Focus on the Family

Marriage: The Promise/Oath Stage

The important thing is that you do something creative and memorable to initiate your son into manhood.

by Robert Lewis

I remember when Bill, Bill and I finished the last of our four manhood ceremonies with the first of our seven sons. We had already determined that this last ceremony would take place before their weddings.

Bill Parkinson's son, Ben, had beaten the rest of the boys to the altar, so we planned his ceremony to occur at the conclusion of the rehearsal dinner. This was the only ceremony that went "public," that is, occurred before someone other than the immediate families.

I am not sure what the hundred or so guests thought of our public ceremony. We did offer a brief explanation of our years together mentoring Ben. Then we three dads stood before a beloved son and rehearsed back to him the commitments he had made to us and to God years earlier in his "becoming a man" ceremony. Ben had not departed his homestead, like Sam Rayburn, with "Be a man!" ringing in his ears. On the contrary, he had left home knowing he was a man! He had been initiated by us into manhood and its responsibilities years before.

As our ceremony continued, we each offered Ben a special word of wisdom for this new "Promise/Oath Stage" of life. Our personal comments — "swords of the masculine spirit," we call them — were intended to arm him for another campaign of honorable living.

Remember, one of the primary responsibilities of real manhood revolves around "a woman to love." You may also remember that a knight's promise — his word of honor — was the most important thing a knight possessed. Knights were the Promise Keepers of the Middle Ages.

A woman to love and one's word of honor. Both elements are central to this final ceremony that occurs the night before the wedding, at the rehearsal dinner.

In one promise/oath ceremony we conducted, Ben Parkinson was challenged in the ways of married manhood by each of the dads. Then, to "spike" this special moment, he and his bride-to-be received a family crest like the one in each of our homes, for the new home they were creating together as husband and wife.

Two final exhortations concluded this ceremony. First, Ben was exhorted as a knight to keep the vows he would make to Aimee the following day. Second, he was exhorted to keep the vows he had already made to us: the promise of pursuing manhood for a lifetime.

This is what we do. There is nothing sacrosanct about our ceremonies; you may choose to imitate aspects of these or develop your own. But the important thing is that you do something creative and memorable to initiate your son into manhood. Remember, too, that the power of the ceremony is the actual experience! It is the lingering memory it makes and in the potent vision it marks.