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revise the marriage rite

I attended a special non-church wedding recently. There was much that the church can learn from such occasions. One moment was particularly moving, important and significant. One of the spouses made a promise to the other spouse’s young child, and this child made a promise back. I have looked in vain to find such a feature in any official Christian marriage rite (even the most recent revisions)! There will be a number of situations where such promises would be appropriate and could be very significant: when a spouse has died, after a divorce, or in a marriage where one or both have been sole parents. It is astonishing that I cannot find such promises in any rite, and highlights again why many will look at the church as an out-of-touch institution.

Update: in checking the promises parents can make to the couple in response to a comment below, I noticed I am wrong. There is actually a promise in the Second Form of the NZ Anglican Marriage Rites. It is by far the least used rite. I have, in fact, never used it and although I always go through all the options – I have never been requested its use. I think there is legislation that allows us to use this promise within the other rites:


The priest may say to any children of the bride or groom

N, will you help N and N in their marriage?

Children: Yes, I will.

I note that there is no suggestion, as above, for a promise to be made from bride or groom to the child(ren).

Update 2: I have been asked to provide the actual text and have now received permission to place that here. Because this, you will understand, is special to this family, this was added to the wedding at their request and hence we will obviously treat these promises here with respect. I note that particular emphases, particular to their context are present, and other contexts and situations will not work with a simple replication of this. But it does give one suggestion. If you know of other vows with similar intent you are, of course, invited to add them in a comment below:

N and N you have come together…

That is not the only relationship which will be established by this ceremony. Today N will formally acknowledge some responsibility in the future care and concern for N (the child).

N I ask you if you will do your best to maintain the wonderful relationship you have already established with N (the child)? Will you stay aware of the important role you have to play and treat him/her with love, care, interest, and respect.

I will.

To the child:

Will you help dad/mum/N and dad/mum/N in their married life together?

Yes.

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10 Responses to revise the marriage rite

  1. Great post, Bosco. Now perhaps you should expand it. What exactly did the spouse and the child promise each other before God and all the company? Or, what vows might you suggest?

    Divorce of course is the sticking point here. TEC hasn’t had an adult conversation about it in decades, though we probably get divorced at the same rate as other Americans. At least the canons were updated since I was a kid; my mother was actually excommunicated for getting a (most blessed) divorce from my abusive father. The Church could not have been more wrong. A year later she married him again and everything was hunky-dory (for six months) as far as the Church was concerned. Thank God those days are gone.

    • Yes, Josh, I could try and track down the vows – it was formalising a clearly delightfully positive relationship; love, care, support are words I remember – they would certainly be appropriate, even if my memory is incorrect.

      I have also updated the post above.

      Gary, each of our three rites in NZ includes the possibility of promises from the parents.

      Mike, I think your suggestion is very helpful. I’m happy to reveal here also, and I know this has been controversial in some places, on one occasion I judged it appropriate to have a child’s baptism at the marriage of the parents.

  2. Bosco, I agree. I have seen this done in an Episcopal wedding and I have offered to do it though the couple declined. One way might be to use the Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child (BCP p.439) modify the wording if/as necessary and include it in the marriage liturgy after the couple’s vows. It would seem appropriate for there to be an exchange of symbols between the child and parent.

    I think you raise an important issue of the need for liturgical and sacramental rites beyond the standard or usual points of transition in life.

    Peace, Mike+

  3. Maybe these things are not in the rite because marriage is between two people M/F, M/M, F/F. What takes place before or after the rite is not necessary to being married.

  4. Hi Bosco,
    This is very timely as I am presently planning a wedding with a couple who have five children between them. I have used the 2nd form a number of times, and John and I chose it when we married. For a while it was 50% the third form and 50% the 1st form, but now I seem to mainly using the 1st form, although all are offered.Look forward to seeing the vows!
    Jenny

  5. One of my nephews did this in his wedding. It was a very powerful moment, for the children, the bride and groom, and the gathered friends and family.

  6. If the Church could stop equating morality and sex, and start equating it with justice, we’d have a thousand examples of new-made covenanted families.

    But no, morality = sex. Never mind outsourcing, layoffs, militarism and greed, where money is God, not love.

    I doubt the Church is irrelevant because kids don’t have much role in remarriage. I think it’s because we say we worship one God but idolize the opposite one.

  7. There are promises in the wedding liturgy of the United Reformed Church in Britain where either or both parties have children:

    Will you promise to be faithful, loving and caring parents to N (and N)?

    We will.

    Then the immediate family:

    Will you the families of A and C, give your blessing to their marriage and will you always support and encourage them?

    We will.

    It is open to the minister to amend the words here if necessary .

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