A comparative sociopragmatic analysis of wedding invitations in American and Iranian societies and teaching implications

Authors

1 English Department, Islamic Azad University, Najafabad Branch, Iran

2 Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture, College of Education and Human Development Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA

3 English Department, Yazd University, Yazd, Iran

Abstract

Wedding invitations (WIs), as a uniquely socially and culturally constructed genre, provide a
distinct opportunity  to  compare  the  sociocultural values of different  speech  communities  as
reflected  in  the  textual  content  and  organization  of  the  different  moves.  Students  can  be
exposed  to  this  genre  and  its  different moves  using  a  genre-based  pedagogy. Genre-based
pedagogy can be used to provide the learners with an opportunity to study well-known genres
in  their  first  (L1)  and  second  language  (L2)  and  to  be  able  to  observe  the  common  and
distinctive moves  from  a  cross-cultural,  cross-linguistic perspective. This  study was  carried
out  to  investigate  the  wedding  invitations  in  American  and  Iranian  societies  through  two
complementary  approaches:  genre  analysis  and  critical  discourse  analysis  (CDA).  One
hundred wedding  invitation  (WI) cards  (50  from each  society) were  collected and analyzed
comparatively. The  findings  from  the genre analysis showed  that  the WIs of  the  two  speech
communities enjoyed both similarities and differences in their generic moves. Results of CDA
indicated  that  traditional  orientation,  religious  affiliation, masculine  power  and  educational
status were the most influential factors affecting WIs in both societies but the intensity of the
effect  of  these  factors were  not  similar  in  the  two  speech  communities. The  results  of  this
study  sheds  light  on  sociocultural  forces  dominating  Iranian  and  American  language
communities.

Keywords

Main Subjects


Introduction
Available  research  on  the  pragmatic
competence  of L2  learners  shows  that  even
advanced-level  L2  learners  are  prone  to
making  pragmatic  errors  when  performing
different speech acts (LoCastro, 2010; Ryan,
2015). Research shows that the development
of  pragmatic  competence  will  take
conscious  effort,  explicit  teaching,  and
persistence. Facilitating learners’ acquisition
of pragmatic competence  then  should be  an
important  goal  of  language  teaching.
Furthermore,  L2  teachers  are  not  typically
prepared  to  deal  with  pragmatics  of  the
language  they  teach  and  the  instructional
focus has mainly been on  structural  aspects
of  language  (e.g.,  Alcon  Soler &  Guzman,
2010;  Bardovi-Harlig,  2001;  Eslami  &
Eslami-Rasekh,  2008,  Rose  &  Kasper,
2001). Teachers who may not feel confident
about their knowledge of L2 pragmatics can
use  other  resources  such  as  films  (Eslami-
Rasekh,  2005,  Rose  &  Kasper,  2001),
sitcoms  (Washburn,  2001),  and  also
technology (Eslami, Mirzaei, & Dini, 2015).
Another  powerful  strategy  proposed  by
researchers  (e.g.,  LoCastro,  2010,  Ryan,
2015)  is  to  involve  learners  in  analyzing
 
communications,  problematic  interactions,
and  genres.    Invitations  in  general  and
wedding  invitations  in  particular,  can
provide  the  best  conditions  for  pragmatic
language  learning  and  the  best  teaching
materials.    Wedding  invitations  provide
authentic  learners  with  language  use,
organization of moves,  and  content  that  are
culturally  loaded  and  rich.    In  order  to  be
able  to  use  wedding  invitations  and  its
genre-based  features  for  instructional
purposes, we will gain insights to investigate
how they are used in students’ first language
and  culture  and  compare  it  with  its
presentation and use in the target language.  
 
