My article “Wedding Vows” just published in the fall issue of SEASON magazine! It shares how Princess Diana’s wedding in 1981 signaled changes in the world of weddings, including the promises a couple makes during their ceremony. (‘Tis based on excerpts from my book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding.) Enjoy!
Or as author Maria McBride-Mellinger described changes following the royal wedding in 1981: “After a decade of swinging singles and disco infernos, suddenly everyone wanted to be married and every bride wanted a gown fit for a queen: regal and ornate, with a lengthy train, and a jeweled veil. The big white wedding was back in style and no expense seemed too great.”Signaling another change of the times, the bride and groom made royal history that day with a break in tradition even before becoming husband and wife. Removing some outdated words from the Church of England’s 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer, as the couple stood before the archbishop of Canterbury, and witnessed by nearly a million-fold television audience, the bride’s marriage vows did not include the promise “to obey.”
A London byline in The Washington Post a few days before the wedding reported that the archbishop of Canterbury revealed “the decision to drop this vow was made very quickly in his discussion of the service with Charles and Diana and that he told them, the usual clergyman’s joke. ‘It’s a bad thing to start your marriage off with a downright lie.’ He told reporters that many couples now omit the vow, which was a remnant from the Middle Ages, when a wife would pledge ‘to be bonny and buxom in bed and board.’”
I don’t doubt the archbishop’s knowledge of history regarding marriage vows including “to love, cherish and obey.” However, my understanding of the Latin meaning of the word “obey” as used in the old marriage text is “to hear, to deeply listen”—a promise that would be beneficial, even essential, to any marriage, no? If that’s the case, my only complaint with the original marriage vows is that the pledge “to obey” (i.e., “to listen”) was in the woman’s declaration but not in the man’s. Is the promise “to love and cherish” really possible without “deep listening”?
Some wedding “traditions”—royal or otherwise—are indeed outdated and need tossing aside; others are keepers in their own right. Then there are those traditions that simply need the wisdom of a woman’s touch! □