Medieval wedding ceremony

MaryP and I have been thinking about wedding ceremonies recently. I was googling a particular phrase ("all spiritual benediction and grace") when I came across a reconstruction of the medieval wedding ceremony.

medieval wedding gif

If this was my preferred wording, I think MaryP would lose much of her enthusiasm for marriage. I bet she would call the wedding off!

The ceremony is asymmetrical:  the man says one thing, the woman another. First, there are the notorious lines where the woman promises to serve and obey her husband (whereas he pledges to comfort her):
 

Man’s vows Woman’s vows
Wilt thou have this Woman to be thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live? Wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?

 
OK, everybody’s familiar with that bit. We’ll pass over it in solemn silence. To insert a cheap joke here might be a risky venture, what with the wedding merely hours away.

Then there’s the line, “Who giveth this Woman to be married to this Man?” I’m not sure how this is supposed to work when it’s a second marriage. But again, it’s best to move along post haste.

I had never heard of the next bit. Get a load of these vows:
 

Man says Woman says
I, Stephen, take thee MaryP to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, for fairer or fouler, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us depart, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereunto I plight thee my troth. I, MaryP, take thee Stephen to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to be bonny and buxom at bed and at board, to love and to cherish, till death us depart, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereunto I plight thee my troth.

 
To be bonny and buxom? At bed and at board? I almost want to include it in the ceremony just to see whether MaryP can say it with a straight face. But I suspect the whole event would quickly disintegrate at that point.

All in all, the medieval wedding ceremony is not for us. But I do love the traditional benediction, which is what I was looking for in the first place:

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favour look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace, that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen.

When the Reverend pronounces those words over the two of you, you have been blessed!

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. juggling mother
    May 22, 2007 @ 14:13:39

    I hope it went well – I’m sure it did:-0

    As I’ve said before – a scary amount of that is still in our wedding vows:-) I managed to remove the giving away bit (after some negotiation), and we were both allowed to say the same vows – so no obeying at all! But thy wouldn’t let me take out till death us do depart:-(

    Also, in the UK, if you have a secular wedding, it is actually illegal to include any religious references – it must be wholly secular, so no blessing thing at the end even if we’d wanted one – we were not even allowed hymns! As only CofE, Catholic, Jews and muslims clery are allowed to perform religious weddings, it must cause a great deal of tension for many people.

    Reply

  2. Bill
    May 23, 2007 @ 16:56:11

    Some UK muslim friends of mine inform me that only CoE and Church in Wales are allowed to preform religious ceremonies the rest have to use the civil ceremony rules, and that seems to be inline with what the General Registers office publishes

    http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/marriages/where-can-i-marry/index.asp

    Which states

    “Please note that for a religious marriage, other than in the Church of England, civil preliminaries must be completed. Please follow the guidance given under civil marriages regarding residency requirements, documentation required and giving notice of marriage.”

    That said there are it seems many ways to beat this system mainly by having the civil ceremony first.

    Reply

  3. Stephen
    May 24, 2007 @ 10:41:06

    • Juggling Mother:
    They wouldn’t let me take out till death us do depart.

    The statement reflects the traditional Christian view of marriage as a life-long commitment, of course.

    I think this is a difficult issue for many churches and clergy. On the one hand, it doesn’t make much sense to force people to make commitments they aren’t sincere about. That’s the principle that would decide the matter for me. Jesus deplored hypocrisy: why would I encourage people to play the hypocrite on their wedding day?!

    On the other hand, people often want a religious wedding, for whatever reason, and it’s not unreasonable for the church to say, If you choose a religious wedding, you get the whole package — you can’t then define marriage in a secular way.

    If you have a secular wedding, it is actually illegal to include any religious references.

    And that, I suppose, is because of the separation between church and state. But what an awful position to put people in! They can have a religious wedding with no flexibility, or a secular wedding with no flexibility. Either way, the ceremony doesn’t reflect what the majority of the population actually believes. And that’s a shame, in my opinion.

    • Bill:
    Some UK muslim friends of mine inform me that only CoE and Church in Wales are allowed to preform religious ceremonies.

    And that’s where the separation of church and state breaks down in England — there is an officially sanctioned state church. All in all, I prefer the (rather lax!) way we do things in Canada. (Sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence.)

    Reply

  4. juggling mother
    May 24, 2007 @ 14:32:14

    “The statement reflects the traditional Christian view of marriage as a life-long commitment, of course”

    Yes, except I had a secular wedding ceremony:-)

    “Some UK muslim friends of mine inform me that only CoE and Church in Wales are allowed to preform religious ceremonies”

    Sorry, bad explanation. CofE, Catholic, Jewish & Muslim clerics are allowed to perform legally binding marriages in their places of worship. ie they are all, automatically registrars by virtue of being religious personnel. Any other religion has to apply to have individual personnel and (now it’s allowed) individual buildings approved to perform the secular ceremonies.

    othr than Cof E, what tends to happen for religious people is they have a secular ceremony, followed (sometimes immediately, sometimes some time later) by a religious ceremony. if it’s done the other way round it causes all sorts of fun legal problems:-)

    Reply

  5. Stephen
    May 24, 2007 @ 14:38:02

    Thanks for the inside scoop! 🙂

    I’m not surprised that you had a secular wedding ceremony. I’m very surprised that you were forced to use the “til death” language. How bizarre! I thought you must have ended up having a church wedding for some reason.

    Reply

  6. Trackback: Chocolate and Vodka » Where’s my “I do”?

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