Invitations  are  considered  to  be  directive
speech  acts  since  they  attempt  to  get  the
hearer  to  do  something  (Searle,  1979).  At
the  same  time,  invitations are considered  to
be  commissive  (Searle,  1979)  in  that  they
commit the speaker to some future course of
action.  Invitations can be expressed both  in
oral  and  written  forms.  Clark  and  Isaacs
(1990)  stated  that a usual and unambiguous
invitation  includes  some  fix  sections,  such
as; reference to time, mention of place, and a
request for response. The main factor which
makes invitations different from one another
is  the  context  of  use,  i.e.,  each  type  of
invitation is created in a specific condition.  
Invitations,  similar  to  other  speech  acts  are
influenced by  language user’s  socio-cultural
norms  and  values  and  thus  cross-cultural
studies  of  invitations  should  enhance
awareness  of  different  cultural  values  and
cross-cultural  communication. One  form  of
formal  invitation  which  is  used  by  most
speech  communities  is  wedding  invitation.
This  type  of  invitation  is  usually  presented
formally and in a written form.
Similar  to  other  types  of  invitations,  social
norms and cultural values can  influence  the
presentation  of  component  moves
manifested  in  a  typical  wedding  invitation
card. Therefore, it is valuable to analyze  the
wedding  invitation  cards  to  examine  how
cultural  values  are  reflected  in  their  textual
organization  and  content.    In  the  present
study  two  complementary  and  overlapping
analytical  paradigms  have  been  adopted  to
analyze  and  compare  WI  texts  in  Persian
and  American  English.  Similar  to  Mirzaei
and  Eslami’s  (2013)  study,  genre  analysis
and  critical discourse  analysis were used  to
analyze  the  structure  of  WI  texts  and  the
sociocultural  values  revealed  by  the  choice
of  different  moves  and  its  linguistic
realization.  Genre  analysis  was  used  to
identify  the  generic  structure  of WIs  in  the
two speech communities of Persian speakers
and  American  English  speakers.  Critical
discourse  analysis  was  used  to  investigate
the  effect  of  social  beliefs  and  values  like
power  and  religion  on  the  construction  of
wedding invitation.
 The  study  attempted  to  answer  these  two
questions:  
1.  What  typical  textual  and  structural
features  can  be  identified  in  Iranian
and  American  wedding  invitation
cards  constructed  by  Persian  and
American English speakers?
2.  Which socio-cultural factors influence
the construction of wedding invitation
genre in the two speech communities?
 
Background of the Study
Pioneering  research  on  invitations  by
Wolfson  and  his  colleagues  (1983)
identified  the  essential  components  of
sincere invitations as reference to a time and
mention of a place or activity and a  request
for  a  response. Although  invitations  speech
acts  seem  to  be  simple  on  the  surface,
studies  on  invitations  in  different  cultures
have  shown  that  these  speech  acts  may
require  extended  negotiations  in  everyday
conversations (Eslami, 2005, Garcia, 2008).
 
Wedding  invitations  are  considered  to  be
formal  invitations  and  serve  as  the  formal
announcement  of  the  ceremonial  event  of
marriage. As  stated  by Miller  (1984),  these
socially  constructed  acts  belong  to  the
homely  discourses.  Homely  discourses  are
familiar  to  everyone  and  used  frequently
used  in  everyday  life  and  thus  follow  a
somewhat  pre-determined  content  and
structure. Their  specific purpose  is  to  invite
others  to  wedding  ceremonies  which
according  to  Leeds-Hurwitz  (2002)  are
examples  of  public  rites  of  passages which
all language users are acquainted with.  
Despite  their potential  to reveal cultural and
social differences  (Mirzaei & Eslami, 2013)
and  their  frequent  use  in  all  communities,
very  few  studies  have  investigated  the
discoursal and organization features of these
speech acts. One of  the early  studies  in  this
area  was  conducted  by  Clynes  and  Henry
(2004)  aiming  to  familiarize  their  students
with genre analysis and  the different moves
evident  in  Brunei  WIs.    Their  findings
showed  that  over  the  last  forty  years  WI
genre  in Brunei Malay  has  evolved  rapidly.
As they pointed out, these rapid changes are
the  consequences  of  the  socio-cultural
changes  in Burnei  after  its  independence  in
1984  and  the  need  for  the  society  to
establish  its  identity  as  an  Islamic
Monarchy.  As  they  submit,  the
contemporary  WIs  have  changed
dramatically, and a  typical  invitation has 16
to 20 moves spread over 5 to 8 pages.
Al-Ali  (2006)  studied  wedding  invitation
genre  in Jordanian community. To do so he
asked  45  students  at  Jordan  University  of
Science  and  Technology  to  collect  200 WI
cards.  The  WI  cards  which  he  examined
were from 1960s to the present. In his study,
he  also  considered  regional  differences.
Through  the  genre  analysis  he  found  that
each  wedding  invitation  text  had  almost
eight  component  moves  constructing  its
structure.   Al-Ali stated  that not all of  these
rhetorical  moves  were  obligatory.  The
moves  included:  1)  opening,  2)  heading,  3)
identifying  the  inviters,  4)  requesting  the
presence  of  others,  5)  identifying  the  bride
and groom, 6) closing, and 7) Other optional
components. Religion  and paternalism were
found to play an important role in the textual
content  and discoursal organization of WIs.
The  order  of  these  elements  revealed  that
religion occupies the first position in the WI
followed  by  the  tribal  power  and  paternal
authority.  
In  regards  to  WIs  in  Iran,  there  are  three
noteworthy  studies.  In  an  extensive  study,
Mirzaei  and Eslami  (2013)  investigated  the
variability  dynamics  of WIs  in  Iran.  Their
data included a corpus of 150 WI cards from
different  parts  of  Iran  covering  the  almost
one decade (2000-2011). A transdisciplinary
approach  including  genre  analysis,
variational  sociolinguistics,  and  critical
discourse  analysis  was  used  to  analyze  the
data  and  show  the  structure,  the  content
organization  and  variability  of  the  data
based  on  socio  cultural  values  and  changes
that  happened  during  2000-2011.  They
demonstrated  that  religious  beliefs  and
sociocultural  values  such  as  ethnicity,
education, socioeconomic status, profession,
and age influence young couples’ preference
and choice of WI  texts and  its organization.
In another study, Sharif and Yarmohammadi
(2013)  similarly  used  genre  analysis  to
identify and characterize the move structures
of WIs. They also  recognized  that  the move
structure of Iranian WIs reflect  the religious
beliefs, cultural values, and  social norms of
the  Iranian  society.  Sadri  (2014)  examined
100  Iranian  WI  cards  from  1970-2013
within  social  semiotics  framework  to
identify  the  changes  across  time.  She
extended  the  scope  of  previous  studies  to
examine  not  only  the  textual  features  of
WIs, but also  their non-verbal  features  such
as style, format, size, color, and  typography.
 
