Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

The confusion most commonly arises in the context of a wedding with the words spoken by the priest, minister, or officiant. It’s a line that we hear all the time in television and in movies…

“By the power invested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife….”

The power “vested” in me? Or is it the power “invested” in me? Because we really only hear the word “vested” when it comes to weddings, it’s understandable that people may not know what is the correct word to use in these circumstances.

What Does Vested Mean?

When something is vested, it means that it has been assigned to a person or it has been secured in the possession of a designated person. If something has been “vested” in you, it means that it cannot be taken away from you by a third party.

Similarly, if you have a “vested interest” in a certain subject, it means that you value the subject in some way. You have a personal stake in the matter. If you own shares in a solar panel manufacturer, then you surely have a “vested interest” in affairs related to green energy legislation. It would be very difficult for you to be unbiased, because you have “skin in the game,” so to speak.

How Is That Different From Invested?

When something has been invested, on the other hand, it means that something (usually money) has put into some sort of monetary instrument with the expectation of a financial return. When you “invest” in a mutual fund, you are putting money into that fund with the hope or expectation to turn a profit. You can also talk about investing your time, as would be the case with building up your seniority being employed at a company.

So, Back to the Wedding…

Using the hypothetical example above, the State of California (as in the Californian government) has assigned the legal ability to marry two individuals to the priest. As such, the priest has power “vested” in him by the local government.

It would not be accurate or appropriate to say that the State of California “invested” this power in the priest, because the government is not expecting some sort of financial gain by “investing” this power in someone else (the priest). And so, the correct phrasing is indeed:

“By the power vested in me by the State of California (or whatever other jurisdiction), I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

Those last few words can certainly change. I’ve heard “man and wife” just as often as “husband and wife,” and it’s not terribly uncommon to have “husband and husband” or “wife and wife” these days either. At least now you’ll know that the power is “vested,” even if the marriage is an “investment” in your future together.