I've often wondered why wedding ceremony vows position the woman in such demeaning and subserviant capacities. (EXAMPLE). Recently, I came across
a very unconventional piece of literary work that proposes the very same concept and I wanted to share them.
From "Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue, Book
3" by Neale Donald Walsch
Neale and Nancy have not come here tonight to make a solemn promise or to exchange a sacred vow.
Nancy and Neale have come here to make public their love for each other; to give noticement to their truth; to declare their choice to live and partner and grow together - out loud and in your presence, out of their desire that we will all come to feel a very real and intimate part of their decision, and thus make it even more powerful.
They've also come here tonight in the further hope that their ritual of bonding will help bring us all closer together. If you are here tonight with a spouse or partner, let this ceremony be a reminder - a rededication of your own loving bond.
We'll begin by asking the question: Why get married? Neale and Nancy have answered this question for themselves, and they've told me the answer. Now I want to ask them one more time, so they can be sure of their answer, certain of their understanding, and firm in their commitment to the truth they share.
(Minister gets two red roses from table . . .)
This is the Ceremony of Roses, in which Nancy and Neale share their understandings, and commemorate that sharing.
Now Nancy and Neale, you have told me it is your firm understanding that you are not entering into this marriage for reasons of security . . .
. . . that the only real security is not in owning or possessing, nor in being owned or possessed . . .
. . .not in demanding or expecting, and not even in hoping, that what you think you need in life will be supplied by the other . . .
. . .but rather, in knowing that everything you need in life . . . all the love, all the wisdom, all the insight, all the power, all the knowledge, all the understanding, all the nurturing, all the compassion, and all the strength . . . resides within you . . .
. . . and that you are not marrying the other in hopes of getting these things, but in hopes of giving these gifts, that the other might have them in even greater abundance.
Is that your firm understanding tonight?
(They say, "It is.")
And Nancy and Neale, you have told me it is your firm understanding you are not entering into this marriage as a means of in any way limiting, controlling, hindering, or restricting each other from any true expression and honest celebration of that which is the highest and best within you - including your love of God, your love of life, your love of people, your love of creativity, your love of work, or any aspect of your being which genuinely represents you, and brings you joy. Is that still your firm understanding tonight?
(They say, "It is.")
Finally, Nancy and Neale, you have said to me that you do not see marriage as producing obligations but rather as providing opportunities . . .
. . . opportunities for growth, for full Self-expression, for lifting your lives to their highest potential, for healing every false thought or small idea you ever had about yourself, and for ultimate reunion with God through the communion of your two souls . . .
. . . that this is truly a Holy Communion . . . a journey through life with one you love as an equal partner, sharing equally both the authority and the responsibilities inherent in any partnership, bearing equally what burdens there be, basking equally in the glories.
Is that the vision you wish to enter into now?
(They say, "It is.")
I now give you these red roses, symbolising your individual understandings of these Earthly things; that you both know and agree how life will be with you in bodily form, and within the physical structure called marriage. Give these roses now to each other as a symbol of your sharing of these agreements and understandings with love.
Now, please each of you take this white rose. It is a symbol of your larger understandings, of your spiritual nature and your spiritual truth. It stands for the purity of your Real and Highest Self, and of the purity of God's love, which shines upon you now, and always.
(Minister gives Nancy the rose with Neale's ring on the stem, and Neale the rose with Nancy's ring on it.)
What symbols do you bring as a reminder of the promises given and received today?
(They each remove the rings from the stems, giving them to the minister, who holds them in her hand as she says . . .)
A circle is the symbol of the Sun, and the Earth, and the universe. It is a symbol of holiness, and of perfection and peace. It is also the symbol of the eternality of spiritual truth, love, and life . . . that which has no beginning and no end. And in this moment, Nancy and Neale choose for it to also be a symbol of unity, but not of possession; of joining, but not of restricting; of encirclement, but not of entrapment. For love cannot be possessed, nor can it be restricted. And the soul can never be entrapped.
Now Neale and Nancy, please take these rings you wish to give, one to the other.
(They take each other's rings.)
Neale, please repeat after me.
I, Neale . . . ask you, Nancy . . . to be my partner, my lover, my friend, and my wife . . . I announce and declare my intention to give you my deepest friendship and love . . . not only when your moments are high . . . but when they are low . . . not only when you remember clearly Who You Are . . . but when you forget . . . not only when you are acting with love . . . but when you are not . . . I further announce . . . before God and those here present . . . that I will seek always to see the Light of Divinity within you . . . and seek always to share . . . the Light of Divinity within me . . . even, and especially . . . in whatever moments of darkness may come.
It is my intention to be with you forever . . . in a Holy Partnership of the Soul . . . that we may do together God's work . . . sharing all that is good within us . . . with all those whose lives we touch.
(The minister turns to Nancy.)
Nancy, do you choose to grant Neale's request that you be his wife?
(She answers, "I do.")
Now Nancy, please repeat after me.
I, Nancy . . . ask you, Neale . . . (She makes the same vow).
(Minister turns to Neale.)
Neale, do you choose to grant Nancy's request that you be her husband?
(He answers, "I do.")
Please then, both of you, take hold of the rings you would give each other, and repeat after me: With this ring . . . I thee wed . . . I take now the ring you give to me . . . (they exchange rings) . . . and place it upon my hand . . . (they place the rings on their hands) . . . that all may see and know . . . of my love for you.
(The minister closes . . .)
We recognise with full awareness that only a couple can administer the sacrament of marriage to each other, and only a couple can sanctify it. Neither my church, nor any power vested in me by the State, can grant me the authority to declare what only two hearts can declare, and what only two souls can make real.
And so now, inasmuch as you, Nancy, and you, Neale, have announced the truths that are already written in your hearts, and have witnessed the same in the presence of these, your friends, and the One Living Spirit - we observe joyfully that you have declared yourself to be . . . husband and wife.
Let us join now in prayer.
Spirit of Love and Life: out of this whole world, two souls have found each other. Their destinies shall now be woven into one design, and their perils and their joys shall not be known apart.
Neale and Nancy, may your home be a place of happiness for all who enter it; a place where the old and the young are renewed in each other's company, a place for growing and a place for sharing, a place for music and a place for laughter, a place for prayer and a place for love.
May those who are nearest to you be constantly enriched by the beauty and the bounty of your love for one another, may your work be a joy of your life that serves the world, and may your days be good and long upon the Earth.
Amen, and amen.