The precession is complete and the pre-wedding circus has come to a close. A circus of hats and a sea of royalty has gathered at the grand St George's Chapel and the bride and groom have taken their place before the altar festooned with flowers. Now comes the most important part of any wedding — the vows. Different from American vows, they're seldom written by the bride and groom, and whereas we exchange our "I do"s, Brits exclaim "I will." But why do they say "I will" at the royal wedding?
The answer is as complex as it is simple. The Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church, is the official religion of the monarchy and the British Empire. As such, any formal bylaws regarding marriage ceremonies and wedding vows must be met with the approval of the church and the head of the church, Her Majesty the Queen. To date, the vows of the church have not been altered, as noted on their charter. While there is some wiggle room for improvisation and additional readings, there are only a few options for the actual solemn vows themselves, and all of them incorporate the declarative response of "I will," instead of "I do."
It should be noted, that according to traditional British civil law, the words "I will" are also used in secular ceremonies and British civil partnerships. The differences in language between the British "I will" and the American "I do" aren't often discussed, and perhaps a bit tricky to map out, however, my bet is that Meghan Markle has already been apprised of the vows by now.
OK, so there's a lot of tradition behind wedding vows, and most of them take into account the teachings of the church. According to Pemberley, the vows of the Church of England have been taken from the Anglican book of common prayer that dates back to the founding of the church by Henry VIII in 1533. While the "thees" and "thous" and "thines" have mostly been replaced with a more modern language, the declarative "I will" has remained. This is because, according to the Anglican Theological Review, the word "will" describes willingness and desire to complete tasks in the future in perpetuity. The Church is asking Meghan and His Royal Highness if they consent to, it is not demanding that they will have and hold each other from this day forward.
Here in America, things are a bit different. Our marriage traditions stem from the founding of the colonies, and by a large part, the Puritan traditions that came over on the Mayflower, noted The Journal of Marriage and Family. The Puritans brought a slightly different take on the vows as were traditional in the Church of England and in Catholic weddings of the 16th century. Their weddings were a bit more, well, puritanical. The vows as such were designed not as much to declare consent, but as an affirmation of what the Pastor was demanding of you in the vows with maybe a little bit of American skepticism thrown in for fun. "Do you?" "Um, sure I do. What the heck?"
While the meaning is the same, the original intent is slightly altered from this point of view, according to The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England. Looking at it this way, could there be anything more romantic than Meghan and Prince Harry declaring their future for all of the millions of viewers to see? If there is, I certainly can't think of it. (OK, maybe the whole getting married in a centuries-old church is pretty romantic, too.)