In the Greek system when a sorority and a fraternity member are in a serious romantic relationship the fraternity guy can pin his girlfriend. Every system has different variations of the same basic tradition. Basically, when the guy wants to pin his girl friend he tells the president of his house who tells the president of the sorority that the girlfriend is in. They keep it a secret from the girlfriend while planning the pinning. Then one night after the chapter meeting, when the entire house is present the president will announce to the sorority to head downstairs to the dining room for a special ceremony. Right away everyone knows that its a pinning. All the girls make a large circle in the dining room and turn the lights down low. The president lights a candle and it is passed around the room and passed past the girl getting pinned, once it passes her the candle switches direction and moves back towards the girl to be pinned. Once the girl has it in her hand her sisters to her left and right blow the candle out, the house claps.
Once this happens the president opens the door and members of the boyfriends fraternity come in one by one usually dressed in suits, each with a single rose in their hand. Each brother hands the rose to the girlfriend and gives her a smile and a hug. Lastly the boyfriend comes usually with a bouquet of roses and kisses his girlfriend. Next the two closest friends of the boyfriend and the girlfriend tell stories about the relationship between them, funny, serious, anecdotal etc. Lastly the boyfriend tells his girlfriend how much he loves her and gives her his fraternity pin as a symbol of his commitment to her and her official invitation into the fraternitys family. This is the end of the ceremony, however each fraternity has a different variation of this basic ceremony.
I have witnessed 3 girls get pinned from my sorority in this past year. The particular pinning described above was the most formal and respectful. The other pinnings were less formal and frankly, more embarrassing for the girl. Because each house cultivates its own traditions each pinning will differ depending on the house. To pin your girlfriend was once synonymous with proposing; however with time it has lost a lot of that connotation.
Currently, when a girl is pinned it means that her boyfriend is putting her first in his life. He is putting her before the brotherhood, which is a very big step for any fraternity brother. When initiated brothers take a vow of allegiance to the fraternity and pinning is one of the ways to respectfully break the vow. Also, symbolized by the rose received by each brother, when a girl is pinned she is welcomed into the house, into the family of that particular fraternity. Usually only juniors or seniors are pinned. The couple has usually been dating for more than a year as well. Pinnings dont happen unless the relationship is very serious and long term.
Pinning is a public display of affection and commitment accepted in the Greek community and an active tradition. For sororities pinning usually embodies the girlish fantasy of a wonderful boyfriend who isnt afraid to show how he feels, and secretly, every girl wants to be pinned at some point.