There isn’t a single aspect of this episode that is not wonderful. In fact, for many fans it is the most highly anticipated and memorable event in the Outlander universe.
This is a favorite scene because we see how serious Jamie is about the marriage contract. Before he agrees, he consults Murtagh, saying he intends to be wed but once and asking him what he thinks about Claire and whether his mother would approve. Murtagh assures Jamie that she “will do,” and that her smile is as sweet as Jamie’s mother’s smile. (”Still waters run deep, ye ken?)
After having received Murtagh’s approval, he agrees to marry Claire in order to keep her out of the clutches of Black Jack Randall. However, the fact that he takes it so seriously and gives Dougal conditions for the marriage tells us that there is more to his decision. Jamie’s conditions will insure that the ceremony will be as special as possible for both of them under the current circumstances. He demands the ceremony be held in a church before a priest and that Claire have a ring and a proper wedding dress. Jamie is always thinking about Claire. This is why he is the King of Men. Every woman needs a Jamie.
A Blood Oath is Made
The visuals in this episode are most pleasing (ahem..), but the the significance of the Gaelic Wedding Vow should not be diminished. If Claire had been aware of its significance, she may have refused to do it at the time because she saw the marriage as a temporary resolution of her problem and had every intention of getting back to the stones.
The magic in this story (especially the books) is sometimes subtle, but it is potent, and the Gaelic Wedding Vow that Claire and Jamie take is essentially a blood oath. Blood is a powerful symbolism, and sometimes even has mystical powers. The blood oath makes use of this to make a commitment that can’t be broken.
Blood spilling is a potent force in the working of magic, and in some mythologies certain types of blood are deemed more powerful than others. Some consider the blood of royalty, the blood of a special line (Fraser, the Fraser Prophesy), the caster’s own blood (Jamie and Claire), and virgin’s blood (Jamie) to be most powerful.
In many ways their wedding ceremony represents the traditions of their time, but their blood vow may be described as something between a binding handfasting and an initiation. It is a spiritual blending, a binding of their souls, not just to God but to one another, and not just for this lifetime but forevermore. Not until death-do-us-part but for all lifetimes to come. Jamie knew what he was doing and knew it’s significance, but Claire did not. Claire viewed the wedding as a temporary solution until she could return to her time, but Jamie took the ceremony and it accompanying oath very seriously. As he tells Murtagh, he intends to marry only once, and he wanted to do it right. He insists that they wed in a church, before a priest, with a ring for Claire and a proper dress. He wanted to make it special for her as well. Claire’s heart may not have been in it initially, but, as we know, looking back she wouldn’t have changed a thing. That, my friends, is a commitment.
I Said I Was a Virgin, Not a Monk
Nothing else need be said about this scene other than it is perhaps one of the most beloved and anticipated lines from the Outlander novel.
“I did like it, Jamie.”
After the first round of obligatory sex to consummate their marriage, Jamie asks Claire if she liked “it.” The highlanders had given him advice, and Murtagh had said that women don’t usually enjoy “it.” Poor Jamie is crushed when Claire fails to respond immediately and he assumes she had not liked “it,” as Murtagh had warned.
In truth, Claire does not respond immediately because of her own internal conflict. She is ashamed that she had indeed enjoyed their sexual act and feels like a “bigamist” and an “adulterer.” Upon realizing his disappointment she admits that she had enjoyed the sex, which immediately improves Jamie’s outlook. It is written all over his face.
Don’t worry, Jamie. You and Claire will enjoy a fabulous, “not usual” sex life together.
Duty, Pleasure, Love
Jamie and Claire’s lives will never be the same now. At the beginning of the episode they have already formed an attraction and at least a friendship. Jamie’s feelings are stronger than Claire’s, but they begin their marriage as equals.
With an act of sexual duty they establish consummation and fulfill a contract. As noted before, Jamie still hoped Claire would find it pleasing, and was gratified (and a little smug) to learn that she did.
Their next sexual act is for pure pleasure. They take their time, engage in verbal foreplay, and are playful in bed.
Finally, they make love. He shows her how much he values her by giving her the last remaining memory of his mother. He has brought her into his family by this gift and she recognizes the value of that.
I think it is important to realize that in each of these encounters, Claire initiated the sexual act.
“Perhaps we should go to bed”
“Take off your clothes. I want to look at you” (thank you Claire!)
And finally by reaching out to him and making love with him, maintaining eye contact the entire time.
Jamie never once forced the issue with her. She had been forced into too many things already. In this instance, the choice was always hers. The agency was always hers. The power was always hers.
He is “under [her] power and happy to be there.” It is a beautiful thing.