Thursday, January 20, 2022

Photos from a Recent Traditional Betrothal Ceremony

At a time when good news is more welcome than ever, I was overjoyed to see the following photographs and descriptions of a recent traditional betrothal ceremony shared in a Facebook group, and wished to spread the joy. The betrothal ceremony is the way in which Catholic couples enter formally into their engagement, making a solemn promise to marry and asking the Church’s blessing on their time of preparation and on their eventual marriage. As the photos and texts reveal, it is a rich ceremony that deserves to be rediscovered and practiced on a wide scale.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I first encountered this ceremony at Thomas Aquinas College (1990-1994), where it was actually rather popular, although I had never heard of it before. I subsequently learned that this custom is found in many of the “Newman Guide” colleges, e.g., Christendom College; and it was brought to Wyoming Catholic College as well. The rite varies in certain small details from place to place or book to book, but the basic outline is always the same. Those who wish to read more about it should check out Sharon Kabel’s absolutely amazing Latin Mass Wedding website

One could say many things about the fittingness of solemnizing an engagement in this centuries-old way, but perhaps the most obvious benefits are that it elevates the mutual promise from a merely human act to an act blessed by Christ and the Church, sanctifies and purifies the intentions of the couple, and asks God’s graces for a peaceful and chaste engagement. It also serves, for any others who happen to attend, as a testimony to the Catholic faith the couple share and to their earnest desire to enter into the honorable state of Christian wedlock, so much under fire today. In that way it is both countercultural and evangelistic.

And lastly, because lots of people are jittery these days, it deserves to be emphasized that no permission is needed (or ever could be needed) for a priest to perform this formal engagement and blessing. 

(1) When a Christian man and woman intend to pledge themselves to marriage, it is praiseworthy and in accord with ancient ecclesiastical custom to have the engagement solemnized and blessed by the Church.

(2) Man: In the name of our Lord, I promise that I will one day take thee as my wife, according to the ordinances of God and holy Church. I will love thee even as myself. I will keep faith and loyalty to thee, and so in thy necessities aid and comfort thee; which things and all that a man ought to do unto his espoused I promise to do unto thee and to keep by the faith that is in me.

Woman: In the name of our Lord, I in the form and manner wherein thou hast promised thyself unto me, do declare and affirm that I will one day bind and oblige myself unto thee, and will take thee as my husband. And all that thou hast pledged unto me I promise to do and keep unto thee, by the faith that is in me.

(3) Priest: I bear witness of your solemn proposal and I declare you betrothed. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

(4) The engagement ring is blessed according to the ritual of the Church.

(5) The man takes the ring and places it first on the index finger of the left hand of the woman, saying, “In the name of the Father,” then on the middle finger, adding, “and of the Son,” finally placing and leaving it on the ring finger, he concludes, “and of the Holy Ghost.”

(6) The priest opens the missal at the beginning of the Canon, and present the page imprinted with the crucifixion to be kissed first by the man and then by the woman.

(7) “May God bless your bodies and your souls. May He shed His blessing upon you as He blessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. May the hand of the Lord be upon you, may He send His holy Angel to guard you all the days of your life. Amen. Go in peace!”

Congratulations, Vincent and Julie Ann!

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