The Times [London] is reporting that many American couples are adjusting wedding vows to new concepts of marriage. “Til death do us part” is giving way to “for as long as our marriage shall serve the common good.”
There is something deeply sad about all this. According to the British paper, only one-fifth of all American weddings now feature the traditional vows from the Book of Common Prayer. Until recently, the vast majority of church weddings used some version of the traditional vows. Now, many churches allow couples virtually unlimited liberty to revise or construct vows to their own liking.
The paper reports that not all are pleased with this development: Traditionalists say increasingly popular phrases such as “I promise to be loyal as long as love lasts” are undermining the lifelong commitment that has been at the heart of marriage since St Paul told the Corinthians that a man and wife are bound together “unto the grave”.
On the other hand, bridal consultant Mary Jo Gellegos argues that the revised vows simply reflect reality: I cannot recall the last time I heard a bride promise to love unto death. People are more realistic now, especially if they are on their second or third marriage,” said Gallegos, who runs a Californian agency called An Affaire of the Heart. Her comments were echoed by another observer: Sharon Naylor, the author of Your Special Wedding Vows, said she had heard vows such as “until our time together is over”. “Yet these people take the institution very seriously, especially if they are on a second marriage. They understand that you do not make a promise you cannot keep.”
Hollywood has played its part as well. Actress Julia Roberts’ wedding to Daniel Moder featured the vow to “love, support, but not obey.” And consider this: Others merely promise good manners: Will Smith, the actor, recently revealed that when he married Jada Pinkett in 1997 “our vows did not promise to forsake all others. The vow that we made was that ‘you will never hear that I did something after the fact’. One spouse will ask the other, ‘Look I need to have sex with somebody — please approve it’.”
Civilization hangs on promises kept — and on promises worth keeping. These grotesque wedding vows are┬áparables of our times.