In the Church’s understanding, it is the declaration of consent of the couple, witnessed by an authorized bishop, priest, or deacon in a church that makes a couple married. This is therefore the highpoint of the celebration.
After you state your intentions, the presider will ask you to join your right hands. In many cultures, the right hand is used when taking oaths or pledges. A handshake with the right hand confirms agreements. Joining right hands places partners in the position of looking right into each other’s eyes—a most appropriate posture for publicly declaring their “consent before God and his Church.”
The Order of Celebrating Matrimony proposes two ways of doing this.
1. The first is by stating your consent in a declarative form: “I James, take you Sarah, to be my wife. . . .”
2. The second is by answering questions asked by the presider: “Sarah, do you take James, to be your husband? . . .”
The first option is preferable because it highlights the role of the bride and groom as primary ministers of the sacrament. Mature in their faith, they give their mutual consent to the marriage into which God has called them.
The Order of Celebrating Matrimony‘s two formulas for the consent are rooted in Old English tradition and will sound very familiar, each with a distinctive tone. Both formulas emphasize commitment to one another in all the varied conditions of life, for the remainder of one’s life. Following your consent, the priest acknowledges that this consent has been witnessed by the Church and asks that God strengthen and bless the commitment you have made to each other.