Whose Wedding Is It? September 19, 2008

Whose Wedding Is It?

WordNerd and her fiance (“IP”) are going to have a fabulous atheistical wedding.

But they may have to do it against her mother’s wishes:

… IP and I are atheists and are adamant about using someone who understands and respects our viewpoints — and I’ve always said that ceremony without meaning is useless to me, so I could never stand in front of a priest and vow before friends and family and a god I don’t believe in that I’ll be IP’s partner for life. I’m vowing it to IP and I think that’s enough. Anyway, when speaking to one coordinator today, she inquired as to what type of ceremony we’d be having. When I answered neutrally with non-religious, the coordinator pressed. “Are you Catholic and your fiancé is . . .” she trailed off, sensing a difference in upbringing. “We’re both atheists,” I said with a polite smile, indicating that there was no conflict between the future husband and me.

“No, you’re not,” my mother immediately jumped in, flushing red and looking angry. I gave her a quick look and answered that we wouldn’t talk about the subject at the moment. The coordinator hid a grin as my mother glared at me… It was one of those moments where I fervently wished for the day that my mom would recognize that I was a thinking human being who can make her own decisions, especially about my belief system. I don’t think that’ll happen in regards to the Catholicism bit. However, it doesn’t matter in this situation — IP and I will have our non-religious ceremony come hell (hah!) or high water.

Good for her 🙂

For those of you who have had non-religious wedding ceremonies, did you have to deal with any complaints from friends or family members?

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  • Mrs. Bastard and I did not have a religious wedding. Oddly, at the time, she was still religious but preferred a JoP. We had no problems with it, as for reasons unrelated to religion, most of the Bastard family (the real religious whackos) were not invited.

    My mom was there (Catholic) but I didn’t hear anything about it from here, since she’s the type that wouldn’t say “Boo” to Pac-man.

  • Kate

    I’m so bookmarking this post for later usage. 😉 So make sure you all give good advice!!!! (Especially if one of you is religious and the other isn’t…)

  • 1stmakearoux

    Here in Florida, a wedding may be performed by a Notary Public. I’m a Notary and an atheist. I’d be delighted to perform an atheistic wedding for you….no charge!

  • Norm

    My wife and I were married a little more than a month ago, and one thing we did was be upfront with people about the fact that we were having a secular ceremony. I was lucky to marry into a family who preferred it that way, but while my passive-aggressive Minnesota Lutheran clan never spoke out against it directly, I’m sure there was much grumbling between them behind the scenes. Thankfully it all went off without any incidents, and we had many positive comments from guests of all religious persuasions about the ceremony content.

  • My wife’s mother didn’t have anything to do with planning our wedding (nobody did, really; we just told them where to be and when). But she’s had that sort of response from her mother. At this point, her mother just ignores the subject, although it took some doing.

    When my wife and I moved back to Pittsburgh, she started getting mailers from her mother’s church. When she asked her mother about it, the response was, “Oh, they much have found your address somehow.” Yeah, that must be it. Someone is just sitting there with a phone book looking for people that might have attended in the past.

    Long story short, there was a big fight over it, and my wife called the church and asked to be removed from the mailing list.

  • My mother was pissed, and probably still is, that we had a secular wedding. In all of the wedding photos of her she looks pissed, or at least biting her tongue. However, as Minnesotans are, they’ll never tell you what they think, they’ll just tell everyone else around you.

    My grandmother had the biggest problem with it. Two years ago, when we were just engaged, she asked which church our wedding was going to be in, and I said, it’s going to be an outdoor wedding. This was before she knew I was an atheist. When she found that out, she was all concerned that the wedding wouldn’t be legal, because didn’t a minister have to perform the ceremony? Thankfully, no, at least humanist celebrants can still officiate over wedding ceremonies, for now.

  • Family will complain whatever you do for your wedding, so you may as well do it exactly how you want to.

  • My grandfather boycotted our wedding when he found out that it wasn’t going to be in a church, claiming that he was, “saddened that we were not seeking God’s blessing” in out marriage – as if the wedding of two atheists would be something a god would bless!