Her  findings  reveal  the  remarkable  changes
evident  in  the  nonverbal  features  of  color,
size,  design,  and  typography  as well  as  the
verbal  features  (formality,  reference  terms,
text  length  and  mood).  Similar  to  Mirzaei
and Eslami’s findings, Sadri’s findings show
that  today’s  sociocultural  climate  of  Iran
shows  the  prevalence  of  creativity  over
conventionalization,  informality  over
formality, and solidarity over power.  
Although there are some research studies on
WIs  in  different  cultures,  there  is  no
research  study  that  is  comparative  in nature
and  focuses  on  revealing  the  sociocultural
differences  between  different  communities
using  the  discourse  and  genre  structure  of
WIs.  The  present  study  draws  on  previous
studies and compares the genre structure and
textual  realizations  of  WIs  between  two
distinct  communities  of Persian  speakers  in
Iran  and American  English  speakers  in  the
United States.  
Theoretical Framework
Two  complementary  approaches  namely,
genre analysis and critical discourse analysis
were  used  in  the  present  study.  Genre  is
used  in  research  to  classify  or  categorize
texts according to their content and structure
(Bhatia, 2004; Bloor & Bloor, 2007). Recent
approaches to genre has shifted the focus on
text  to  discourse  practices  that  are  socially
bound  and  context  dependent  (Foley,  1997,
Bhatia,  2004).  It  should  be  noted  that
approaching  genre  as  discourse  practice,
situates the formal structures of discourse in
the wider sociocultural context in which it is
constructed (Sarangi & Slembrouck, 1994).   
Considering  genres  as  social  and  pragmatic
constructs  and  focusing  on  their
communicative  purpose  to  achieve  socially
recognized  goals  (Swales,  1990),  sheds
lights  on  the  complex  dynamics  underlying
communicative actions and  the multifaceted
relationships  between  discourse  and
sociocultural values of speech communities.
Investigating  cross-cultural  differences  in
how  genres  are  realized  by  considering
genres  as  a  reflection  of  how  social
identities are constructed and social relations
are  practiced,  should  provide  important
insights  on  how  the  social,  cultural,  and
religious values of different communities are
different or similar.
Critical  discourse  analysis  (CDA)  was  the
second approach used  in  this study. CDA  is
used  to  explain  the discursive  relations  that
generic variability demonstrated  in  the data.
As  stated  by  Fairclough  (2010),  CDA  not
only makes  the  connection  between  textual
properties and social processes and ideology
visible, but also uses a critical lens to do so.  
This  approach  aligns  well  with  research
focusing  on  social  and  cultural  differences
between  speech  communities  since  it
deconstructs values and  ideologies  that  lead
to  the  verbal  and  non-verbal  choices
language users make in crafting their WIs.  
A  multidisciplinary  approach  was  used  in
this study to describe rhetorical structures of
the WIs  as  a  genre,  and  to  establish  links
between  textual  features  and  sociocultural
values of the two speech communities under
study.  No  comparative  study  has  been
conducted  on WI  discourse  among  Iranians
Persian  speakers  and  American  English
speakers. This study tries to fill this gap and
probe  into  how  sociocultural  and  religious
values  are  realized  through  and  reflected  in
WI  genres  of  two  culturally  distinct
societies.   
Methodology
Participants and Data  
Data  included  100  WI  cards  from  Iranian
(50)  and  American  (50)  couples.  All  the
Iranian  couples  were  from  Isfahan  and  all
the  American  couples  were  from  Texas.
Using  convenient  and  purposeful  sampling,
 
