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  • Kevin B. Holland

"I Do" or "I Will"?

With the world’s attention focused on the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Princess Meghan many people are witnessing a “real” wedding instead of one scripted for TV or a movie. I wonder how many people noticed that Harry and Meghan never said “I do”. Instead, they said “I will.” Here’s an actual transcript of what they said during the opening Declaration of Intention section of their marriage.

The Archbishop says to the Bridegroom: "Harry, will you take Meghan to be your wife? Will you love her, comfort her, honour and protect her, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?" He answers: "I will." He then says to the Bride: "Meghan, will you take Harry to be your husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honour and protect him, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?" She answers: "I will."

Believe it or not, the saying of “I do” isn’t nearly as common or “traditional” as you might think. The worship books of all major Christian denominations have been using the questions “Will you…” for many years now yet most of what we know about weddings is actually from our exposure to TV and movies and we think that “I do” is traditional.

So – why do we do it? It’s actually quite simple. Here’s the explanation I gave to a couple just yesterday during their ceremony.

Bride and Groom – At no point today have I asked you whether you love each other or if you’re “in love” with each other. I’ve had the privilege of sharing your love story with your family and friends and we all know that you love each other. Earlier in the ceremony, I asked “will you love” and your response was, “I will”. It’s one thing to say “I do” and speak in the present tense but it’s another to say “I will” and speak of the future. I asked you if you WILL love each other through the coming years, through the good times and bad, through the easy times and hard times. I’ve asked you to make a very extravagant prediction about something that you’re going to do next week, next year, 10 years from now…

"I do" is a declaration for the day.

"I will” is a declaration for the future.

So – where did “I do” come from? How did it work its way so thoroughly into our concept of marriage? Back in the day, the questions for the Declaration of Intention were…

“Groom, do you take Bride, to be your wife?” Obviously the answer to the question, “Do you” is “I do” but that’s not really the point here. The problematic word is “take”. We take something that is our possession and heaven forbid that a new Bride and Groom view each other as a possession. However, the wording “Bride, will you have Groom to be your husband” implies receiving rather than taking. The Bride and Groom are a gift to each other, a gift to be received in love and treated accordingly.

So – before you proceed with words that you think are traditional, examine them and think about their meaning. Are you really ready to make that extravagant promise about your future and say, “I will” as you receive the gift of another’s love and commitment?

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