Getting “Pinned”

Informant: Oh my God, she got pinned?

Collector: What is that?

Informant: So, when someone gets pinned in a sorority basically what happens is— well, first of all, nobody knows who’s being pinned except for probably the girl’s close friends. So, all we get told, as like the laymen if you will, is that there’s a pinning. “Please wear red if you’re in a relationship and if you’re not in a relationship, wear black.” It’ll be different for every sorority, I’m sure, but the general principle I’m sure stands true. For my specific sorority we sing one of our sorority songs and all of us girls grab hands.

Collector: In a circle?

Informant: Yeah so the pinning ceremony is just the girls in the sorority and everyone’s standing in a circle…Or, as close to a circle as we can get. (laughs) Everyone is holding hands like do in, like, church you know? And there’s a candle being passed around as everyone’s holding hands. So, as it comes to you, you let go, and pass it right. And as we’re singing this song, we’re passing this candle and if the candle stops on you, you’re the one being pinned.

Collector: Oh, so someone next to her would have to know.

Informant: Yeah. So that’s why I’m assuming the close friends know because the guy plans it with the close friends.

Collector: And then the guy’s just there?

Informant: So, then when it lands on you, you’re like, “Ah!” and everyone freaks out. And then those friends have coordinated something with the guy so then they’ll take the girl outside, and like we’ll go to the doorway. Depending on what the guy has planned for his end, like the second part of the ceremony, he could come in and get her. Typically though, for all the ones I’ve been to, is the girl freaks out and the friends walk her to the doorway and we all like get to stand and watch like, in the doorway as the guy comes up. It depends. The ceremony really does change. But the other thing that does hold true is that every guy in the fraternity of the guy who’s pinning the girl gives one red rose.

Collector: To that girl?

Informant: To that girl. They’ll walk up in a line and by the end of it she’s holding like sixty or seventy red roses.

Collector: Oh my God.

Informant: And then the main guy walks up the line too, and his best friend does a speech for him. It’s kind of a pre-engagement.

Collector: Yeah it seems very matrimonial.

Informant: Yeah they do this and it’s great. And then the girl’s best friend will come up and do a speech and it’s very, like…

Collector: Does he actually pin anything on her?

Informant: Oh, forgive me. There’s the actual pinning part of the ceremony. So, basically after the guy gives a speech and he’s like, “I wanna be with you” and the girl’s like “Oh my God!” And then the guy takes off his fraternity pin from his shirt—all the guys are dressed up in, like, sports coats—and typically a guy in the house will come out with a guitar. After the guy’s best friend does a speech and the guy does a speech, he takes off his pin and puts it on the girl’s red dress and he says that she means more to him than his fraternity.

Collector: Awh! So, it’s something that everyone, like, wants?

Informant: It’s something that every girl in a sorority who has a boyfriend in a fraternity would want.

Collector: So they have to be, like, “dating dating” beforehand, right?

Informant: It’s typically people who have been dating for like two years, three years. So, like, college sweethearts, you know? It’s like seniors usually.

Collector: So, I guess it’s kind of acceptable to have her be more important than the fraternity at that point.

Informant: That’s the whole point of it, is that like, at the end of the day he’s had his time with the boys and now he’s saying, like “Here, babe. It’s your turn.” Like the few that I’ve been to, the girl seemed genuinely surprised.

Collector: Oh, really? I would think you would at least have a clue.

Informant: Yeah! But I think that’s the important part, the concealment. They do a really good job of that. Like, the surprise of being pinned is the most important part. And as I’m growing older I’m realizing that it’s cool because it’s the fact that your boyfriend pretty much wants to marry you.

Collector’s Notes: Every time I interviewed someone who was involved in Greek Life, something that represented a marriage ceremony came up.  I think it’s because that is the next big liminal point in these adults’ lives.  In a way they’re preparing themselves for it.  I also think that the color scheme of dresses is interesting.  In class, we talked about how red symbolized the post-romantic woman and black was like the crone, or older, no longer sexualized woman.  I think that, at first, this seems out of place, but then I remember that these girls had already donned their white dresses when they were initiated into the sorority.  So, those “married” and sexualized (with a relationship) wear red and those who are “married” and not sexual (not in a relationship) wear black.  It makes more sense that way.  Also, history lends itself to a lot of examples of guys giving some sort of romantic symbol to their girlfriends, whether it be a class ring, a letterman jacket, a promise ring or even an engagement ring.  These symbols represent “ownership” to a certain degree, and a longer commitment in mind.  It represents the future.  Something else that can represent the future is the circle the girls get into beforehand.  The circle symbolizes the never-ending cycle of life and time, and it makes sense that as one girl moves from one stage of life (maidenhood) to another (married life) that the girls would symbolize this with a circle.  The singing is another unifying thing that I’ve noticed from every Greek interview.  Song seems to be an ancient and timeless way for people to bond in an easy way.  The candle I’m taking to symbolize love, like I’ve seen in past interviews.  The burning flame represents “triumph over the darkness” or in this case, the blackness that is representing single life.  Because we’re a reproductive centered culture, this makes a lot of sense.  All in all, with the love-representative roses and songs, this seems like a really beautiful ceremony.