for  the  Iranian  sample,  one  of  the
researchers asked her relatives and friends to
provide  her  with  their  WI  cards.  For  the
American data, one of  the researchers asked
her  students  to  provide  her  as  many
invitations  cards  as  they  could  collect  from
Texan couples. From  the data set  (150)  that
met  the  age  and  date  criteria,  50  of  the
invitation  cards was  randomly  selected  and
used  in  this  study.  The  couples  were  also
requested  to  provide  the  researchers  with
their  demographic  information  which
included  questions  about  the marriage  date
of  the  couples,  their  age,  their  commitment
to  the  religion,  their  socioeconomic  status
and  their  traditional or modern positionality
on a scale of 1 (highly modern)  to 5 (highly
traditional).  The  age  range  of  the  couples
was  between  20-  34  years  old  and  the
invitation cards were from 2003-2013.  
Data Analysis
As stated above the data was analyzed using
two  analytical  approaches  of  genre  analysis
and  critical  discourse  analysis.  Genre
analysis,  was  used  to  analyze  the  generic
structure  of WI  cards  in  the  two  societies
using  preexisting  frameworks  of  genre
analysis  in  general  (Bhatia,  2004;  Swales,
1990)  and  genre  analysis  of  WIs  in
particular  (Al-Ali, 2006; Mirzaei & Eslami,
2013).  
Both,  the  vertical  and  horizontal
organization  of  the WI  texts was  examined
in  the analysis.   The vertical  and horizontal
text  arrangements  indicate  the  number  of
surface  level  features of  the  texts, and more
importantly,  the  hierarchical  order  of  the
rhetorical  moves.  To  explore  the  most
frequent  manifestations  of  the  moves,  the
percentage  of  each  manifestations  was
calculated.  
After finding  the surface generic  features of
the  cards,  the  analysis  process  was
complemented  with  CDA  proposed  by
Fairclough  (2010)  to  explore  the  implicit
and  hidden  socio  cultural  forces  affecting
different  presentation  of  each  component
moves of  the  ritualized WI. CDA  is mainly
concerned  with  exploring  the  effects  of
factors  like dominance, power and  ideology
in  discourse  which  can’t  be  easily
recognized  by  people  in  the  ordinary  social
events.  Through  CDA,  researchers  link  the
micro  analysis  of  the  text  to  the  macro
relations of power, dominance, equality and
ideology underlying this social practice.
After  analyzing  the  data  through  both
approaches,  the  results  were  compared  to
examine  if  there  were  any  differences
regarding  the  genre  component  moves  and
more  importantly,  if  sociolinguistic
variations  can  be  linked  to  intrinsic
sociocultural  values  and  ideologies  of  the
two speech communities.  
Results  
Textual  analysis  of  Iranian  WI  cards  in
relation  to  their  vertical  position  indicated
seven  component  moves  which  are  as
follows: Opening, heading, couples’ names,
ceremonial  text,  inviters’  names,  situating
the  wedding  and  other  optional  moves.
Figure  .1  shows  an  image  of  a  typical
Iranian WI card issued in 2013 (1392).

Figure1: An Iranian wedding invitation
card issued in 2013 (1392).
 
The  textual  pattern  of  an  Iranian WI  from
the  corpus  is  shown  in  table  1  below.  As
shown, the WI text begin with a reference to
God’s  name  (more  or  less  ritual).  The
second  move  indicates  the  type  of  the
ceremony  (engagement  or  wedding)  and  is
followed by  the  third move which  indicates
the couple’s names (the order can vary). The

fourth move is the ceremonial text, the most
prominent part  of  the  invitation  text, which
reveals  the  highest  amount  of  variety  and
can be  in prose or poetry. Inviters’ names is
the next move. Again there is variety in who
the  listed  inviter(s) could be and  the  choice
of names and its organizational arrangement
has  sociocultural  significance.  In  the  next
move  the  date,  time,  and  location  of  the
ceremony  is  specified.  Optional  moves
could  include  reference  to  the  use  of
cameras by guests or other ceremonial texts.

Analysis of the American WI cards revealed
six  component  moves:  inviters’  names,
invitation text, couples’ names, situating the
ceremony,  announcing  the  reception

(continuation of the wedding ceremony) and
optional moves. Figure. 2 shows an example
of one American WI card issued in 2013.

Figure.2 Image of a typical American
wedding invitation card issued in 2013.

Following  genre  analysis  of  the  invitation
cards, CDA was  used  to  analyze  discursive
and  sociocultural  process  that  have  shaped
the  sociolinguistic  variability  between  the
two  speech  communities.  The  component
moves and their sociolinguistic variability in
each community is presented below.

