Wedding Vows: how many of us remember and understand them

I overheard one day a conversation between a father and son. Father said jokingly to son “You know kids do not come with manuals and the same way wife does not come with a manual either.” They both laughed. I was perplexed. For a minute, I even agreed that it is true. But then, I realized what was said was half truth. Yes, kids do not come with a manual and parents raise them the best way possible, make mistakes. Kids when grow up and become parents, they try to correct the mistakes their parents made and make other mistakes in the process. Cycle goes on. Parenting can become tougher than a CEO job if you let it and it can be a very uplifting experience if you allow it.

Anyways, the point is that wife actually does come with a manual (guideline like do not plug hair dryer near wet surface. Danger etc.). So does the husband.

When people get married, certain rituals or ceremonies are part of any wedding from any culture. I am not too familiar with a lot of cultures. But through media, movies and friends I have been exposed to some concepts.

During church weddings commonly heard vows are:

“I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith [or] pledge myself to you.”

In India, commonly heard saat phere. Since they are in Sanskrit, I am not sure how many people realize that those are wedding vows. Real tragedy is you get married and you do not have a slightest clue what you agreed upon. Majority of us do not even know what was said in Sanskrit. I am guilty of it myself. Even when one buys a house or car, they look at all documents and read it over to make sure what they are buying and signing.

Yes preliminary part of shopping or falling in love with one another and then having the families meet and discuss further plans, does happen. Like you find a realtor or on your own, go look at several houses or may be fall in love with the first house you see. Then you proceed with the decision and interest. After each party looks at the offer and agrees on terms, there is a day called closing the deal. When one signs all documents of ownership. This is the final step before “gruh pravesh” (entering home). All documents are read, discussed and both parties sign.

But in this ceremonial wedding, saat phere are uttered by the priest in Sanskrit and bride and groom follow instructions like puppets. Sometimes, some priests will go into little details about what one is doing. So the point is you got married because you planned it, planned every detail except the main thing wedding vows. So you let the priest write your wedding vows. But did you check what he was going to bind you together with. For all you know, he does not even know what he is saying Sanskrit to you. I have personally have known of a case when a priest opened a wrong book in a hurry and started wedding mantras at a funeral and had a oops moment. So educated or uneducated, fall in the trap.

I was curious now. I wanted to find out what I signed up for. So I looked up the meaning of each phera.

  1. In the first round or phera, the couple prays to God for plenty of nourishing and pure food. They pray to God to let them walk together so that they will get food.
  2. In the second round, the couple prays to God for a healthy and prosperous life. They ask for the physical, spiritual and mental health from God.
  3. In the third Phera the couple prays to God for wealth. They ask God for the strength for both of them so that they can share the happiness and pain together. Also, they pray so that they can walk together to get wealth.
  4. In the fourth round the couple prays to God for the increase in love and respect for each other and their respective families.
  5. The bride and groom together pray for the beautiful, heroic and noble children from God in the fifth step.
  6. In the sixth holy round around the fire, the couple asks for the peaceful long life with each other.
  7. In the final seventh round the couple prays to god for companionship, togetherness, loyalty and understanding between themselves. They ask God to make them friends and give the maturity to carry out the friendship for lifetime. The husband says to his new wife that now they have become friends after the Seven Vows/Sat Phere and they will not break their friendship in life.
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I was shocked. Not really, I was relieved. Now the pressure on just woman (wife) was lifted. Based on what is mentioned above English translation of Sankrit words, nowhere there is a mention that :

It is wife’s duty to cook for her husband and her family.

Nor does it say that it is wife’s duty to raise good children.

There is no mention of who in particular should be there breadwinner of the household.

No where it says that just wife has to do everything to please in laws.

Neither does it say that If husband says so she should sit or stand.

The list can go on and on and I am sure there are million women out there who have heard some or may be even more than what I just mentioned.

The bottom-line is may be (not sure), not trying to step on anyone’s toes or prove anything here, Somewhere , someone misinterpreted wedding vows (Phere) and like folk tale everyone interpreted it the way it fit well for them. So the message for women was since you are married now you must obey all rules of your husband’s household and all his orders. You must not speak in louder voice than him. You should always address him with respect (not say his name) neither call any of your elderly by name. You must wear all the ornaments that symbolizes that you are married. In return, It is the husband’s duty to provide food and shelter for you. He will provide you with his name. His family is now your family.

Even if one reads carelessly, the translation is eye opening and simple enough to state that “THEY” ask for food, health, wealth together. THEY are a team. NO one is superior. THEY are in this walk together. THEY both can cook, clean, make money, raise children together as a team. Respect both families not just one’s. THEY become friend not boss and coworker.

In every marriage, woman is not the only one who compromises, man does too. But if you read the translated version of wedding vows or may be enlarge it and post it on a wall in your house, then may be you will stop saying things like “your family did this” “why are you talking to my family like this” “you do not like when my family comes” “ why should my mother cook for you?” Every household at one point has gone through this. No one should try to act like it is directed to them or oh, no we are superior we do not fall in these categories.

Marriage does not mean man owns the woman. Two people get together, have kids, start a family of their own. If everyone will stop calling names, may be two families can come together. The elders have to learn to let their kids grow up and start their family. Even a bird takes care of their egg until it hatches and let it free once it hatches.

We all have different characteristics, just like my daughter said “we are all different flowers but we should learn to live in a vase like a family.”

So word of advise, do not get married blindly. Pay attention to at least the most important day of your life other than your birthday. Wedding vows are not complicated. They are simple to understand. Just remember you recruited a team member when you got married, not a rival or a coach. You both are players so do not try to coach one another. Be a player and may all the teams win.

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