To love, to cherish, and to obey?

In pretty much every movie for my whole life, when a couple is getting married, the bride makes a BIG DEAL out of not wanting to say “obey” as part of the marriage vows. Which, yeah, duh. But is it really as big an issue as Hollywood makes it seem? Not really…

For the record, I am going to focus on Christian marriage vows because as far as I know, other religions don’t have a tradition of using it.

Firstly, to my great surprise, the Catholic church has NEVER had the word “obey” as part of their vows of marriage. Their wording goes like this:

I, ____, take you, ____, to be my (husband/wife). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.

The usage of “obey” actually comes from the Anglican church, as the vows included “obey” in the very first Book of Common Prayer written in 1549:

Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded houseband, to live together after Goddes ordeinaunce, in the holy estate of matrimonie? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honor, and kepe him in sickenes and in health? And forsaking al other kepe thee onely to him, so long as you bothe shall live?

Which eventually became:

Bride: I,_____, take thee,_____, to be my wedded 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, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.

Many other Protestant denominations, such as Lutherans, cribbed from this in America as immigrants came over and changed their services over from their native tongues.

HOWEVER, the Anglican and Episcopal churches voted in 1922 to remove “obey” from the vows, so honestly, at least 4-5 generations of women have not been instructed to use “obey” in their vows, making much of our cultural rage about the subject a bit of a tempest in a tea pot. And especially now when people are increasingly having civil wedding ceremonies and writing their own vows, there is significantly less pressure to even use traditional vows, let alone obsolete ones that include “obey.” Of course, this excludes the ultra religious nutters who have started to ADD obey into wedding vows that normally wouldn’t include them just so they can show that they are going be a submissive wife…but that’s a whole other situation.

What about your experiences? Did you, your mother, or grandmother say “obey” at her wedding? Did you even use traditional vow wording or did you write your own?

Some Things I Learned About WWII Etiquette

I’m horribly late to the party with regards to the BBC Show The Supersizers Go, but if you haven’t checked it out (which, if you’re in America, you might not have), I highly recommend it. Giles Coren and Sue Perkins (who you might recognize from GBBO fame) spend a week at a time eating and living as if they were in different eras of British history, and recording the results. Often they get close to getting gout.

The last episode I watched they put themselves in the shoes of a middle class family in WWII. According to the show, 60% of the UK’s food was imported before the war, so citizens were subject to strict rationing. And with rations came some new rules about food etiquette.

Most of it had to do with waste. It was extremely frowned upon, and in some cases legally punishable, to waste food. Both in the US and the UK, the government encouraged people to be thoughtful about consumption. Posters like these from the US Navy remind citizens “When you take more than you can eat you cheat your buddies in the fleet!”

In the UK, there were also etiquette suggestions regarding getting used to new diets. “Don’t tell the family what the dish is made from until they have tasted–and liked–it” said the government. You were also not to moan about the food you couldn’t get, but instead praise your food in advance of serving it to basically convince everyone it wasn’t so bad.

WWII was also the first time many servicemen had ever left the country, and thus they had to be taught how to conduct themselves with people of other cultures (or sometimes manners that they should have had already). Americans were taught to remove their shoes in Japanese homes, and were given this book of manners for life in Britain. Tips included to never make fun of royalty, never rub it in that the American GIs make more than the Brits do, and “Don’t criticize the food, beer or cigarettes to the British. Remember they have been at war since 1939.”

What Is a Marrow Spoon?

I managed to eat at the original M Wells in Queens in the year or so that it was open and the most memorable thing from that dinner was their marrow and escargot dish. It was a full on bone cracked in half so you could get at the marrow with little escargots dotting it, so delicious, though I don’t recall any particularly special utensils with it.

However, if you were a hostess in the 17th or 18th century and you didn’t want your guests sucking on bones at the dinner table, you would have special suuuuuuuper skinny spoons called marrow spoons to allow diners to get inside bones and scoop out all that delicious marrow.

They seem to have fallen out of fashion by the Victorian period or later, Emily Post doesn’t mention them at all.

Luckily for us, Martha Stewart, in all her glory, has a video tutorial of how to use them:

So tell me, have you eaten marrow? Do you like it? Did you use a marrow spoon?