Opening
Opening was used in almost all the Iranian
invitation cards and occupied the first
vertical move. The analysis revealed that
almost all the Persian WIs start with
referring to God, reflective of the Iranian’s
socio-religious orientation (Mirzei &
Eslami, 2013). This move was present in WI
cards from both groups of couples (modern
and traditional). The language used for this
move could be Arabic or Persian. Most of
the modern couples opted for Persian
versions and the traditional ones for the
Arabic version. The same pattern was
observed in relation to the level of
religiosity.

Data analysis showed that 56% of the
openings were Persian phrases referring to
‘God’  (e.g.,Be name hasti afarin, Be name
khaleghe eshgh, Be yadash va be yariyash)
and bout 28% of the cards opened with the
sentence “Ya Ali goftim o eshgh aghaz shod”
(the first Imam of shiete). Finally, 16% of
the cards were opened with Arabic phrases
such as Hoval mahboob. Table 1 shows
some of the most usual phrases which were
used in the Iranian wedding invitation cards
as the opening.

Furthermore,  our  analysis  showed  that
modern couples used Persian opening moves
twice  as  much  (68.8%)  compared  to
traditional  couples  (33.3%).  Similarly,
traditional couples used phrases  referencing
Imam  Ali’s  name  in  44%  of  the  wedding
invitation  cards  compared  to  a much  lower
percentage  of  this  phrase  used  by  modern
couples  (18.7%).    Interestingly,  the  level of
religiosity  was  reflected  in  the  use  of
different  phrases  for  the  opening  move  as
well.  The  couples  with  lower  level  of
religiosity  showed  more  preference  for  the
use  of  Persian  openings  (66.6%)  compared
to  the  ones  with  higher  level  of  religiosity
(40%).   
 
 
Heading
The  second  vertical  component  of  Iranian
wedding invitation cards is used to specify  
the type of marriage ceremony (engagement
or  wedding)  which  would  be  held  by  the
couple’s  families.  In almost all of  the cards
this  component  was  presented  by  a  two
word  heading:  Jashne  Aghd  or  Jashne
Aroosi. Almost 86% of the collected Iranian
cards  included  this  move.  The  level  of
variability  was  the  least  in  this  move
compared  to  the other WI moves. A  few of
the  cards  opted  either  to  very  casual  or  to
highly  formal pre-fabricated  texts similar  to
what  has  been  presented  in  Mirzaei  and
Eslami  (2013,  p.  110).  An  example  of  a
highly  formal  and  religious  heading  is
shown below.  
Example:  Ba  sepas  va  setayesh
khodavandegare  eshgh  ra  ke  tophighe
tamassok  be  Ali  ebn  abi  talleb  va
khandanash  ra  nasibe ma  gardanid,  jashne
aroosiye azizaneman x va y....  
[with  a gratitude  to  and worship of  the god
of love who helped us to be the followers of
Ali-  the  son  of Abi  taleb-  and  his  family  ,
the marriage of our dear x and y….. ]
Opposite  to  the grandiose  style used
in some of the WI cards such as above, some
very  casual  and  informal  ones  such  as  the
example below were used as well.

Example: To ro khoda pashin beyain, vaseye
jashn, AROOSEYEH!
[Swear you to God, dress up and come, for a
party, It’s Wedding]
The  majority  of  the  formal  headings  were
used by the traditional and religious couples
(70%)  and  the  informal  and  casual  ones
were mainly  used  by modern  couples with
low  level of  religiosity  (75%).    This move
did  not  exist  in  the American WI  cards we
examined  in our data set. However, Eslami,
Ribeiro,  Snow,  and  Wharton  (in-press)
findings  showed  13%  of  their  wedding
invitation  cards  from  American  English
speakers had openings  (a quote  referring  to
God, friendship, love, and passion).
Couple’s Names
This  move  is  generally  composed  of  the
groom’s  and  the  bride’s  name.  However,
there  is  substantial  variation  in  how  their
names  (first,  full,  title)  are  mentioned  and
the  position  each  component  occupies
horizontally  and  vertically.  Furthermore,
variations  are  indicative  of  sociocultural
positioning  and  social  values.  Interestingly,
in 56% of Iranian WI cards the bride’s name
was  mentioned  before  the  groom’s.  This
percentage  was  much  higher  in  the
American data  (80%). Furthermore,  in most
of  the  Iranian  cards  the  couples  were
introduced  only  with  their  first  names
(78%).  In contrast,  in more  than half of  the
American  WIs  (52%),  couple’s  full  name
was  used.  In  only  22%  of  the  Iranian  WI
cards  the  bride  and  the  groom  were
introduced with  the  titles, Aghaye (Mr.) and
Dooshizeh (Miss).  
As can be  seen  in Table 2 and 3  traditional
and religious couple rarely used the couple’s
first name whereas modern and couples with
low  levels of  religiosity used  the  first name
prevalently. A  similar  pattern was  revealed
for the American WIs (tables 4 and 5).

