I don’t ask, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”
I don’t announce the couple as, “Mr. and Mrs. [His First Name].”
And I don’t give permission to the groom to kiss the bride.
All of these traditional elements of a wedding service reflect a patriarchal, women-are-property expression of marriage. Nobody I know uses them.
I’m officiating six weddings over the next four months, and preparing for the first one is reminding me of all the things people expect in weddings, owing to how they are portrayed in film and television, that simply are not part of the wedding service my church uses. That’s because a wedding is a worship service. You never see that on TV.
When I first started out, I yielded to the demand for giving the bride away, because that subject never came up until the rehearsal, and by that time I was staring down the bride’s life-long expectation of being “given away.” I also said, “You may kiss the bride” early on because, again, I got caught flat-footed; it didn’t occur to me either that such a thing wouldn’t actually be in the service. I’ve learned since to be prepared for it, and I have really smart colleagues whose habits I copy when it comes to kiss instructions. “You may celebrate your vows with a kiss” probably works best, but Marci’s, “You may kiss your husband” is pretty irresistible.
Now my favorite elements of the wedding are the Declarations of Intent, where the couple expresses commitment to the covenant of marriage and everybody gathered voices their their support for the couple, and the sermon. I keep it short, but I revel in the chance to expound theologically upon marriage as a covenant, as an adventure, as resistance. I use this Chesterton quote in my sermons all the time: “Posting a letter and getting married are among the few things left that are entirely romantic; for to be entirely romantic, a thing must be irrevocable.”
All this to say: bring on the weddings, man.