If You Want, You Can Still Take Etiquette Lessons


The idea of charm school is really quaint at this point. Girls walking with books on their heads, the back of your hand smacked if you pick up the wrong fork or put your elbows on the table, the thought that you need to practice how to curtsey. Most of these are not practical lessons in our lives anymore. But, if you so choose, there are places you can still go for etiquette lessons.

I recently came across the Etiquette School of New York, which has been around for ten years and offers classes in dining and entertaining, teen etiquette, and even corporate etiquette. There are also online classes at It’s All About Etiquette, and Beaumont Etiquette, which features this woman measuring the distance between flatware with a butler’s stick. Of course, these classes come at a price–the Etiquette School of New York’s adult finishing school will set you back $750.

I’m not sure how I feel about this! On one hand, we believe social graces are important and something that should be more general knowledge. I mean, that’s the point of this damn blog. And running these classes is work and nobody should work for free. The instructors are teaching specific skills and should be fairly compensated–no one should be expected to put in time and effort out of the goodness of their own heart. (To that end, click on our ads so we can make money!)

On the other, however, is the concept of privilege. The idea is that by going through these classes you’ll have the upper hand in social and business interactions by learning the “soft skills” you may not learn in college or elsewhere. Guess who already has the upper hand there? People who can afford $750 for finishing school.

No, you don’t need a class to learn how to give someone a firm handshake and look them in the eye while talking to them, or to say “please” and “thank you.” But I worry that the other skills these classes teach–networking, small talk, “how to make a good first impression”–are being taught to the people who were already in the position to be getting those jobs. That, basically, rich white people are taking classes in the rules rich white people created in order to advance more rich white people.

I’m not saying that’s what these schools are explicitly doing, and hey, it would be amazing if all kids got lessons in table manners early. But the inclusivity is the thing. If we’re going to say a general knowledge of etiquette and manners is necessary to social and professional advancement, those lessons should be available to everyone, whether through formal schooling like this or elsewhere. And if not, well, it’s pretty shitty to hire someone because they’re good at networking when they already had the money to learn how to do it. But, you know, put a book on your head. Posture is really important.

What Is The Role Of Godparents?

Growing up, I was a little jealous of people who had godparents who were friends of their parents. My godparents were an aunt and uncle, so I didn’t get any additional gifts or attention. And that sums up my understanding of godparents.

Just kidding. Though, in this day and age, a present at Christmas and maybe a fun outing or two is the most anyone expects out of a godparent after the baptism happens.

The most important role of a godparent, traditionally, is to participate in a child’s baptism. They participate to act as the voice of the child, since infants and small children cannot speak. They generally promise to oversee the child’s spiritual upbringing as well. Usually, one godparent of each sex is chosen: a godmother and a godfather, but sometimes more are chosen. Among the aristocracy, it was very common to ask members of the royal family to be godparents to a) show respect b) hope they will be helpful in the child’s life. This still continues- Queen Elizabeth has 29 godchildren, Prince Charles has 28 (Camilla’s son…), and Prince William has 4 already.

Some religious denominations have rules- Episcopalians must have a baptized Christian as a godparent and Catholics are supposed to have a baptized Catholic in good standing as godparent. Catholics are also not supposed to serve as godparents to non-Catholics (ha- tell that to my Catholic godmother. I was baptized Episcopalian.)

Some other expectations of godparents in the Christian faith:

  • Participation in or recognition of the other sacraments (first communion, confirmation, marriage, etc)
  • Modeling good Christian life
  • Helping support the parents in religious education

So, theoretically, you should choose someone who will really do this, rather than just a friend or relative you are close to. Of course all of this is moot if you are baptizing your child for tradition’s sake and aren’t actually interested in raising them actively Christian. Then, you and the godparents can decide what kind of relationship you are all interested in having with the child.

Many people assume that the godparents are also those who will care for the child in the event of the parents’ deaths. This can sometimes be the case, but the parents must site the guardians in their will, it isn’t automatic (especially if you have multiple children with different godparents!)

Amy Vanderbilt says that “once asked to serve as a godparent, a friend is virtually bound to accept.” Though, I would update this to say if there was no religious (or anti-religious) reason preventing you from accepting. Then she says that the godparent should present the child with an heirloom-type gift that can be passed down- her example from one of her own children was “an engraved Sheffield hot-water plate, fine for keeping his baby food hot but also fine for the time he begins entertaining in his bachelor quarters. The plate will be excellent for hot hors d’oeuvres.”

Do you have godparents? Do you want your children to have godparents? Tell me more in the comments!