    I’m still mentioned in his will, though, so I’m not going to rock the boat…

  • sc0tt

    We found an officiant in the yellow pages. She wasn’t affiliated with any church but she was a minister. She had a book of services to pick from and you could do a little mixing and matching and there were several non-religious options. We even got to choose her uniform and we went with a purple robe that looked like something a minister would wear, that probably helped with the eyebrow raisers.

    The ceremony was on a stage in a community theater so we had the organ too. We incorporated a lot of traditional elements but none of the religious stuff.

  • BowserTheCat

    My wife and I were married in a purely secular ceremony presided over by a Justice of the Peace. By the time I got married (late 30’s) my parents didn’t honestly care who, what or how I did it!

  • SarahH

    We were very independent when we planned our wedding – we didn’t ask for any money from our parents (although they insisted, to help with catering, etc.) and we chose to have our college chaplain (an amazing Methodist minister who fostered great relationships between the different religious groups on campus as well as the secular humanist group) counsel us and perform the ceremony.

    We had each of our attendants (eight in all) read a passage, all from different books. The only one from the Bible was from 1 Corinthians 13 (yeah, I know…) and the rest were from a wide variety of religious and non-religious sources, including a Star Trek episode. It was beautiful.

    Neither of our families put up a bit of fuss, although we weren’t outed on either side. It was a very everybody-friendly wedding.

  • Mark N

    I think both my mother, and my now mother-in-law would have rather the ceremony be in the beautiful church next to the hall we actually got married in, which is surprising, as it was me who used to get up at 8 on a sunday morning, and force my parents to drive me to church, which they left me at until I was done.

  • My husband and I had an entirely godless wedding eleven years ago. No one said a word to our faces, but I eventually got reports through the grapevine that many of the (older, more conservative) attendees were horrified and disgusted by our bizarre ceremony. I expected nothing less, and couldn’t care less. The ceremony was about my husband and me, and no one else — certainly not imaginary sky-beings.

  • It is my fervent belief that a wedding is a religious ceremony. With that in mind my non-wife and I haven’t married at all. Friends and family can either like it or lump it.

  • If I were to ever get married, it’d be completely non-religious. My mom hates the fact that I’m an atheist, which surprises me because she was never very religious. She once told me she’d rather I believed in Zeus than nothing at all. (I wonder how she’d feel if I converted to Islam?)

    She feels sorry for me that I have no faith in a deity, which to me is strange.

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand, my mom would prefer I just go elope than have a big wedding, she was married twice and said eloping was much better. I’d personally at least want a big party, but I wouldn’t mind eloping, then celebrating with friends and family. Though I gotta wonder if people would come from out of town just for a party and not an actual wedding ceremony?

    Sorry for rambling, I’d never really thought about this much before. I’ve told my boyfriend of 3 years that I’m not really interested in “making it official” because I don’t need a piece of paper telling me I’ll be faithful to one person.

  • My husband and I actually had a Jewish wedding (with a few modifications), because he’s a practicing Jew and I quite frankly didn’t care, just as long as we got married. But oh man, my mom was annoyed that we *gasp* had a Jewish wedding and that I refused to have a dual-faith ceremony. She was so hell-bent on a Christian clergyperson there, even though I was never baptised, never went to church as a kid, and I’ve been an atheist forever. Apparently, though, I am a “Christian” and should insist on having my faith beliefs represented. Apparently, by having a Jewish wedding, my “Christian” beliefs were being disrespected. She seems to assume that Christianity is some sort of default setting, and she was very upset that it was all Jewish. She even got mad when I said “no” to her suggestion of having a Buddhist celebrant co-officiate. I AM NOT A BUDDHIST. I was exploring Buddhism at the time, yes, but not to the extent that I wanted a Buddhist to co-officiate my wedding.

  • My dad kindly agreed to be ordained as a “minister” through the Universal Life Church (ulc.org), and he performed the ceremony for us. So I’d say he didn’t have any trouble with a non-religious wedding.

