两个星期的度假旅行，以庆祝他们的新婚。
 几乎每一种文化都有仪式来标志一个人生活的变化。婚姻对于各种文化的人而言都是最基本的生活变化之一。因此发现关于结婚有许多传 统习俗，就不足为奇了……在美国也不例外。然而每对新人都会以自己独持的方式来继承传统。