Similar  to Mirzaei  and  Eslami  (2013)  and
Sadri  (2014),  in  contemporary  Iranian  WI
cards,  the  use  of  first  names  (more  casual
style)  for  both  groom  and  bride  and  the
public  display  of  Iranian  women’s  names  
are  now  common  practice  and  reflective  of
social  and  economic mobility  of women  in
Iran.  
 
Ceremonial Text in the Iranian Wedding
Invitations
The highest degree of the sociolinguistic
variability was evidenced in this move. The
texts used in this move showed different
emotional intensity embodying love and
affection.  The texts were mostly in the form
of Persian prose or poetry selected from
Persian literature or prevalent fixed texts
used in modern Persian. Sometimes the texts
were composed by the couples themselves.  
Ceremonial texts were found in 90% of the
Iranian dataset. In 52% of the invitation
cards the couples chose modern Persian
poetry (neo-poetry) as the ceremonial text of
their WI.  
Be Khorshid sepordeam har sobh be ou
begoo doostat daram.
 I told the sun to tell her every morning “I
love you”.
Some couples (30%) chose classical Persian
poetry mostly from Hafez.  
Saghi  be  noore  bade  barafrooz  jame  ma,
motreb  begoo  ke  kare  jahan  shod  be  came
ma, ma  dar  piyale  akse  rokhe  yar  dide  im,
ey bikhabar ze lezate shorbe modame ma.
[O  wine-bearer  brighten  my  cup  with  the
wine,  O  minstrel  say  good  fortune  is  now
mine. The face of my Beloved is reflected in
my  cup. Little  you  know why with wine,  I
always myself align.].
In a small number of  the cards (8%) neither
the  classical  poetry,  nor  the  new  one  had
been  used.  Instead,  couples  chose  different
ways to present their ceremonial text.
The examples presented are a strong
indication of the modern couples reflecting
their inner feelings and affection and their
resistance to use routinized and traditional
pre-fabricated texts. A detailed account and
several more examples similar the one we
have presented above can be found in
Mirzaei and Eslami (2013) and Sadri (2014).
The actual invitation is typically embedded
in this move. However, its presentation
differs in the two groups. Iranian couples
used ceremonial text at the heart of their WI
cards, then invited their guests through a
brief sentence. On the other hand, American
couples didn’t use any ceremonial text in
their invitation and directly invited their
guests through one simple sentence.
American: You are cordially invited to the
marriage ceremony of …….
Iranian: Cheshm be rahe hozoore shoma
hastim
[We are forward to receive you]
Inviters’ Names  
The  inviters  of  the  Iranian  weddings  were
mostly  the  couple’s  fathers  (48%).  In  some
cases  the  couple’s  parents  were  mentioned
as  the  inviters  (28%). What  is  important  to
note is that there was no explicit reference to
the  names  of  the  couple’s  mothers.  This
indicates  the  prevalence  of  paternal
authority in  the Iranian society. Furthermore
the name of the groom’s father occupied the
more  prominent  right-hand  column
horizontally.  In  a  number  of  cards  the
couple’s  family  names  were  put  as  the

inviters  of  the  wedding  ceremony  (24%).
Overall analysis of this move with its variety
of  realization  patterns  showed  a  high  level
of  paternal  authority  in  Iranian  WI  texts.
Most of the traditional and religious couples
used only  their  father’s names  in  their WIs.
Table  5  and  table  6  show  different
presentation  of  Iranian  inviters’  names
regarding modernity and religiosity. Couples
father as inviter was used most frequently by
traditional  (77.8%)  and  religious  (70%)
couples.  Conversely,  couples  last  names  as
inviters  was  used  more  frequently  by
modern  and  less  religious  couples  (31.25%
and  33.3%),  than  traditional  and  more
religious couples (11% and 10%).

In  American  WIs,  in  most  cases,  the
couple’s  parents  were  the  inviters  of  the
ceremony (52%). In those cases the name of
the  bride’s  parents  came  first.    In  some  of
the  cards  the  couples,  together  with  their
parents  were  the  inviters  of  the  ceremony
(10%). In a group of WIs (30%), the couples
were  the  inviters  themselves.  In  8%  of  the
cards only  the bride’  family was  the  inviter
of  the ceremony. Similar  to  the  Iranian data
set the couple’s fathers gained the prominent
position  in  the  cards. However,  contrary  to
the Iranian WIs in which in about half of the
cases  (48%)  only  the  couple’s  fathers were
the  inviters,  this  did  not  exist  in  the
American  data.  The  parents  were  listed  as
the  inviters  in  about  half  of  the  American
WIs  but  fathers’  name  occupied  the  first  in
the  sequence,  (e.g.,  Mr,  and  Mrs.  Miller).  
Therefore  the  effect  of  masculine  power
dominating  this component  in  the American
dataset was not as strongly evident as  in  the
Iranian  cards.  Similar  to  Iranian  WIs,  as

shown  in  tables  4  and  5,  the  level  of
modernity  and  religiosity  effected  the
realization pattern of this move in American
WIs  as  well.  In  general  the  traditional  and
religious  couples  listed  couples  parents  as
the  inviters much more  frequently  than  the
modern  ones  (78.2  vs.  28.5)  and  listed  the
couples  as  the  inviters  less  frequently
compared to the modern ones (4.34 vs 66.7).   
 
