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?
“To obey” is from the Catholic Sarum Rite, which was the version of the Latin missal used in medieval England.
Well, Princess Elizabeth (soon to become Queen Elizabeth II) insisted on including “obey” in her vows. In the case of Queen Victoria, when the Archbishop of Canterbury broached the subject, she said: “I want to be married as a woman, not as a queen.”