  • We had our ceremony outdoors, in the gardens of a park mansion. The officiant was a Lutheran minister (a family friend) who had no trouble performing a completely secular ceremony…there was no “giving of the bride” or any of that crap, and we even wrote the (godless) vows ourselves!

    We still get comments about how unique and memorable the day was; if there was criticism about the lack of supernatural elements, we never heard it.

  • Allison, two friends of mine were married at a dual faith ceremony. It was interesting to see how a traditional Persian wedding with swords and salt throwing was performed while a stuffy Anglican Priest stood around looking embarrassed.

  • ubi dubius


    Marriage is also a legal relationship. Marriage automatically adds about 1000 legal rights, from benefits under government programs to who can visit you in the hospital. You should consider looking into which of those rights concern you and how to get them. You can create many on your own without marriage. Consider reading “Loving Without a License” by Peggy Hoyt and Candace Pollack.

  • I just got married this past August. My uncle, a pastor in Connecticut, did the ceremony. Even though neither of us is religious (I’m roughly agnostic bordering on atheism and she just doesn’t really care), we reasoned that since neither of us has that big a problem with religion in general, and since both our families would have gone absolutely nuts otherwise, that we could stand a religious ceremony as long as it was kept generic enough. I picked a passage from the Bible that was as non-theological as possible and I instructed my uncle to keep the sermonizing brief, considering it was an outdoor wedding in West Chicago in late summer.

    Yeah, it was a compromise. No, I don’t think I could have done any better.

    Though it was all I could do to keep from rolling my eyes when he mentioned “the Atheist who cannot be joyful for he has no one to thank” in his sermon…

  • David D.G.

    “We’re both atheists,” I said with a polite smile, indicating that there was no conflict between the future husband and me.

    “No, you’re not,” my mother immediately jumped in, flushing red and looking angry.


    Does this woman also try to correct you as to what colors you like, what ice cream flavors you prefer, and what your taste in music includes? Sheesh! However much she may not like the idea of you having a mind independent from hers, it is off-the-scale hubris for her to try to dictate beliefs to anyone — especially to a grown woman!

    I’ve heard of control-freak parents, but this takes the freakin’ cake!

    ~David D.G.

  • Skippy

    My husband’s mother, prior to (and during) our wedding, would pepper our answering machine with, “Why haven’t you invited *my* friends from church, why aren’t you going to have it at *our* church?”

    My husband was raised Methodist, and until he was 18 was an avid church-goer, I was raised Catholic, and just… never really had any belief to speak of. I think, because my husband and I both met when we were 18, when he was questioning his faith, that she holds me somewhat responsible. She still hints that we need to attend service.

    At the wedding, an aunt on my side of the family – KEPT – asking why we didn’t have the service in the church, wouldn’t we have preferred to have it in the church, it would have been nicer in a church…

  • anonymous

    Our friends got married by our other friend who got a legal 24-hour license. Since most of the group is atheist or agnostic (I think the bride may technically be Christian by upbringing?). There was no prayer at all and the actual service was short and sweet. Everyone looked beautiful and the couple was happy. It seemed pretty traditional except for the god thing.
    The wedding should be about the COUPLE.

    I’m not out to my family as agnostic bordering on atheist. I firmly believe my mother would spend the rest of her life actually mourning the loss of my soul. I’m serious. Either that, or send me a ton of Jesus emails. Or both! Good thing I am not getting married any time soon. I keep quiet but I don’t think I could compromise that much of myself- to have a theistic ceremony. I believe I am an ethical person, and my wedding would reflect that.

  • Karen

    David D.G., some mothers do this sort of thing. They simply can’t deal with the notion that their offspring might actually believe something so unreasonable. If there really were an afterlife, my own mother would be up in heaven, STILL shouting “No you’re not!” whenever I admit to being an atheist… and she died in ’03 at age 83.

  • Mark N

    a Jewish wedding (with a few modifications)

    I’d like to know more about this – the last Jewish wedding I went to was pretty orthodox – mostly done in Hebrew, segregated sexes etc. I even got given a cool hat! But ultimately it came across as a strict diktat that women are inferior to men in every way, and they should shut up. After the wedding, there was a snacky reception where everyone tried to out-important each other. I accidentally bumped into one chap with a pretty impressive beard, and thought he was going to attack me.

