Meghan’s ‘dad crisis’ stirs marriage debate

Changing his mind: With surgery now scheduled for Wednesday, Thomas Markle is unlikely to attend.

Is marriage itself past its sell-by date? Just as the big day looms, Meghan Markle is facing a family drama: her father may not walk her down the aisle. Some say the tradition is sexist anyway.

Estranged relatives causing trouble. Overbearing new in-laws. Now, a father who says he may not attend his daughter’s wedding.

Pre-wedding stress is hardly unusual. But with three days to go before her big day, there is one major difference for Meghan Markle: millions of people will tune in to watch her tie the knot with Prince Harry on Saturday.

The latest headache began on Monday, when Meghan’s father told TMZ that he may not go to the wedding, as he had suffered a heart attack and did not want to embarrass her. If he does not make it, her mother will probably walk her down the aisle of St George’s Chapel instead — although some think Prince Charles or Prince William could do it.

The tradition of “giving away” a bride has its roots in the early history of marriage, when partnerships were often more about trade than love. Fathers would receive a dowry in exchange for their daughter’s hand in marriage; walking her to her new husband was essentially a property swap.

Gradually, attitudes began to change. In the 12th century in Europe, the Catholic Church began to see marriage as a religious sacrament.

Around 500 years ago, the Church of England vows that Prince Harry and Meghan will exchange on Saturday — in which they promise to love and cherish each other “till death us do part” — were written in the Book of Common Prayer. However, Meghan is likely to omit the promise to “obey” her husband, as Kate Middleton and Princess Diana both did.

In the Victorian era, love was finally seen as an important foundation for marriage, rather than just an added bonus.

Today, marriage is considered a commitment between equals, but it is not always until death. In the UK, around 42% of marriages end in divorce; Meghan herself has been married before. Meanwhile, fewer young people are choosing to get married in the first place.

Are weddings out of date?

Something old, something blue

Yes, say some. Firstly, they arose from a sexist past when women were seen as little more than property. Secondly, they create an unfair society where married people have more rights than non-married people. Finally, they are based on the idea that romantic relationships should be for life, which is not always best for the people involved. It is time for something new.

Marriage is still important, argue others. First and foremost, it offers some security when it comes to raising children or sharing finances. And promising to love someone for life is a brave and uplifting thing to do; it is good to celebrate that moment with friends and family. Even “sexist” traditions like giving away the bride can take on new meanings over time. Plus, who doesn’t like a big party? Marriage is here to stay.

You Decide

  1. Do you want to get married one day?
  2. Are weddings sexist?

Activities

  1. The Church of England wedding vows are as follows: “I, ___, take you, ___, to be my wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward; for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part; according to God’s holy law.” Think about what is important to you in relationships, and try writing a new version for the 21st century.
  2. Class debate: “This house believes that marriage should be replaced with a contract that can be dissolved or renewed every five years.”

Some People Say...

“One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.”

Oscar Wilde

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The wedding ceremony will begin at 12pm on Saturday, May 19. In the UK it will be broadcast live on BBC One, with coverage starting at 9am. A total of 600 guests have been invited to the service, with 1,200 members of the public invited to be in the grounds of Windsor Castle on the day. Meanwhile, street parties will be held around the country.
What do we not know?
Whether Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, will make it to the wedding. He was scheduled to walk her down the aisle, but on Monday he said he would not attend. On Tuesday, he told TMZ that he still wanted to after all: “I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle.” But late Tuesday night, TMZ reported that surgery scheduled for Wednesday morning will keep him from attending.

Word Watch

Relatives
Meghan Markle’s half-siblings have not been invited to the wedding. They have both publicly criticised her for the decision. Her half-sister Samantha has also said that their father’s staged paparazzi photos (see below) were her idea.
Embarrass
On Sunday, The Daily Mail published evidence that Thomas Markle had staged paparazzi photos of himself reading about Britain, getting measured for a suit and looking at pictures of the couple online. It is not known whether he accepted money in exchange for posing for the photos.
St George’s Chapel
This is where the ceremony will take place, at 12pm on Saturday. It is part of Windsor Castle.
Sacrament
An important spiritual ceremony.
Book of Common Prayer
Originally written in 1549, and updated several times since.
42%
According to data from the Office for National Statistics.
Fewer
According to data from the Office for National Statistics.
More rights
For example, if a relationship ends, people are more likely to be entitled to support if they were married than if they were not. In the UK, marriage also brings certain tax benefits.

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