Examples from American data:
 Dr.  and  Mrs.Robert  Wesley  Clark  (Bride’
Parents)  and  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Paul  Sweitzer
(Groom’ Parents)
Together  with  their  parents  Ana  Maricela
Gonzalez and Justin Poeniseh
Michael  and  Maryann  invite  you  to  their
wedding ceremony……………….
Examples from Iranian data:
 Dr.  Ali  sarami  va  Banoo  (Bride’  Parents)
Dr.  bahram  vahid  va  Banoo(Groom’s
Parents)
Iranian:  Saeed  Shafiee  (Brid’s  Father)                          
Mohammad Jabal Ameli( Groom’s Father)
Iranian:      Sadeghi  Groom’s  Family)                            
Bahrami (Bride’s family)
 
Situating the Ceremony
This moves  includes  the  date,  time  and  the
place  of  the  ceremony.  This  component
naturally was present  in  almost all WIs and
it was presented  similarly  in both groups  in
the present study. The different components
of this move were independently represented
on  the  vertical  axis.  The  date  and  type  of
reception  of  the wedding  celebrations were
generally  introduced  including  the  time,  the
type  of  reception  and  date. The  dates were
generally  arranged  around  weekends.
Moreover,  the use of religious holidays was
more  prevalent  among  the  traditional  and
religious  couples.  Following  the  time  and
reception  information,  the  place  was
mentioned  (address). The  type of  reception,
which was mentioned in most of the Iranian
WI cards (Be sarfe sharbat va shirini) (Juice
and sweet will be served) was not present in
the American WI cards.  
Most WIs in the American data set included
a second part to the ceremony (reception).
Reception typically follows the wedding
ceremony (e.g., Reception immediately
following the ceremony) and is held in clubs,
wedding halls and gardens.  
Optional Moves
The last part of the Iranian and American
WI cards include one or more optional
moves. None of the optional moves were
similar in the two groups of the cards.  In
Iranian WI cards request for not bringing
any types of camera was the most frequent
optional move. This rhetorical move was
found in the cards that belonged to religious
families. The other optional move was the
name and telephone number of the publisher
of the cards. Moreover, whishing happiness
for the couples is another optional
component in the Iranian cards.
Lotfan az avardane har gooneh doorbine
filmbardary va akkasi khoddari konid.
[Please kindly avoid bringing any types of
film or photograph cameras]
The  optional  moves  in  American  dataset
were different from the Iranian ones. Asking
the guests  to confirm  their attendance  in  the
couples’  marriage  website  or  in  the  cards
attached  to  the  WI  cards  was  one  of  the
optional moves.
Please RSVP by April seven at
Freyandcarreker.ourweddiong.com
RSVP  (Respondez  sil  vous  plait)  means
please  respond  either way whether  you  are
able to make it or not.