    Food was nice, mind. Could have used more ham.

  • j swift

    Why do people feel they have to have a religious wedding when the God they believe is omniscient?

    Wouldn’t God know your commitment or lack thereof whether the two people stood by themselves at an oasis in the most isolated part of the Sahara or stood in a church with a thousand guests and a Bishop officiating?

  • JSug

    My wife was raised in a very fundamentalist Christian household. Young-earth creationists, you name it. Of course, when we dated, she was starting to question it all. She still considers herself a Christian, but it’s more of a philosophy for her now, and we don’t attend church. I went with her a couple times, but I guess she no longer finds it as appealing because it hasn’t come up since.

    Anyway, when we got married, I agreed to have a Christian ceremony in a church, mostly as a peace offering to her mother, who had made it clear she didn’t really approve of the relationship. Honestly, I didn’t really care that much either way. I had already pledged myself to my wife in every way that was important to me. The ceremony just made it formal/legal. I was much more interested in the reception and making sure it was a great party for everyone that came. It was 😀

  • Liz

    My mother was horrified by my first wedding, in an Episcopal Church! Not Catholic! That marriage went down in flames after two years. This time my husband and I went to the courthouse and had a lovely ceremony with just us and two friends. My parents did not say a word. I think my mom was just happy I wasn’t pregnant. The next year my sister got married in an outdoor ceremony, so it was clearly also not a Catholic wedding. I don’t think she got any grief from my mother, either. Sometimes I wonder if my mom feels like a failure, one daughter an atheist and the other a less than half-assed Catholic.

  • Richard Wade

    The question to ask is not “Whose wedding is it?” but “Whose life is it going to be?”

    A wedding is not a marriage. In the U.S. it seems that the wedding predicts much more about the future relationship between the parents and the couple than between the couple themselves. Will the parents and the couple have several years of conflict and struggle for power and control, full of resentment and manipulation or a respectful dialogue as the couple assert their freedom and test their legs to find their own way?

    I’d advise couples who are faced with the conflicts described above to elope, come back later and throw a party with whatever rite or ceremony you invent, invite whomever and exclude whomever you wish, keep it simple and fun and do it with your own money to maintain control. This is your relationship you are beginning, not somebody else’s accomplishment. If you invite family and they are gracious, great. If they want to suck on lemons, too bad for them.

    Our wedding ceremony lasted for about 15 minutes, followed by about a three or four hour party. Our marriage has lasted for 36 years. Keep a perspective on what’s really important.

  • heisenberg76

    I live in Germany. Here the churches are not allowed to perform a wedding unless you are already married by a government clerk. So the usual thing people do is they get married in the city hall, with just a few family members and a witness or two (like bridesmaid and best man) and a day later (or sometimes up to a year later) get married in a church – the “big” ceremony with a party afterwards.

    Now, my wife is protestant (only nominally, she does not go to church) and I am an atheist. She wanted a “big” church wedding. I told her if she insisted, I would go through a ceremony that for me would be meainingless, but I would rather not. Turned out, what she actually wanted was a “nice” ceremony with lots of traditional elements and a wedding dress and stuff. She did not like the town hall weddings (which are essentially just the signing of some papers).

    So I rented a medieval castle for a few hours, got the clerk to come there and do a ceremony which included some music, we chose our own pledges, my bride got her white dress and a horse carriage ride, and the location made for great pictures, better than any church.

    My wife is sooo glad we did not do the “two weddings” thing!

    All my relatives and friends remember is what a nice ceremony we had.

    I think what relatives want most is that you demonstrate that you are aware of and respect traditions, as these are outward rituals of social bonding, especially across generations. Outside of organized religion, you need to find a way to somehow “respect traditions” in your own way. We emphasized that a wedding is not only the union of two people, but of two families. They were so happy!

