Who Giveth This Chinese Woman?

Grace Kelly, accompanied by her father, arrives at the cathedral to be married.

The Book of Common Prayer directs that the priest should ask, ‘Who giveth this woman to be married?’, but it does not specify the manner in which he should receive an answer. Generally, the bride’s father, standing to the bride’s left, takes her right hand and delivers it to the priest; in so doing, he may also explicitly say, ‘I do.’ In a Chinese wedding, though, there are other ways this could well be done, and there is another form of words that I imagine would work, from the ‘Airs of States’ 國風 in the ancient Odes 詩經, the poem ‘Peach Tree’ 桃夭:

桃之夭夭、灼灼其華。
之子于歸、宜其室家。

The peach tree is young and elegant;
Brilliant are its flowers.
This young lady is going to her future home,
And will order well her chamber and house.

桃之夭夭、有蕡其實。
之子于歸、宜其家室。

The peach tree is young and elegant;
Abundant will be its fruits.
This young lady is going to her future home,
And will order well her house and chamber.

桃之夭夭、其葉蓁蓁。
之子于歸、宜其家人。

The peach tree is young and elegant;
Luxuriant are its leaves.
This young lady is going to her future home,
And will order well her family.

As the Mao Prefaces say, ‘ “Peach Tree” is [about] the queen consort’s directives. Through her freedom from jealousy, the relation between males and females was made right; marriages were celebrated at the proper times; and there were no unmarried people in the kingdom.’ Then, the vows once taken, would these words of the poem ‘They Beat Their Drums’ 擊鼓 ring true:

死生契闊,與子成說。執子之手,與子偕老。
For life or for death, however separated,
To our wives we pledged our word.
We held their hands; –
We were to grow old together with them.

Thus let all be done in order, under Heaven’s will.

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