Skip to content

That ominous word was not heard at wedding

Joyce Walter writes about her wedding vows
Reflective Moments by Joyce Walter

For the past 50 years I have been living with a misconception — that Housemate has fostered with glee.

When we married, the standard vow was for the wife to love, honour and “obey,” in sickness and health, till death do us part — perhaps not in those exact words but close enough for the meaning to get through.

I as the “wife” was expected to love and honour, which I did without any qualms at all, barring of course the usual tiffs of married life. 

But coming from a family of capable and hard-nosed women, I had a problem with the “obey” part and told Housemate up front that he shouldn’t get his hopes up — that saluting in deference simply wasn’t in my makeup. He grinned and seemed to tentatively agree with my decree.

And so married life began, with give and take, honour and respect going and coming from both sides of the arrangement. But occasionally, just to stir the pot and to see how I would react, he would give an order or command, whether it be to bring him some coffee, make him a sandwich, or even just turn over the television for his tedious (in my opinion) business programs.

He calls it my “skunk eye” and that is what he got in good measure as he attempted to boss me around.

“You can’t tell me what to do,” I would respond, when I didn’t feel like turning off one of my police shows, or getting him a sandwich or fetching his underwear from the dryer. 

“You promised to love, honour and obey,” he would point out with a tone of voice that suggested there should not be any further discussion. If I felt like it, or if he were sick, I would relent on some issues but still the spirited debate over our wedding vows went on, year after year, decade after decade, with me suggesting that I didn’t recall that word “obey” in the marriage ceremony.

Suddenly it was time to celebrate a half-century together and we began the plans for a party, and for a small display of memorabilia from our wedding day. From the trunk came the guest register, the bridal shower books and gift lists, a veil minus the tiara that I had loaned someone, never to see it again, a flattened  bouquet of flowers, table decorations, a cake topper and an envelope containing the booklet, Our Marriage Book.

It contains a marriage certificate signed by the minister (My Uncle Joe Carpenter), witnessed by our brothers and numbered. The subsequent pages set out the ceremony and the vows, which were of particular interest to me.

“I, Joyce, do take thee Ronald to be my lawful wedded husband; to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poor, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish till death us do part: and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

I didn’t think “troth” meant to obey but I looked it up just in case it was a secret word meaning that. It doesn’t. One of the definitions is loyalty but in none of my searches did I find it interchangeable with “obey.”

With that knowledge, I scurried downstairs to beard him in his den, exclaiming, “I told you so. I did not promise to obey you, and here’s the proof.”

The huge grin on his face confirmed he had known that all along but couldn’t resist having a bit of fun at my expense.

Kindly revenge might take me some time, but hopefully we will have a few more years together for me to come up with a devious plot.

Joyce Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks