Which Episcopalian wedding rite inspired us?

As I mentioned before, I’ve noticed how low-church minister’s manuals tend to include the Episcopal prayer book wedding rite along side some other minimal service. I also can’t help but notice that Universalist and Unitarian wedding rites — even the humanist ones — take cues and sometimes whole passages from an Episcopalian rite. But which one? Not the 1979 prayer book, of course.

With the 1937 joint Unitarian and Universalist Hymns of the Spirit there was a minister’s guide — a book with all the services that one wouldn’t need most Sundays, or which only the minister would need a copy so as to save the cost of printing — that is terribly hard to get a hold of. All I have is a photostat. (Ah, now now I can’t find that! So I’ll post about it when I find it.)

OK, back to the 1894 Universalist Book of Prayer compared with the 1892 Episcopal prayer book, itself almost identical with the 1789 prayer book. (This online version has them together.)

  1. The Universalists didn’t publish banns. I think California was the last state to do away with marriage by banns — though it persists in Canada — so no great loss there.
  2. The exhortation is shorter than the 1892 Episcopal service, and unlike it fudges about if there was ever a time of human innocency (Eden) and makes no comparison to the married couple with the mystical union of Christ and the Church.
  3. Universalists confessed their legal impediments to marriage, but not against “dreadful day of judgment.”
  4. Universalist brides did not vow to obey their husbands; indeed, I’ve never seen that usage in Universalist texts.
  5. Troths are plighted and given the same way in both services. (I love this stuff.)
  6. In the Universalist service the ring “is consecrated” by unknown means “token and pledge of your mutual truth and affection; and worn upon the hand of the woman becomes the accepted symbol of that spiritual union which it is the office of marriage to secure” but in the Episcopalian service omits a blessing of the ring.
  7. The Episcopalians have “Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder” and the Lord’s Prayer before the final prayer; the Universalists don’t.
  8. The Episcopalian prayers end in a Trinitarian embolism; the Universalist prayers close with a “Jesus’ name” ending.

It is worth a look to see if Universalist wedding services closer to 1789 were more or less distinct.

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