A few American couples used some literary,
emotional sentences  in  their WIs which was
similar  to  the  ceremonial  text  written  in
Iranian WIs.
Discussion and Conclusion
The main focus of  this study was to analyze
and  describe  the  structure  and  content  of
wedding  invitations  used  in  American  and
Iranian  communities.  The  findings  indicate
that  the  wedding  invitations  have  specific
generic  moves  that  are  not  difficult  to
identify.  However  the  number  of  moves
differ  in  each  group  and  the  Iranian  WIs
exhibit considerable variation  in  the content
of different moves especially the ceremonial
text move.  
Religious  affiliation, masculine  power,  and
traditional orientations were more noticeable
in  the  Iranian  WIs  compared  to  the
American  ones.  In  all  of  the  Iranian  WI
cards  the  couples’  fathers  were  introduced
before their mothers indicating the existence
of  paternal  authority  in  the  presentation  of
Iranian WIs. Moreover,  religious  affiliation
and  traditional  orientation  were  influential
factors on  the  level of  formality,  the  choice
of  names  and  its  public  presentation,  the
order of name arrangement, and  the content
of opening and ceremonial texts. In the cases
where  the  couples  were  religious  and
traditional,  the  groom  and  the  bride  were
introduced  with  the  titles  Mr.  and  Miss.
Furthermore;  it  was  found  that  most
ceremonial  texts  in  the  Iranian  dataset
revealed  a  modern  tone  of  discourse
presentation  and  word  choice.  This  fact  is
related  to  the  Iranian couples’ preference  to
be distanced  from  strict and  fixed discourse
which had dominated WI genre in the past.  
Similar  to  the  Iranian  WIs,  analyzing  the
American  dataset  revealed  that  masculine
power,  traditional  orientation  and  religious
affiliation  were  somewhat  effective  factors
on the content and structural arrangement of
different  moves.  The  influence  was  much
less noticeable compared  to  the  Iranian WIs
though.    For  instance,  the effect of paternal
authority  was  evident  on  introducing  the
inviters  of  the  ceremony  who  were  mostly
the  couple’  parents.  In  all  of  the American
cards  the  couple’s  fathers’  names  preceded
their mothers’  names. Moreover,  the  effect
of traditional orientation and religiosity were
seen  in  the  presentation  of  American
couple’s  names.  Religious  and  traditional
couples  preferred  using  their  full  names  in
their WIs.  
The  findings  reveal  that  compared  to
American  WIs  with  a  simple  design  and
adherence  to  established  conventions,  the
Iranian WIs mainly exhibit  tendency  toward
creativity  in  the  use  of wedding  invitations
contents  and  its  structural  components. The
differences evident in casual vs. formal style
of  language,  use  of  Persian  rather  than
Arabic  language  to  refer  to  God,  use  of
bride’s name, use of first name for bride and
groom,  the  romantic  tone of  the  ceremonial
texts  and  openings  reflecting  the  influence
of modernity  and  the  level  of  religiosity  of
the  couple  was  much  more  marked  and
noticeable  in  the  Iranian  WIs  than  in  the
American ones.  
In  both  speech  communities  the  level  of
modernity  and  religiosity  was  effective  on
the  presentation  of  the  inviters  of  the
ceremony. However; the analysis of the data
revealed  that  the effect of  these  factors was
more  evident on  the  construction of  Iranian
WIs  than  the  American  ones.  The
predominant reference  to God in  the Iranian
WIs  indicates  the  strong  role  of  religious
beliefs in the Iranian culture and the fact that
in  Iran  religion  is  interwoven  in  everyday
life  practices  and  activities  (Mirzaei  &
Eslami,  2013;  Sadri,  2014,  Zarei  &  Sadri,
2012).

It can be concluded that the effect of
aforementioned sociocultural forces were
not the same on WI genre in the two speech
communities. For instance, whereas the
presentation of the inviters in the Iranian
cards was affected by masculine power,
commitment to religion, level of
traditionality and educational status, in
American WI this component mostly was
influenced by paternal authority and
traditional orientation of the families. In
sum, the comparative study of speech acts
can provide insights on the cultural and
social differences in different societies.  
Moreover, as the findings show, the study of
wedding invitations can provide a rich
source for investigating the sociocultural
values of different societies. Furthermore, as
shown in this study, the WIs should be
considered as dynamic entities that not only
are shaped by the sociocultural values of its
users, but also can shape and change the
cultural values of the society as language
practices can change language users’
mindset and perspective.  
The  study  has  implications  for  teaching  of
pragmatics  in  L1  and  in  L2.  Learners  in
foreign  language  context  do  not  have  easy
access  to  authentic  materials  that  are
pragmatically  rich. Thus,  teachers must  not
only  provide  learners  with  authentic,
accurate,  and  appropriate  materials  to
facilitate  their  pragmatic  development,  they
must  also  give  the  learners  information
about  the  norms  and  raise  their  awareness
about  the  cross  linguistic variations.   Using
wedding  invitation  cards  as  teaching
materials  and  a  useful  source  of  input  can
raise the consciousness of the students about
genres, moves, and how genres  are  socially
and  culturally  constructed.    Wedding
invitations as discussed in this paper are one
of  the  homely  genres  that  are  used
frequently  in every culture. Using examples
of  authentic  language  use  such  as wedding
invitations as teaching materials can remove
the  responsibility of being  the  sole  supplier
and  interpreter  of  pragmatic  language  use
from teachers (Washburn, 2001) and provide
the students  the opportunity  to become data
collectors,  researchers,  and  discourse
analysts  and  learn  from  realistic  and
stimulating  examples.  Wedding  invitations
as  a  culturally  and  socially  rich  genre  can
provide  the  teachers with  valuable  teaching
material  for  teaching  pragmatics  of  the
language use and  the  learners with  research
skills  and  analytic  abilities  to  dissect  the
explicit  and  implicit  messages  conveyed
through  the  content  of  each  move  and
arrangement  of  content  in  different  moves
and in different discourse types.

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