What I am about to share was a practice decades ago – and some people are still trying to hold on to it. Read carefully: You are about to “attend” a wedding ceremony for Robert Silver and Susan Hickly and I have one question for you to ponder – could a Bahamian wedding ceremony be evidence of maladaptive traditions in our society? “Walk down the aisle with me” and let us find out.
Walking through the doors of a beautifully decorated church are two eager lovers. After the hymn and opening prayer, the congregation is seated for the ceremony. The minister conducts the exchange of vows, then says: “I now pronounce you man and wife.” These words speak directly to our concept of the marriage relationship.
It always intrigues me when I hear ministers commenting during wedding ceremonies how loving a man and woman should be toward each other in marriage. They quote verses from the love passage – 1 Corinthians 13, then the couple ritualistically recites their vows. With anticipation, the congregation listens to the groom and bride as the minister says, “Will you have this man/woman to be your wedded husband/wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the sacred estates of matrimony? Will you love, honor, and cherish each other, in sickness, and in health, in prosperity or adversity; and forsaking all others, keep yourself only for each other, so long as you both shall live?” Everyone attending anticipates the words “I do”. How beautiful!
The excitement builds until the pastor announces, “I now pronounce you man and wife”. What’s wrong? The pastor did not say, “I now pronounce you husband and wife”. Is this just a slip of the tongue? Is it ignorance? Am I just pulling teeth here? I can assure you that in most cases, it is an expression of our concept of who is really getting married – the woman. She becomes the bride and the man remains a man. He does not become a husband. She is getting married to him, he is not getting married to her, said an old-fashioned Bahamian father.
True, these husbands are not planning to be unfaithful to their marriage vows. At least 30 percent will remain faithful. Here is the problem – and it centers around who is in charge. Traditionally, the word “man” signifies control, in-charge, strength, and leadership. Therefore, even during a wedding ceremony, the pastor attempts not to take away his leadership responsibilities. He must remain a man. On the other hand, as a way of showing the bride’s dependence on her man, she is called the “wife” – thus, we have man and wife. Then to make matters worse, the woman’s loving character and personality is lost when the pastor says, “Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Silver”. Then we hear the applause. But where did the wife go? I thought she had a name? All through the ceremony, the pastor was addressing the bride directly by using her name. After the legal and religious ceremonies are over, all of a sudden, she does not exist. She loses all identity. How pitiful!
The extremely traditional practice, although not used by everyone, is still showing its ugly head in 2021. We must put an end to this. At the end of the next wedding ceremony, when a pastor does not call the first name of the bride, let’s refuse to clap. Let’s be silent. Let’s begin an “identity-in-marriage protest”. No man is called to be the boss or ruler over his wife. He is called to be her partner, lover, friend, and companion. Brides, insist that you are equal in the marriage relationship and it starts at the altar when the pastor says, “Ladies and gentlemen I present, Mr. Robert and Mrs. Susan Silver.”
• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to email@example.com or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.