  • Lynn

    I come from a Catholic family, most of whom are still practicing Catholics, including my father, who is a U.S. District Judge. He had absolutely no issues marrying one of my brothers and both my stepbrothers in secular services. He married my youngest stepbrother in a lovely, chic ceremony in a tony restaurant in NYC, the older of the two stepbrothers in a sort of hippie-dippy outdoor ceremony on Bear Mountain in NY, and my brother in his chambers. He’s also married a couple of cousins and a few of his law clerks. He’s actually quite conservatively and orthodoxly Catholic, too, but he’s also just a really good guy who isn’t a jerk when it comes to stuff like that.

    So…if you’re in the city, and need a Judge who’s Catholic enough to please your mom, let me know…:)

  • My dad kindly agreed to be ordained as a “minister” through the Universal Life Church (ulc.org), and he performed the ceremony for us. So I’d say he didn’t have any trouble with a non-religious wedding.

    That is so cool. :o)

  • Sara

    So, advice please:
    My fiance and I (both atheists) are getting married (by one of our best friends, also an atheist) in a month. His family has known about his atheism for quite some time now, but I haven’t told my family yet. I’m afraid of how heart-broken they’re going to be, especially my parents, and most especially my mom (she’s very Catholic). When I got engaged I figured this would be a good time to tell them. It’s been a year and a half since but I just can’t bring myself to do it, and now as the wedding nears I’m afraid if I tell them now they won’t have time to process it and really enjoy the wedding. It’s going to be a beautiful ceremony, and the three of us (me, fiance, officiant friend) have written it such that if people don’t know it’s not religious they might not even notice. Right now, I’m just hoping to get away with it with no one noticing. How dangerous an idea is this?

  • Desert Son

    muffin wrote:

    Though I gotta wonder if people would come from out of town just for a party and not an actual wedding ceremony?

    I’d like to briefly report that, yes, if they’re cool, people will totally come in from out of town just for a party.

    I try to do this with friends as part of a reunion every year or two (schedules depending).

    A party is a great reason to visit someone. It’s even better if it’s a party celebrating two people that everyone likes/loves.

    In the end, you don’t get to keep the money, so you might as well save some up and visit friends, family, and loved ones every now and again, reason or no reason!

    No kings,


  • My wife and I were married eight years ago by a Unitarian chaplain (some details of the ceremony are described here). It was almost entirely religion-free, but as neither of our families are particularly religious, there was no problem.

    The closest we came to a problem was that one guest (also an atheist) found one of our readings somewhat dry.

  • Katie

    It’s going to be years yet before I’m through with grad school, comfortably employed, and finally able to even think about settling down, but thoughts about my future wedding surface pretty regularly.

    I’m not too concerned about my wedding day from a ceremonial standpoint, given as neither of my parents are religious either… my future bride’s family may be a potential area of concern, but I can burn that bridge when I come to it.

    What I’m preoccupied with, rather, is just what a secular lesbian wedding would be composed of. I can guarantee it will be delightfully free-form!

    And in case you were wondering, I live in California, one of the two states in the US that has come to the conclusion that gay people are people.

  • Phillip

    I’m an atheist; my wife is a limited theist (she believes in “lucky pennies, karma, and other shiny things”). My brother is a militant atheist and a ULC minister, and he begged to perform the wedding. We just totally flouted all family expectations. My brother made a few digs at religion and the whole idea of marriage in the ceremony, and the wedding and reception were done outside, picnic-style.

    I figured, screw it. The wedding was for us and for our friends. My family was invited, yeah, but just ’cause if we didn’t invite the whole clan there’d be all sorts of issues. They were concerned but we brushed over it. We sprung the wedding on most of the family (read: everyone but my brother) about a week before the ceremony, so no one had time to object to the style.

  • Maseca

    My husband and I were married a little less than a year ago in a secular ceremony.

    Despite the fact that my husband’s mother and grandmother are devoted Catholics, neither of them had a word to say about our ceremony that wasn’t positive. For one, we didn’t include them (or my lesbian parents for that matter) in the ceremony planning. We wrote the entire thing ourselves, and included no one. Also, I think they didn’t even miss the “god” parts of the wedding because we really worked hard to write up a ceremony which was filled with our personalities and our thoughts on partnership.

