The Wedding March: To Obey, Or Not To Obey

If rumors are true—and with this couple, it’s only ever 50:50—then Kate Middleton will not promise to obey her husband in next week’s ceremony. When even the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks it’s a bit old-fashioned, you know it’s a tradition worth discarding.

In a 2006 report about domestic abuse, the Archbishop’s Council stated that the inclusion of obedience in wedding vows was out-of-date and offensive: “A promise to obey was in the past part of different standards and expectations of women and men within marriage.” It underlined the fact that traditional concepts of marriage are mired in deep inequality, and that the idea of a husband’s innate authority is outmoded.

Obedience has no place in the modern marriage—the idea that one partner is subservient to the other is horrifying. Any serious relationship should be about give and take rather than the dominant will of one partner. Whilst critics have argued that, as William will eventually be King, Kate should promise to obey him as her superior in rank, they forget that with the royal family as little more than decorative figureheads, deference to the monarchy has more to do with tradition and etiquette than power.

Speaking as an opinionated woman engaged to another opinionated woman, I’ve seen a lot of arguments over both the trivial stuff, and the important things. But I’d much rather have had those heated debates than have had her back down immediately based on some archaic notion of my authority—even when I’m right. Obedience is for family pets, not marriage. When we can agree long enough to finally tie the knot, the word “obey” won’t be heard anywhere near our ceremony, and our relationship will be better off for it.

There’s no one right way to start your life together, whether it’s a global spectacle in Westminster Abbey or a Pagan handfasting in a field in Norfolk—or even agreeing that this whole marriage thing just isn’t up your mutual alley. But beginning with a promise that one of you will obey the other is a recipe for disaster.

by Kaite Welsh
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6 Comments Have Been Posted

My mum and dad had a

My mum and dad had a traditional church wedding when they got married almost 40 years ago, but my mum (who brought my sister and I up as feminists) had 'obey' taken out of her vows. It seems to be more common to say 'love, honour and respect' instead nowadays. At least at the handful of weddings I've been to.

When I got married nearly 17

When I got married nearly 17 years ago, I refused to say "obey" in the vows because I didn't see the point of lying from day one. My husband and I knew that I would no more obey him than he would obey me. I did take his name, however. I married inter-racially and expected my father would disown me, so there was no incentive to keep my father's name.

As someone who has not been

As someone who has not been to many weddings, mainly because my circle of friends is not particularly marriage minded, I'm actually surprised that "obey" is still used. I thought for sure that was an archaic vow that had gone the way of the brides parents paying for the whole shebang.

Sit! Beg! Roll Over!

Dogs obey...sometimes children do (not mine...but then I don't ask them to). Equal partners do not. Yep, the word (and certainly the concept of) "obey" is definitely not part of a good marriage. It wasn't a part of my own wedding 21 years ago and I don't think I've really heard it at a wedding in many years, but then I tend to attend more non-traditional weddings. As much as I hate the royal wedding hoopla I'm happy to see it get some attention for this. Thanks, Katie.

Diana actually asked for


No person can truly keep a vow to obey another person. Too me, expecting a vow of obedience is opening up the first door on the path to domestic abuse. For how else would such a vow be enforced?

I can't wait until this archaic nonsense goes the way of the dodo.

Hell, Laura Ingells Wilder

Hell, Laura Ingells Wilder told Almonzo she wouldn't say obey, if you know, the fictional books are to be trusted. That was in, oh, 1880-something?

I think its time has passed.

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