Bride promising to obey
until death? Not any more
(09/09/2018) | Categories:
| Vows | Wedding Ceremony |
One of the very common questions I
field from brides is Do I have to promise to
obey? And the answer to that one is that,
unless you are getting married in a religious
ceremony in a seriously fundamentalist
denomination, the bride promising to obey the
groom hasn't been a feature of wedding vows for
decades. And thank goodness for that. My
dark sense of humour conjures up visions of same
sex couples tossing a coin or doing rock,
paper, scissors at the altar to decide who
was going to obey whom!
The other promise that you do
not have to make is Until death us do
The legal statement (called vows,
but not really vows in the strict sense of the
word as they do not include any promises) is a
statement firmly fixed in the present
moment. Each of you has to say
I call upon the persons here present, to
witness that I [Full Name] take you [Full Name] to
be my lawful wedding [husband/wife/spouse].
And that's it. Once you have both
said it, you are legally married. So it is in the
you may, but do not have to make, that time is
mentioned. Technically, and legally, you don't
have the option of including a sunset clause in any
promises you make because, in the passage from the
Marriage Act your marriage celebrant must make before
you make your vows, the way marriage is defined by law
in Australia, is recited.
Marriage, according to law in
Australia, is the union of two people, to the
exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered
into for life.
So why promise until death?
Probably the big reason (or at least the reason most
people do) is tradition.
We've all grown up
hearing those words in wedding ceremony after wedding
ceremony. In real life, in movies, on the TV. Like the
traditional marriage vows, and the ring(s), it is part
of the fabric of our culture. And we imagine
that it has been that way since Adam and Eve.
Actually, not. All of these things were added to the
marriage ceremony over a period of several hundred
years in mediaeval times. Til Death
, in the
15th century, four hundred years after the marriage
ceremony, as we know it, was first decreed by the
Catholic Church. At the time, it made economic sense
to include such a clause. On marriage, a woman became
her husband's property and needed to be protected
economically. And most marriages did not last that
long. Death in childbirth was common, and so were all
sorts of diseases, so the average life expectancy was
Given that none of the above now applies, in certain
circles there has been an ongoing debate about
replacing lifelong marriage with fixed-term contracts.
Personally, though that may well be more realistic, I
don't think it is going to happen, because it would
compromise the second most common reason for making
such a promise. It is romantic.
stick together, no matter what, sharing the hope that
the couple will grow old together, tend to make the
tears well up at weddings - and not just in the eyes
of the couple. Parents, guests, and even this
particular celebrant have been known to get teary
during the vows.
My advice, though, is re-frame the words. Promise
something positive. Such as For as long as we both
, or All the days of my life.
It means the same, but is a far happier way to phrase
your life-long commitment.