You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2022 06 21Article 1565936

Opinions of Tuesday, 21 June 2022


Wedding oath: The unnecessary religious imposition on men

File photo File photo


Wedding vows or oaths have become a common and popular feature especially among Christian marriages. These vows or oaths are taken in the presence of the clergy and congregation to complete the whole solemnization of Holy Matrimony.

The would-be couple are compelled to repeat some liturgically accepted words as an oath. There are some variations in the wording of the vows but there are commonly accepted strands that runs through. Is the wedding vow necessary or not? Where did it originate? Should attention be paid to the wording of these Oaths? Is it Biblical or not?

Marriage: What is it?.

Stritof (2021) defined marriage as a formal union and social and legal contract between two individuals that unites their lives legally, economically and emotionally". This definition has a limitation within the context of an African or Ghanaian marriage.

Marriage within the Ghanaian or Akan context is a formal union that binds two individuals and their families uniting their lives legally, economically and socially. Marriage is thus, seen as a great festival among the Akans and is one happy occasion to behold.

Marriage Oath or Vow?

Is what would-be couple are made to repeat in the presence of the clergy and congregation a vow or Oath?

A vow is a solemn promise or assertion specifically: one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition (Merrian-Webster, 2022).

A vow mean promises each partner in a couple make to the other during a wedding ceremony (especially in church within the Ghanaian context) based upon Western Christian norms. Thus, vows are binding and those taking them must prepared at all cost to keep.

An oath on the other hand is a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says (Merrian-Webster, 2022).

Now, within the context of how weddings are done in Ghana, I can infer that, we rather have wedding or marriage oaths and not wedding or marriage vows; because there is a distinct difference, between an oath and a vow.

Whereas a vow is merely a personal promise, an oath is a promise made before some institutional authority. Thus, in taking an oath, a person not only assumes an obligation but also becomes liable to prosecution; the state and society have an interest in his act.

The oaths that are taken during weddings are not just a solemn formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says but, also invokes a deity to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says.

In making this inferences for the clergy, the church and those seeking to marry to appreciate the gravity of the words they speak at such occasion. The church's premises, the clergy and the congregation depicts the presence of God thereby, the words that are spoken are no mere words but an Oath where God is called upon to witness.

Origin of Marriage Vow or Oath

What is known today as the Wedding Oath originated in what is known as the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). It was a liturgical (liturgy - predetermined or prescribed set of rituals that are performed, usually by a religion) book used by the churches of the Anglican Communion.

Originally first published in 1549 under what then was the Church of England, during the reign of Edward VI and written by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury at the time.

The BCP has served and still serves, as the source of the proper “procedures” and prayers to be followed for not only marriage, but also for baptism, confirmations, funerals, communion, morning and evening prayers, prayers for the sick.

From the narrative above, the marriage oath which has become a religious imposition within the Christian religion isn't Biblical. It is just part of a religious liturgy which I think the African man should not be made to swear but varied to suit our sociocultural setting.

I don't have any problem with an English or a Caucasian being made to swear to a marriage oath, this is because it is part of a religious doctrine which has become part of their culture. It is the acceptance of that cultural imposition amongst Africans and Ghanaians for that matter, which is my worry.

I'm worried because, men are naturally polygamous and the ideology of marrying one wife is a socioreligious imposition against the natural order. Polygamy is heavily referenced in the Bible (Gen 4:19, Gen 16:4-6, Gen 25:1, Gen 30:1-4, 30:4, 37:2, Judges 5:30, 2Sam 2:2, Deuteronomy 21:15, Isaiah 4. Exe 21:10, 2Chronicles 13:21 etc) but, those who brought us this adulterated Christian religion which has been fused with their ethos abhor polygamous relationship. That is their choice.

Indeed, even concubinage which is seen as a social aberration within most societies is also heavily referenced in the Bible (Daniel 5:2, 2 Chronicles 11:21, 1 Chronicles 7:14, 2:46-48, 1:32, 1Kings 11:3, 2 Samuel 15:16, 5:13, 3:7, 12:8, 16:21-22, Judges 9:18, 19:1, 8:30-31, Genesis 36:12, 35:22, 30:3-6, 16:3, 22:23-24, 25:6, 2 Samuel 5:13, 19:5 etc).

All the above goes to affirm the fact that, polygamy or any man desiring another woman apart his wife is natural and thereby being compelled to a marriage oath that ties you down to a woman is an affront to the natural order. It's against the biological make up of men and must be discouraged.

For example, this marriage vow "_____, I now take you to be my wedded wife/husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy relationship of marriage. I promise to love and comfort you, honour and keep you, and forsaking all others, I will be yours alone as long as we both shall live (Stewart, 2022)".

The above and other variations are normally recited by the clergy and the would-be couples are required to repeat inserting their names. The difficulty I have is: Why would men be compelled to such a vow just because they are marrying a woman? Why would the church compel men to make a vow that they shall forsake all other women when polygamy and concubinage are acceptable practices in the Bible?


The write up isn't meant to encourage men to be polygamous or to be chasing women because it's culturally permissible, but to put the issues of marriage vows into perspectives.

In the Akan sociocultural ethos and within most African societies, men don't subscribe to marriage vows but as part of our cultural upbringing, men are tutored to know the nuances of marriage life.

No man should be made to take any marriage oath that has this insertion "And forsaking all others, I will be yours alone as long as we both shall live". This isn't feasible for most men across the globe. Even where this subculture is emanating from, there have been several cases of the clergy, politicians, security officers, sports personalities, film stars etc who have found themselves caught in the web of extramarital affairs.

We cannot continue to be ostriches and keep burying our heads in the sand. If most men can stick to one woman after marriage, that would be appropriate and ideal but, highly very unfeasible in reality.

All men must appreciate the fact that, it's their responsibility to take very good care of their families but to desire another woman is a natural order and they should not be compelled to take to an oath in the presence of God or a god.

Oath taking has consequences when broken and the church cannot coerce men to put their necks into a noose which shall strangulate them. Marriage oath is an unnecessary religious imposition which must be expunged from our religious liturgy.