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The Origin of the Wedding Vows

The Origin of the Wedding Vows

In 1549, the “Book of Common Prayer” was published and the first wedding vows were introduced to the world but before then, and until they were commonly recognized as part of a ceremony, the father and the groom would meet and agree that his daughter would be the “groom’s” wife. This was usually accompanied by an agreement of services provided by the groom and a small dowry provided by the bride’s father. The wealthy lords and ladies of the day would put the agreement into a legal document to make it seem official and would hold a ball or party to make it official. This was the era where the first vows and the first marriage licenses came into play.

The ceremony and prayer went something like this. While the wealthy usually had a prominent church elder ordinate, the poorer class of people would have the local dicker or other minor clergyman present the groom to the bride and remind them that they were speaking publicly and before God and after a reading from the then accepted matrimonial verse from the Bible, the groom would say,

“I blank, take thee, blank, to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance.”

Then the Bride would return with, I, blank, take thee, blank, to be my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer of for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance.

This liturgy and variations of it and many other parts of today’s ceremony have endured through quite a few attempts to change it and in some instances, strike it from the vows altogether for something less biblical. The church always succeeded with the voice of the people behind it, keeping these sacred vows as popular today as they ever were. The only exception to this stand came in 1922 when the loud voice of the female population forced the Episcopal Church leaders to vote on whether to remove the word “obey” from the rite. The vote passed overwhelmingly with just of a few of the church’s oldest and more strict elders voting to keep it intact. Even if it had not passed back then, it is not very likely that the word would still be in the ceremony as now even most men agree that it is not a necessary or functional part of the wedding ideal. The phrase, “to love, honor, and obey” has since been replaced with, “to love, honor and cherish.” This is also in line with some scholars who argue that the translation involved in the original ceremony may have been inaccurate or at the very least, miscopied into the text.

The vows were almost always followed by the Ring bearer presenting the groom with the Ring Bearer Pillow so that he could bring the ceremony towards it happy conclusion and symbolize the union with the completed circle that the ring represents. The rings in today’s ceremony are kept by the best man and the ring bearer, when used, often carries inexpensive rings for symbolic reasons. In the modern world we live in, it is not uncommon for couples to add their own vows, writing to each other their thoughts and feelings and expressing their love for one another in their own words. While this adds a personal touch to the ceremony and also adds additional meaning to the emotions of the moment, the original vows are regarded as the most beautiful and popular in the world and will always be there for people to hear and enjoy on their special day.