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Which wedding vows will Kate and Will use?

While Catholics have only one form of wedding vow, Anglicans can pick from many. Which will the royal couple go for?

By on Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The late Diana, Princess of Wales dropped the "obey" from her wedding vow  PA

The late Diana, Princess of Wales dropped the "obey" from her wedding vow PA

Every time there is a royal wedding, the one story newspapers all love is the one in which they announce the that the bride will vow to obey her husband or not.

What form of wedding vow one uses is hardly of interest to Catholics who never get a choice in the matter. As far as I have ever known the Catholic wedding service has one form of words and one only. The lucky Anglicans have a wide choice. But, never mind the vows, what about the preamble.

Here is the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined.
Most people will adore this for the grandeur of the language. I fully acknowledge that, but my chief reason for approving it is its excellent theology. Cranmer may have been a Zwinglian, and he may have denied that marriage was a sacrament, but I think he understands what marriage is all about, because he understands human nature.

The alternative is Common Worship (2000) which has the following preamble, which though perfectly agreeable, may well be missing the emphasis on marriage as a remedy for sin:

In the presence of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we have come together
to witness the marriage of N and N,
to pray for God’s blessing on them,
to share their joy
and to celebrate their love.

Marriage is a gift of God in creation
through which husband and wife may know the grace of God.
It is given
that as man and woman grow together in love and trust,
they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind,
as Christ is united with his bride, the Church.

The gift of marriage brings husband and wife together
in the delight and tenderness of sexual union
and joyful commitment to the end of their lives.
It is given as the foundation of family life
in which children are [born and] nurtured
and in which each member of the family, in good times and in bad,
may find strength, companionship and comfort,
and grow to maturity in love.

Marriage is a way of life made holy by God,
and blessed by the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ
with those celebrating a wedding at Cana in Galilee.
Marriage is a sign of unity and loyalty
which all should uphold and honour.
It enriches society and strengthens community.
No one should enter into it lightly or selfishly
but reverently and responsibly in the sight of almighty God.

N and N are now to enter this way of life.
They will each give their consent to the other
and make solemn vows,
and in token of this they will [each] give and receive a ring.
We pray with them that the Holy Spirit will guide
and strengthen them,
that they may fulfil God’s purposes
for the whole of their earthly life together.

This picture of marriage is optimistic to say the least. It does not say why the couple need the grace of God, nor does it present any hint that the “delight and tenderness of sexual union” may encounter any difficulty whatever, apart from a mention of “good times and [in] bad”. It is a picture of marriage so rosy that one is left wondering why anyone in their right mind would ever want to get divorced.

The Catholic Rite of Marriage currently in use has the following preamble, which we can be sure the Prince and his bride will not hear:

My dear friends, you have come together in this church so that the Lord may seal and strengthen your love in the presence of the Church’s minister and this community. Christ abundantly blesses this love. He has already consecrated you in baptism and now he enriches and strengthens you by a special sacrament so that you may assume the duties of marriage in mutual and lasting fidelity. And so, in the presence of the Church, I ask you to state your intentions.

It is a bit bald, but the mention of baptism is important. Neither Anglican version mentions baptism, which is rather a startling omission, to my mind. But, with this caveat aside, on the whole I think Cranmer scores, and the other versions miss. I hope we shall have 1662 at the wedding. It might give all those watching a welcome jolt.

  • Confused of Chi

    Fr A L-S, Is it a requirement in Canon law that Catholics be Confirmed prior to being married?

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Good question. I am not entirely sure what Canon Law does say on this matter, but in certain countries, such as Malta and Poland, unconfirmed persons cannot marry in Church; in the UK we do not insist on this, though of course a pastor would urge anyone getting married to be confirmed first.

  • Anonymous

    I agree entirely that the Cranmer version is best – and the key reason for that is that the “excellent theology” of which the blog author approves, is, in fact, Catholic doctrine on the true ends of marriage, as the Church always taught it before the current madness took hold.

    Consider the very name of the Sacrament: “the word ‘Matrimony’ is derived from the fact that the principal object which a female should propose to herself in marriage is to become a mother…” (Catechism of the Council of Trent: Names of this Sacrament.)

    The same Catechism of the Council of Trent identifies children as the first blessing of marriage, with fidelity second, and the indissoluble bond of marriage (called the Sacrament) coming third.

    It’s interesting, isn’t it, that – although technically, of course, these remain the true ends of marriage – the emphasis (in homilies etc) seems to be on the love of the couple for each other (fidelity) with what should be the first end of marriage – children – now, largely, an optional extra, typical of the secular view of marriage. Thus, the contraceptive mentality has taken hold, with Catholics apparently no different from anyone else in the matter of so-called “family planning.” Ironic, in that the use of contraceptives and abortion can cause infertility and so now we have the IVF industry making money out of this self-inflicted misery.

    “Family planning”? Always makes me think of the old Mexican saying: “if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

  • Digusted from Tunbridge Wells

    I agree that the Cranmer is best; but wouldn’t it strike a rather hypocritical/insincere note as HRH has been ‘living with’ Kate for years.

  • Anonymous

    You have hit on a key issue, which is largely ignored by the clergy – who avoid all controversy like crazy. I’ve never understood why men, who clearly want a quiet life, would choose to be priests when Our Lord stated clearly and unambiguously that as the world had hated him, so it would hate us. If ordinary Catholics are going to be battling the world day in and day out, there’s no reason to think “the world” – the enemies of the Faith – will let priests off the hook.

