Have you been to any weddings lately and listened to the vows? Naturally, as you’d expect, things have changed and they have come a long way from what the bride and groom used to pledge. For example, back in the Pleistocene the groom promised to “love, honor, and cherish,” while the bride vowed to “love, honor, and obey.”
Yes, that’s right, obey.
And the clergyperson used to say, “I now pronounce you man and wife.”
(I, for one, don’t understand what the problem was with all this, but, hey, I’m a man, and so, by definition, I am relatively clueless.)
But then we reached what seemed like a pretty good place, the old equality solution. By the mid-1960s, most brides were also saying “cherish,” and it became “husband and wife.” I have yet to hear “wife and husband,” but that must be happening somewhere. (And this isn’t even talking about same-sex marriage, where, since I haven’t been to one, I have no idea what is said.)
All of this is fine with me, though I’ll admit that I might have some trouble with “wife and husband”; but I’m sure that after a few more years of personal evolution I’ll probably be ready for that, too. Where I am really having trouble, though, is with the nature of the vows themselves, as enunciated by the celebrant.
At two recent weddings I attended, one involving the daughter of my best friend and the other the daughter of a close cousin, I noticed that things have really changed. Today, it is much more about personal fulfillment than about making a life and a home together. It is about each partner making sure that the other person is realizing his or her full potential, even if this means you don’t live anywhere near each other.
It could go something like this, if not today, then surely within the next year or two:
“Jessica and Joshua, as you both embark on this journey together, will you each do everything you can to make sure that the person you love leads a most fulfilling life in work as well as in all that loving and caring stuff? Will you remember that each of you has his or her own journey, and while you can go on this journey together, it does not mean that you will always be in the same car or even on the same bus?
“Joshua, will you do everything in your power to make sure that Jessica can accomplish her goals, and will you support her in all her endeavors? And will you, Jessica, do the same for Joshua, not standing in his way, but certainly not giving up your own dreams in order for him to meet his? Will you both understand that your partner’s happiness is your happiness?
“And if through all this personal accomplishment and fulfillment – what less enlightened people might call selfishness — somehow you are able to make this marriage work, well, congratulations.
“And if, sometime in your 40s or 50s you decide to have children, will you realize that childcare does not have to interfere with your own fulfillment? Joshua, please know that fathers can be wonderful primary parents, and that there is nothing you should do to interfere with Jessica’s drive and ambition. And if you both have the drive and ambition I see in you today, remember that if God had wanted mothers and fathers to be the main caretakers of their children, He wouldn’t have invented nannies.
“And so, Joshua, do you take this woman, Jessica, to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold — except when she wants to do her own thing — for all that better and worse baloney, until either one of you dies, or you realize it isn’t working?”
And Joshua says, “I do.”
The celebrant goes on, “And do you, Jessica, take this so-called man as your lawfully wedded husband, to blah blah blah, as long as he recognizes that he has got to let you be your own person?”
And Jessica says, “Well, I guess so.”
“Good,” says the celebrant. “So by the authority vested in me by the State of New Jersey I now pronounce you wife and husband. And, as long as you ask for her consent first, Joshua, you may kiss the bride.”