ritual: a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.
Ceremony is ritualized. It has a prescribed series of actions performed according to a prescribed order which the participants learn by rote. Three elements of ritual structure include:
- Opening—A clearly defined start, making it obvious to all participants that the ceremony has begun.
- Execution—A clear flow or progression consisting of formal interactions between the two or more people in different roles.
- Closing—A clearly defined end and completion, making it obvious to all participants that the ceremony is complete.
The ritual is well understood by the participants. When they execute the structure faithfully they achieve the desired result. If, for some reason, the structure isn’t properly followed, it is readily apparent that something is amiss, and immediate action is taken to remedy the problem.
Have you ever watched a wedding ceremony that didn’t go quite as expected? The groom passed out? The ring bearer lost the rings? Someone decided not to forever hold their peace? How hard was it to tell that something was wrong?
Ceremony is like that. If you’ve been in the ceremony a few times, you know if it’s going wrong.
The structure provides both conscious and subconscious clues to the quality of the ceremony. Is it progressing properly? Is there a problem needing to be addressed? Structure gives us the answer seamlessly and automatically.