Influence - The Marriage Vows as Ordained by the Congregational Union - Alternative Vows
In the Wesleyan Church the rules for marriages require that in addition to the presence of some registrar of the district, there shall be present two or more credible witnesses besides the minister who performs the ceremony. It is required that during the service the chapel doors shall not be closed, in order that anyone may enter. The hours in which marriages may take place are from 8 to 12 in the forenoon. The declaration made by each of the parties is as follows: "I do solemnly declare that I know not of-any lawful impediment why I, A. B., may not be joined in holy matrimony to C. D."
Each then says to the other, successively, the bridegroom first, these contracting words: "I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, A. B. (or C. D.), do take thee, C. D. (or A. B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband)."
Prayer and a brief exhortation conclude the simple but impressive service. The Free Church The marriage vows used by members of the Free Church and by Baptists resemble those of the Established Church in substance. The exceptions in detail are that in the pledges required by law each of the persons to be married says:
"I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, A. B., do take thee, C. D.," etc., etc. And afterwards, when the man puts the ring on the woman's finger, he does not use the formula prescribed by the orthodox Church, " With this ring I thee wed," etc., but says:
"I give thee this ring as a token and memorial that I have taken thee to be my wife." The exhortation that follows consists of passages from Holy Scripture, concluding with a benediction of a somewhat mystical character:
The celebrant is provided with a form of address of considerable beauty (see the "Manual for Free Church Ministers," compiled by the Rev. G. P. Gould, M.a., and by the Rev. J. H. Shakespeare, M.a., Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland). The following quotations will show that the share of the wife in the spiritual part of marriage is highly estimated:
"Love is the greatest thing in the world, greater than learning or riches. Love can only be fulfilled in self-forgetfulness and its essence is sacrifice. To-day you will enter into a new meaning of the word ' home.' A bride brings to her husband not simply another, but a different point of view, and you will do well to trust her intuitions and visions in the realm of faith and of what is best and noblest in life. ... If religion sanctifies the home, then the years will give a deeper and added tenderness, and if to-day the unseen hand of God joins your hands together life will unfold its fairest flowers for you, and the common water will blush red with the new wine of the Kingdom of God."
The marriage vows of this Church are as follows. The minister asks the woman:
The phrase "for richer for poorer" is omitted. Also, in the man's undertaking, the phrase used in our Church, "forsaking all other," is replaced by "faithfully keep to her alone."
Reverting for a moment's digression to the form of matrimony in the Free Church, as detailed above, it contains no provision for parent or guardian to " give away " the bride. The Congregationalists retain this. They also retain the vow, " to have and to hold from this day forward," omitted in the Free Church service.
On the other hand, it contains the phrase, " in sickness and in health," omitted by the Baptist Church. A curious feature of the alternative vows is the placing between inverted commas of the words " wedded wife " and " wedded husband." The wording is as follows:
"I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, A. B., do take thee, C. D., to be my lawful 'wedded wife,' promising, with God's help, to be to thee a faithful and loving husband until death shall part us."
The ring is given in the same manner and with the identical form of words as in the Free Church. With exhortation, prayer, and blessing the service terminates.