I came across this tweet by @iam_alynus and wondered which words at your wedding really matter?
There are in fact just 36 words you are 'required' to say to marry in England & Wales. So long as you are in building registered for the solemnisation of marriage, then these are all the words you would need to say to each other.
I do solemnly declare that I know of no lawful impediment why I [name] may not be married to [name].
I call upon these persons here present, to witness that I [name] do take you [name] to be my lawful wedded wife/husband.
That's it. That's all you are 'required' to say... but is that all you 'need' to say?
A Very Brief History
The wedding ceremony we enjoy today in its many forms, whether Civil, or Church of England, or Jewish, or Free Church, or Islamist, all have there origins in Genesis chapter 2 of the Bible. This is the basis of the marriage ceremony for the Western World and every aspect of your ceremony can be found there.
Over the centuries the marriage ceremony has changed from a simplistic union of two people in a village in front of family and God's representative, to the Elizabethan necessity to pass on wealth and capital to the next generation, to today when we have tried to divide marriage into "Civil" and "Religious".
As this is meant to be a short blog, I'm only going to talk about the Civil wedding today.
Contract or Covenant?
To answer @iam_alynus question, I need to ask you a question : Do you want your marriage to be a contract or a covenant?
Civil Ceremony Contradictions:
The law says that a civil ceremony should have absolutely no religious content. It is based in law and so is purely "Contractual". Therefore arguably all you should say at a Civil wedding is the 36 words, yet that is never the case, because our 'humanity', our soul craves more.
We are looking for relationship not a contract. Contract is harsh, "this is mine, that is yours". Contract requires definitions and clauses on what will happen at certain times, '"you will conceive on the 30 August!" and genuine life is not like that. Contract demands punishment and outcomes "forget to put the bins out and no sex for a week" we all make mistakes.
Therefore even the civil wedding ceremony realises there is more to marriage than law. Which is why, paradoxically, and contradictory, vows are still included in a civil marriage.
The origin of "The Vow" is again found in the Bible in the book of Genesis and is the basis of the creation of a "Covenant" between the couple marrying and the couple and God.
Civil ceremonies leave out reference to God, but the "Vow" is a Biblical creation rooted in covenant relationship.
Covenant over Contract:
Covenant is about self-sacrifice, "I will ask myself how I can change to make our marriage better, not how how I can change my partner". Covenant is about forgiveness first "I will choose to no longer remember the way we argued last night". Covenant is about grace; which is undeserved merit; "I not only forgive you, but I will take the first step to embrace you again, I will go the extra mile".
The vows you say whether they are the traditional vows which have been lifted from the the ancient Christian Church ceremony are all about establishing your future relationship together, your covenant to one another:
"To have and to hold, from this day forward. For richer for poorer. In sickness and in health. To love and cherish until death parts us."
Or a more contemporary vow:
" I pledge to honour, encourage, and support you through our walk together. When our way becomes difficult, I promise to stand by you and uplift you, so that through our union we can accomplish more than we could alone. I promise to work at our love and always make you a priority in my life. With every beat of my heart, I will love you. This is my solemn vow."
Whatever the form, the "Vow" is where you decide on the kind of marriage you want for the rest of your life. Contract or Covenant. Law or Love. What you decide in your ceremony is what will be played out on the stage of your marriage.
I believe in my heart and have seen in many marriages that it is never the piece of paper, the Marriage Certificate which keeps you married.
Rather it is the covenant relationship between two people which they see as worth holding onto which saves a marriage.
That covenant relationship can be summarised as :
My LOVE for you IS...
- Not jealous
- Not boastful
- Not proud
- Not rude
- Not about getting my own way
- Not being irritable
- About choosing to forget the wrongs you have done against me
- About rejoicing in being truthful to you
- About never giving up on you
- Always having faith you will love me like this
- Always hoping we will find a way through together
- Always enduring whatever the world chucks at us.
- All other stuff in our life will come and go. But this Love is what will keep us together not a piece of paper.
If you want the full version, not mine, check out 1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible.
So @iam_alynus my question to you is : Do you want a married life of LAW or LOVE, contract or covenant, because what you say will determine the kind of marriage you want to build.