Wedding Vows: To Love, Honour And… Say What?!March 26, 2012 3 Comments
So after you’ve finally settled on a venue and chosen a dress (of the appropriate colour) and made a guest list and undergone the inevitable guilt for failing to make every female friend of yours a bridesmaid (sorry again, Lacey, it’s just that I don’t like you that much), you come to the realization that not only do you have to show up for the pageant that is your wedding, you’ve got lines to say as well. Argh.
Vows. Traditional Christian marriage vows date back to Thomas Cranmer, who scripted them nearly 500 years ago in his Book of Common Prayer. The book’s been revised a number of times since, but all the “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer” jazz originates there.
The feminist issue around vows has been, of course, the traditional statement, also from the B of CP (as the kids call it), that the bride will “love, honor and obey” her husband while hubby doesn’t say anything equivalent. The sentiment of this charming tradition goes back to the Bible.
St. Paul told the Corinthians that, “Man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.”
St. Peter, meanwhile, confusingly commanded that wives should “be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behaviour of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behaviour.”
And that’s just two examples of many. Seriously, Google it — there are tons.
But the fact that the Bible’s a little out of touch isn’t news. What modern couples have to consider is where this leaves them and their vows. Many couples knock out the “obey” bit, while others come up with new vows altogether, though this can be a daunting task. Do you try to be funny? Cute? Solemn? Ardent? It can be a minefield.
And the “help” out there ain’t too pretty. I had a look online while researching this piece and was truly surprised by the prevalence of websites recommending Dr. Seuss-themed wedding vows. One common example:
Minister: Will you take her as your wife? Will you love her all your life?
Groom: Yes, I take her as my wife. Yes, I’ll love her all my life.
Minister: Will you have, and also hold, just as you have at this time told?
Groom: Yes, I will have, and I will hold, just as I have at this time told. Yes, I will love her all my life as I now take her as my wife.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love my husband in a box, I’d even like him with a fox, but as a couple we have the class to keep those discussions in the bedroom where they belong.
Then there are the hilaaarious vows that point to how craven and materialistic women are. One website suggests the following “financial quips” for humorous couples to add to their vows:
“Instead of ‘for better or worse, for richer, for poorer…’ the bride makes a show of only repeating ‘for richer.’ Or the groom says ‘for better or worse, for richer, for poorer….when you buy your $400 shoes.’”
HA! Women have no souls!
Another historical issue for feminist brides has been the officiant saying, “I now declare you man and wife” versus “husband and wife.” The 19th century feminist Lucretia Mott famously said that saying “man and wife” implied the wife was “a mere appendage” and that all the clergyman was required to do was pronounce the new relationship, that of husband and wife. Keep and eye out for that one.
For my and my betrothed’s part, we’re having a civil ceremony in London, which by law cannot include any religious references whatsoever — no music, no nothing, can refer to any kind of god. In England, you’ve gotta be firm with your lack of faith. So to avoid whatever boring stock vows the State might have in store, we’re definitely writing our own. What those will entail (other than no references to Baby Jesus) remains to be determined, however I can assure you that nothing within them will rhyme. Not even those “half rhymes” Emily Dickinson used to cheat with.
And, of course, God or not, nobody will ever make me promise to “obey” my husband, if only because both he and I would laugh in that person’s face and that would make for a rather awkward wedding photo…
So what are you doing for your vows? Will you rhyme till your guests want to vomit? Poke fun at your partner’s foibles? Or are you tweaking church lines to suit your modern sensibilities? Let me know in the comments below.
And tune in two weeks from now for: “What’s in a name change? A modern wife’s decision.”
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