I Now Pronounce You "Man and Wife"
You are about to attend a wedding ceremony of Robert Silver and Susan Hickly. I have one question for you to ponder. Could a Bahamian wedding ceremony be evidence of maladaptive traditions in our society? Walk down the aisle with me and letís find out. Walking through the doors of a beautifully decorated church are two eager lovers. After the hymn and opening prayer the congregation is seated waiting for those precious moments. Something is about to happen. The minister conducts the exchange of vows. Then he says: "I now pronounce you man and wife." These words speak directly to our concept of the marriage relationship. What am I taking about you may be asking?
It always intrigues me when I hear ministers commenting during wedding ceremonies how loving a man and woman should be toward each other in marriage. They quote verses from the love passage - 1 Corinthians 13, then the couple ritualistically recite their vows. With deep anticipation the congregation gleefully listens to the thrilling voices, though nervous, of the groom and bride as the minister articulates these words: "Will you have this man/woman to be your wedded husband/wife, to live together after Godís ordinance in the sacred estates of matrimony? Will you love, honor, and cherish each other, in sickness, and in health, in prosperity or adversity; and forsaking all other, keep yourself only for each other, so long as you both shall live?" Of course one can see the movement of hundreds outer ears as everyone anticipates the words "I do." How beautiful!
The excitement builds. Hearts throb until the pastor throws the bombshell: "I now pronounce you man and wife." Whatís wrong? The pastor did not say "I now pronounce you husband and wife." Is this just a slip of the tongue? Is it ignorance? Am I just pulling teeth here? I can assure you that in most cases it is an expression of our concept of who is really getting married: the woman. She becomes the bride and the man remains a man. He does not become a husband. "She is getting married to him, he is not getting married to her," said an old-fashioned Bahamian father.
True, these husbands are not planning to be unfaithful to their marriage vows. At least 30 percent will remain faithful. Here is the problem. It centers around who is in charge. Traditionally, the word "man" signifies control, in-charge, strength, and leadership. Therefore, even during a wedding ceremony, the pastor attempts not to take away his leadership responsibilities. He must remain a man. On the other hand, as a way of showing the bride's dependence on her man, she is called the "wife." Thus, we have "man and wife." Then to make matters worse the womanís loving character and personality is lost when the pastor flies in the final scare tactic with the words "Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in the Bahamas I proudly present, Mr. & Mrs. Robert Silver." Then we hear the applause. But where did the wife go? I thought she had a name? All through the ceremony the pastor was addressing the bride directly by using her name. After the legal and religious ceremonies are over, all of a sudden she does not exist. She loses all identity. How pitiful!
We must put an end to this. At the end of the next wedding ceremony when a pastor does not call the first name of the bride, letís refuse to clap. Letís be silent. Letís begin an Island-wide "identity-in-marriage protest." No man is called to be the boss or ruler over his wife. He is called to be her partner, lover, friend, and companion. Brides, insist that you are equal in the marriage relationship and it starts at the altar when the pastor says "Ladies and gentlemen I proudly present, Mr. Robert & Mrs. Susan Silver. Next week we continue on the subject.