Till Death Do Us Part - Traditional Yes, Required Definitely Not.

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (09/06/2020) Categories: | Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Vows |
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Chalkboard with the
                      traditional wedding vows hanging on a brick wall
                      with a black vase of white flowers in front of itWeddings are happy, positive occasions that are all about love, hope for the future.

Yet, when we hear Till Death Do Us Part we immediately think wedding. In a country where four out of five couples is married in a civil ceremony and almost half of those marriages will end in divorce,  that these words from the "traditional" vows are still so strongly associated with weddings might seem odd. But it also tells us something about the persistence of social memory even though, to marry legally in Australia, you don't need to make any promises or include any future-oriented statement in your vows. To create the contract of marriage between you, what you are required to say is very much a here and now statement.  In front of witnesses, each of you says that you take  the other to be your lawful wedded husband/wife/spouse/partner in marriage. Full stop. Done. Legally married.

Till death us do part - the What

The traditional wedding vows go
For better, for worse,
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness, and in health,
To love and to cherish,
Till Death Do Us Part
As such, they have all the hallmarks of good performance targets!  They describe behaviours that can be observed, and repeated (except for love) but that is pared with cherish which is about behaviour as much as about feelings. And they have a time element.

I suggest to my couples who want to include the traditional vows in their ceremony that they can substitute something that means the same as Till Death Do Us Part but is expressed in a more positive way.  All the days of my life, for example.

So the question is, why is Till Death Do Us Part so persistent and seemingly so acceptable,in modern weddings? The answer lies in Christian religious history.

Till death us do part - the Why

To find the reason why Til death do us part is an essential part of vows made in a Christian marriage ceremony. you have to go all the way back to the New Testament, which makes it clear that a woman is bound to her until he dies, The traditional vows, as we know them, come from the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer, developed during the Reformation, but draw heavily on earlier Catholic vows. The version in the 1662 revision is closest to that still used in the Church of England (Anglican Church).
for better for worse
for richer for poorer
in sickness and in health
till death us do part
according to God's holy ordinance
And no there isn't a typo in the second last line. Then it was till death us do part. Later the order was swapped to read  till death do us part. And it has stayed the same ever since, backed by the words of the traditional declaration of marriage - What God has joined together let no man put asunder, asunder meaning into separate places, and made abundantly clear in the earliest form of the standard vows used by the Society of Friends (Quakers), which concluded with until it shall please the Lord by death to separate us.

Till, Til, or Until?

Till means the same thing as until, but it is not  (like til) an abbreviation of it. It is an earlier form, not an abbreviation.  So yes, Till Death Do Us Part is not a typo or spelling error.

Till death us do part. Traditional? Yes. Required? No!

If you are married by an authorised civil celebrant, as long as you say that legally required statement, what else you choose to promise is entirely up to you. And how you choose to express those promises is also entirely up to you. So yes, you can use the traditional vows, adapt them, include them as part of your "I do" questions, but you can also skip them entirely. Whatever you do, keeping the tone positive and upbeat, is a good way to do. Personally, I like every day of my life, or a nice simple forever.

Thanks for reading!

Jenny xxx Let's talk soon about how you
                      can have the best ceremony ever
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