By Joan Salmon
On that amazing yet long awaited day, you promised one another several things. However, it is sad to note that many couples barely think through these vows as they say them while others only live them for a few months or years before they are no longer a basis for their marriage. Here is what is said in some of the religions as a way to create the union of marriage;
Rev. Richardson Balinda of Rwenzori diocese availed these vows;
Groom: I, ___, take you, ___, to be my 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 us do part; according to God’s holy law. In the presence of God I make this vow.
Bride: I___, take you, ___, to be my husband, 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 us do part;according to God’s holy law. In the presence of God I make this vow.
“Muslim couples do not generally recite vows but rather listen to the words of the imam, or cleric (although any adult male Muslim may officiate), who speaks about the significance of the commitment of the marriage and the couple’s responsibilities toward each other and Allah,” Ismail Kiweewa, former Imam at Nkumba University says, “The groom or his representative proposes to the bride in front of at least two witnesses, stating the details of the mahar. The bride and groom demonstrate their free will by repeating the word qabul (“I accept,” in Arabic) three times.”
Then they sign, the marriage is sealed, and the gathered congregation may bless them.
However, Kiweewa says that some Muslim couples do choose to also exchange vows. Here is a common (quite traditional) recitation:
Bride: “I, ___, offer you myself in marriage and in accordance with the instructions of the Holy Koran and the Holy Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him. I pledge, in honesty and with sincerity, to be for you an obedient and faithful wife.”
Groom: “I pledge, in honesty and sincerity, to be for you a faithful and helpful husband.”
Mahar or Dower; “it’s among the most fundamental pillars on which the legality of the marriage is premised,” Kiweewa states, “The lady asks from the man whatever she desires and in case of failure to furnish it, then the marriage cannot stand. However, the lady can exonerate the husband at any time but if she doesn’t, then that is ground for divorce.”
Mahar is dowry; the only compulsory payment made and can be paid immediately or at a later date after Nikah. However, it must be ascertained at the celebration of the marriage/ Nikah.
Fr. William Kaggwa of Kampala Archdiocese availed these vows
The couple may say the vows;
“I, ___, take you, ___, to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
“I, ___, take you, ___, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”
However, they can also simply respond to the priest’s question:
Priest: ___, do you take___, for your lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?
Groom: I do.
Priest: ___, do you take___, for your lawful husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?
Bride: I do.
Wondering why these vows have not taken centre stage in many marriages, Counsellor Theodore Niringiye of Relate Counsellors, says, “As a matter of fact, people do not mean them despite saying them with a lot of glee and enthusiasm.”
Niringiye adds that in her premarital counselling lessons, she takes people through these vows so that they understand and later mean them as they say them. “For those that cannot see themselves living up to them, I advise them not say to them or get married because these vows are said before God, and people that are very important to the couple.”
Rev. Balinda also points out a pertinent issue; preparation. “Today, most couples are not real as they move towards their wedding day. Dating is so sugar-coated ad none wants to hurt the other. Besides that, others camouflage only for the true colours to emerge after the wedding. That breeds ground for unrealistic expectations in the marriage.”
He believes that courtship is meant to prepare one for what lies ahead. “This is the time to know more about your intended partner, such as their character, and how they handle conflict but not in the marriage. No wonder, many are quick to leave in case unexpected or unknown character flaws surface.”
Speaking more on why couples do not respect vows, Rev Belinda says families are not involved. “While some family members may know about the relationship, the most important ones; parents are sometimes kept out of the loop. Sometimes, had they known, some weddings would never have taken place or some advice would have been given because they know much more than the intending couple. Besides that, even when some know, excitement overrides responsibility therefore delving into celebrating rather preparing their child for the journey ahead.”
The clergy man is also not happy that, the church does not give ample time to couples during counselling. “It is during pre-marital counseling that some hidden issues are brought to surface so that no one gets into the marriage blindly. However, with several weddings taking place after little or no counseling, vows are broken so fast. In addition, some couples go for these classes as a matter of fulfilling a condition rather than learning,” he elaborates.
Niringiye adds to that saying, there is need to teach the intending couples that vows are binding. “We ought to distinguish between a covenant and a contract because many today enter marriage as though it were a contract – easily annulled. On the contrary, a covenant is forever.” Therefore there is also need to teach them to live out the vows. In my 38 years of marriage, the idea of divorce has never crossed my mind because I knew I was here for life, and when problems arise, we sort them out and continue with life,” Niringiye shares.
Talking about how she has managed, she say, “In a time where educated girls were not looked at as marriage material, telling my mother that I’d found my future husband was wonderful news. However, on telling her, she asked me thrice, if I was ready. Though I found it funny and told her that I was by all means ready, asking me the third time somewhat sobered me up thus asking her what she implied. Mother said, “When I left my parents’ home for marriage, I never looked back and despite your father’s demise, I am still here making a home for you.” She went on to say that marriage called for making a home for my children, husband and his family and she said, “If you are ready to do that, then are ready for marriage.” Those words put me off my high horse and got me thinking. Two days later, after a lot of soul searching, I told her while It sounds hard if she did it, then I believe, I will before asking her to pray for me, something I had not thought about previously. I therefore went into marriage knowing that there was no going back and that with God all will be well.”
Fr Martin Ochola of Masaka Diocese adds that marriages fail today because in most cases the place of God in the marriage is neglected, set aside or not taken seriously.
Rev Balinda mentions that upbringing also matters a lot. “Most people today come from broken families or homes that do not respect marriage vows. For those where the parents were married, they no longer uphold the vows nor live by them. Therefore, when a man or woman from such a home gets into marriage, the wedding ceremony is more of a show and the probability of retreating is high.”
Niringiye also points a very sad situation of parents assuming that because their children are educated, they can handle marriage issues ably. “Books and marriage are very different therefore parents need to seriously equip their children for the joys and challenges that lay ahead.”
Niringiye offers some more solutions to couples;
There is need to adjust to each others’ differences in order to be accommodative. There is nobody that is better than the other.
Learn to let the other person be; marriage isn’t about changing another. There are things we ought to compromise about and let go
Be patient as change is gradual; however, most couples do not give each other chance
Let you love be active; how much can you love endure? How much does it give? Love is more than feelings, it is active; attend to your spouse’s needs and none will lose out.
Let go of third parties; this is in the sense of extra marital affairs. Let all other interests die as you focus on your spouse.
Marital counselling should be on-going because while many don’t see its need at the start, they are more likely to pay attention when in the marriage as various challenges arise. That is much better than for them to run for help when the situation is at a point of no return.
Rev. Balinda also adds to that saying, “Let us get into marriage as a way to fulfill God’s purpose for wedding vows be fulfilled and respected with much more ease.”