I now pronounce you husband, wife and interloper.

A marriage licence; a fairly stock standard event in most people’s lives.

Ever thought about it for a moment? A marriage licence. A licence to be married. A permit, from the State, for two adults to wed. Permission from an apparatus of governance, for two, consenting adults, to join in  lawful matrimony. The more you reflect upon it, the more ludicrous and invasive it becomes.

Not only does it become riduclous, but it also raises many questions;

  • Why do you need permission?
  • Why does the State even need to be involved?
  • If two adults joining in lawful matrimony is not illegal, why the need for a licence or permit? Isn’t a licence approval for that which would be illegal without the permit?
  • Once the State has wormed its way in to the wedding party, what role does it play?

Just out of curiosity, I thought it might be fun to see if there is any subtle difference between the notions of ‘marriage’ and ‘matrimony’, to see if there has been some sleight of hand that we’ve become desensitised to …


noun \ˈma-trə-ˌmō-nē\

the union of man and woman as husband and wife


noun \ˈmer-ij, ˈma-rij\

1 a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage b : the mutual relation of married persons : wedlockc : the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage

2 : an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially : the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities

3 : an intimate or close union <the marriage of painting and poetry — J. T. Shawcross>

Don’t know about you, but the simplicity of the first one appeals more than the convoluted explanation given in the second; i.e. when I think of ‘marriage’ the idea I conceive is that of ‘matrimony’.

To be honest, when I read definition 2 of marriage, I smell a big, stinky, sewer rat. It all sounds so ‘corporate’ in its language and inference. More like a merger of companies than a loving union between man and woman [not being sexist or homophobic; just going with the definitions]. A merger of two companies also seems more fitting with the other associated concepts of civil union and civil partnership too.

Now, on reflection, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a matrimony licence.

My curiosity has now been piqued; what other words should we take a closer look at with regards this much celebrated custom;

wed Look up wed at Dictionary.com
O.E. weddian “to pledge, covenant to do something, marry,” from P.Gmc. *wadjojanan (cf. O.N. veðja “to bet, wager,” O.Fris.weddia “to promise,” Goth. ga-wadjon “to betroth”), from PIE base *wadh- “to pledge, to redeem a pledge” (cf. L. vas, gen. vadis”bail, security,” Lith. vaduoti “to redeem a pledge”). Sense remained “pledge” in other Germanic languages (cf. Ger. Wette “bet, wager”); development to “marry” is unique to English.

This find raises a few eyebrows;

The word “wedding” evolved from the Old English term weddung, which was derived from the term bridelope — literally “bridal run” — which referred to the act of conveying the bride to her new home following the ceremony. Funny how bridelope gave way to “elope,” or running away to get married without the formality of the wedding ceremony.

The introduction of organized religion into daily life ensured the sanctity of marriage, transforming the rite from begging, borrowing, or stealing into a pact between man, woman and God. Whether married in a church or a local wedding venue, it is still very typical to hear at today’s weddings, “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and the company of these witnesses to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony,” proof that the idea of marriage as a contract between humanity and God endures.

I particularly like how ‘holy matrimony’ has morphed into ‘marriage’ without so much of a blink of the eye. It really does demonstrate how the two notions have been completely merged and blurred over time.

Weddung was derived from bridelope? Give me a break. How are those two words even remotely similar let alone one being the direct derivative of the other. No, no, no … that’s just bollocks. That’s just a simple case of wishful thinking. Possibly they’re similar functions from separate languages, but I think even the infamous College of Abbreviators would have to have had some seriously hallucinogenic inspired discussions to come up with THAT one. Bridelope to elope I can buy; that seems highly probable.

I don’t want this to devolve into a long, drawn out exercise in wordsmithing.

The intent was to ask a very simple question; why do two, consenting adults, require permission from the State to ‘plight one’s troth’ to each other?Afterall, to promise and pledge one’s truth to a loved one is about as intimate and honest as two adults can be in word; hardly a place for a third party interloper to stick their noses in, is it?

Any one else having flashback’s to the betrothal scene in Braveheart? Not a licence in sight …



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