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The Marriage Vows

By Barrington H. Brennen, March 11, 2015




Barrington H. Brennen

Last week I shared some important facts about the marriage ceremony.   I shared about who can attend, the time of the ceremony, witnesses, unnecessary traditions, and what marriage officers and couples are legally required to say in the marriage ceremony.   

In this article I will share about the procedures for getting married and the marriage vows.   The legal procedures begin with the couple making an application to marry at office of the Registrar General.   The “Application for a Marriage License” can be picked up at the office mentioned or online at www.bahamas.com.  To make application both parties are to appear to the Registrar with passports in hand.  There is a fee of $100 for obtaining the license and $20 for each official marriage certificate.  At the marriage ceremony two witness, 18 years or older, must sign the marriage license.  Note that these two witnesses can be two males or two females.  There is no legal requirement that witnesses must be a male and female.  The witness need not be a close friend or relative. 



Wedding vows are promises each partner makes to the other during a wedding ceremony.  Many believe that if the traditional marriage vows are not used in the wedding they are not properly or legally married.   According to the “Gathering Guide” online “The traditional wedding vows we know today have roots in the Anglican Church, under the rule of King Henry VIII. It was then that he approved the following vows, found in what is known as the Common Book of Prayer, published in 1549. They probably sound quite familiar:

“I take thee to be my wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor and to worship/cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance.”   Note that this vow is not required by law in The Bahamas certainly not in any country.   It is only a tradition.


Today’s couples shy away from having the bride use the word “obey” in the wedding vows.  This was placed in the vow, not because of a Biblical mandate, but because a concept of the role of the woman as the property of the man.  She must obey the husband and he does not have to obey her.  How pathetic!  


In the last article I shared that the only “vows” required by law in a wedding in The Bahamas are“I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I, __________ may not be joined in matrimony to _____________”   This statement is for a  bride and groom to repeat.   The second statement is: “I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, ___________ do take (or have now taken) _____________ to be my lawful wife/husband.” 


Before or after these statements are repeated, the couple by themselves or with the assistance of the marriage officer, make any promise they wish to each other.



Many couples today opt to make their own marriage vows.   There is no law or Biblical tradition preventing this.  This often adds beauty and creativity to the ceremony.  The vows can be spoken on put to music.   At our daughter’s wedding, she sang a beautiful “marriage vow” she composed for her husband-to-be.    My son-in-law, when stating his own vows, just took her hands and spoke freely from his heart about his love and eternal commitment to her.  It was beautiful.  Of course, as marriage office, we did add the legal statements and pronouncements.  Over the years I have created by own “vows” for couples.  Here is one of them “_________do you take __________ to be your wife/husband, lover, sweetheart, friend, and eternal companion."  Often I will spontaneously add other lines to suit the personalities of the bride and groom.   This is perfectly legal and Biblically sound as long as the marriage officer uses the statements mentioned above.

The truth is we really do not know of example of an actual marriage vow in scripture.  Except for the profound words of Adam to Eve when he said “you are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” 

Saying in a marriage vow “till death do us part” is not a requirement by law nor by scripture.   It is a holy and scriptural concept but there is no harm if a couple does not literally use these words.   Couples can use other creative ways of stating the life-long commitment.



Several years ago I wrote an article entitles “”I Now Pronounce You Man and Wife."  I asked the question what is wrong with this statement. “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.

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 woman’s 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, let’s refuse to clap. Let’s be silent. Let’s 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. 


Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org   or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002





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