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Vows : The Modern Genius of an Ancient Rite - Cassandra Campbell

Vows

The Modern Genius of an Ancient Rite

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Published: 7th May 2024

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From the bestselling author of Home Comforts comes the story of our wedding vows—what they mean and why they still matter.

In the West, marrying is so thoroughly identified with ceremonial promises that "taking vows" is a synonym for getting married. So, it's a surprise to realize that this custom is actually a historical and anthropological oddity. Most of the world, for most of history, married without making promises. And there's a reason for that. Marriage by vow presupposes free choice, and free choice makes a love-match possible. It is a very modern arrangement.

Vows is both a moving memoir of two marriages and a thoughtful meditation on marriage itself. Cheryl Mendelson tackles the sociology of commitment through our most traditional promises and shows why they endure. In considering the kind of marriage these vows entail, she helps answer some of life's most urgent and personal of questions: Could I, would I, or should I make these promises to someone? Using history and literature, the book describes the parameters of the behavior that traditional vows promise and, in doing so, answers a whole series of other questions: Why did wedding-by-vow arise only in the West? Why are they recited in weddings around the world today? Why have these vows lasted for nearly a thousand years? Why does the kind of marriage promised in the vows survive?

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