    Yet, in case after case that I know of personally, when co-habiting couples have approached the priest about getting married, the fact of their openly living in sin, giving the same address for the paperwork etc. hasn’t as much as raised a clerical eyebrow.

    One priest who married someone connected to me, said to me some months later: “I haven’t seen (name and name) since the wedding day.

    I replied that since he hadn’t mentioned the word “sin” to them in relation to their cohabitation, and since he knew they were not practicing Catholics and yet had made no mention of THAT being a mortal sin, what did he expect? She’d got her white wedding dress, symbol of virginal purity, she’d got her big church and photographs, she’d had her reception at a posh hotel – it was all over now and “real life” had set in.

    And “no” was the answer to my question to him: “Well, Father, have you visited (name) since the wedding and asked why they’ve not been going to Mass.”

    The government and society have clearly approved cohabitation and the Church, in its weakened state of crisis, does not have the courage of its convictions to speak out clearly against it. Only one priest that I know of, in England, acts like a true priest when he tells couples that they have to stop living together until after the wedding – and he spells out what the means. No sexual activity until after the marriage has taken place.

    One priest (probably) in the entire UK. Tragic. I repeat – what on EARTH makes these men want to be priests? So far, all the answers I’ve been given fit another question: “what makes someone want to be a Social Worker.”

  • Anonymous

    You have hit on a key issue, which is largely ignored by the clergy – who avoid all controversy like crazy. I’ve never understood why men, who clearly want a quiet life, would choose to be priests when Our Lord stated clearly and unambiguously that as the world had hated him, so it would hate us. If ordinary Catholics are going to be battling the world day in and day out, there’s no reason to think “the world” – the enemies of the Faith – will let priests off the hook.

    Yet, in case after case that I know of personally, when co-habiting couples have approached the priest about getting married, the fact of their openly living in sin, giving the same address for the paperwork etc. hasn’t as much as raised a clerical eyebrow.

    One priest who married someone connected to me, said to me some months later: “I haven’t seen (name and name) since the wedding day.

    I replied that since he hadn’t mentioned the word “sin” to them in relation to their cohabitation, and since he knew they were not practicing Catholics and yet had made no mention of THAT being a mortal sin, what did he expect? She’d got her white wedding dress, symbol of virginal purity, she’d got her big church and photographs, she’d had her reception at a posh hotel – it was all over now and “real life” had set in.

    And “no” was the answer to my question to him: “Well, Father, have you visited (name) since the wedding and asked why they’ve not been going to Mass.”

    The government and society have clearly approved cohabitation and the Church, in its weakened state of crisis, does not have the courage of its convictions to speak out clearly against it. Only one priest that I know of, in England, acts like a true priest when he tells couples that they have to stop living together until after the wedding – and he spells out what the means. No sexual activity until after the marriage has taken place.

    One priest (probably) in the entire UK. Tragic. I repeat – what on EARTH makes these men want to be priests? So far, all the answers I’ve been given fit another question: “what makes someone want to be a Social Worker.”

  • Bwaj

    Let him who is without sin cast the first stone and unless you are Our divine Saviour or His Blessed Mother you are not without sin. The Pharisees were condemned because they thought they were so holy they could judge others and did not to repent of their own sins.

  • Bwaj

    Kate Middleton is an Anglican not a Catholic.

  • Bwaj

    In a letter I have written to all our bishops and priests to ask them to offer prayers and a Mass for Prince William and Ms. Kate Middleton – these intentions include asking God to forgive their past sins which is what your readers should be doing instead of looking for excuses to condemn people to Hell. Anglicanism does not teach about mortal sin – that comes from our Church – and any reader who knows what grave or mortal sin to be mortal sin knows three conditions have to be met for a sin to be mortal. Read here:
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a8.htm This is from the Catechism.

    In the mean time remember 1 St. Jn:5.16: ‘He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask, and life shall be given to him, who sinneth not to death.’ It is traditionally believed this means mortal sin.
    Why all sins should be confessed – is it not our duty to ask God to forgive the sins of others – or do we believe we are so holy we can condemn others in which Our Saviour will not forgive our sins (St. Mtt:18.21-35).

  • Little Black Censored

    That is where marriage as “a remedy against sin and to avoid fornication” comes in – not that they will hear those words either! My guess is that the softened version of 1928 will be used: “… that the natural instincts and affections, as implanted by God, should be hallowed and directed aright.”

  • SW

    There is a reason for not mentioning baptism. You do not have to be baptised to marry in an Anglican church. Every citizen living in a parish, whatever their religion, has the legal right to marry their fiancee (of the opposite sex) in their local Anglican parish church as long as they do not have a previous husband or wife alive.

  • Digusted from Tunbridge Wells

    I merely said it was insincere, since they clearly have little regard for the sentiments expressed in the BCP vows- as he is openly living what appears to be a consistently sinful life.
    Moreover, the fact that William will one day be the ‘supreme governor’ of the CofE makes one feel for those (evangelical or anglo-catholic) who will be under his nominal guidance.

  • Digusted from Tunbridge Wells

    And, unlike his father and stepmother, HRH William has not made an act of contrition for his situation.

    (But, then again, the CofE was formed because of a king’s lust for extramarital relations- which is so sad given the large numbers of genuinely moral Christians in its ranks.)