    I also think it helped that they had no expectations of us getting married in the Catholic church, since my husband has attended Mass twice in the past 17 years (once for a friends wedding, and once for his father’s funeral). Also, they knew I was raised by Jewish lesbians, so I don’t think they expected me to convert.

    All in all, my advice is to write your ceremony yourselves, and keep the family involvement to what color napkins to choose and which flowers look best with your appetizers. The ceremony is to personal to involve anyone else, IMO.

  • My husband and I were married by a Christian minister – he is a friend of my husbands family. He had no problem leaving religion out of the ceremony for us. I don’t think anyone that we invited actually noticed.

    We didn’t get any grief from our parents – we were paying for all of it ourselves, so its not like they had a say in it anyway. They seemed to enjoy themselves.

    In fact, the only grief we have received from either of our parents is in regard to kids. We’re childless by choice and our parents, naturally, want us to give them grand children. Not gonna happen.

  • Sara, do tell your family you’re having an irreligious wedding. It’s not fair to drop something on them like that.

    Maybe some of this might help:

    Mme Metro and I had an irreligious ceremony. My family are Catholics, and while I wasn’t comfortable claiming atheism, I definitely wasn’t a believer. Mme is agnostic in the sense of: “Soon enough you’ll know, so why worry about it?”

    My mother was happy I found someone. I was in my thirties and had had several girlfriends she’d rather forget (so would I, for that matter). However, she had some great wisdom for us:

    “The wedding isn’t about the people getting married.” Which it isn’t, if you think about it.

    She also stood out of our way as we planned the ceremony, except to offer some terrific insights: Invite all family members, even the ones you don’t like, for e.g.

    If your family gives you unwanted pressure, particularly your mum–give her a task and a role in the wedding. Something she can concentrate on that will hopefully take her mind off the godlessness of the whole thing and make her feel part of it all. After all, when you reject her faith, you’re rejecting part of her.

    Mme and I had several fights. I had always assumed that when it came time to get married or buried it might be good to let the churchmen do what they’re good at. I also liked the style of a traditional wedding. Mme was no damn way gonna swear to love and honour (the word “obey” somehow mysteriously fell out of the vows) my chubby ass in a church she didn’t like, in the name of a god she didn’t believe in. And furthermore–did I think she was going to process down an aisle or anywhere else with all those people staring at her?

    During the brainstorming, there was a hell of a lot of storming on that last point, until one of us (probably me) came up with an idea.

    She found us a wonderful, zany marriage comissioner, who conducted a non-religious ceremony that allowed people a little time to pray for our success if they wished.

    We had the wedding outdoors (in March, in Canada, which kept the ceremony short as people were going blue–we had unseasonable snow three days before the wedding!). And instead of Mme lurching down the aisle, we stood in the gazebo of the civic rose garden with our best people (well, stick garden in that season) and had everyone process to US, led by our witnesses.

    My witness read 1 Corintians 13, which I think helped the religious folk appreciate the solemnity of the event, and is a wonderfully godless yet still meaningful passage.

    It was, in my ‘umble, a rousing success. And my folks never let out a peep about it being a non-church wedding.

    Oh–and Mme would insist: Make sure you groom a friend to take over for you. The week before the wedding you should be able to hand him or her a bunch of cheques for the caterer, DJ, or whoever, and stop planning.

    Mme called the person she chose her “wrangler”.

  • ubi dubius said that marriage adds about 1000 legal rights. That may be so but I can honestly say that I’ve never missed even one of them and anyone who denied something that I thought I had a right to would receive one of my most fearsome hard stares. This is almost guaranteed to make them back down and bend the rules for me. Nobody asks if you are married if you act as if you have the right to make decisions as if you are.

    Thank you for the book recommendation. I always appreciate new books.

  • Grimalkin

    We had a peep from the mother-in-law about “respecting tradition” and making it “look good for grandma.” It was just a peep, though. We just said “no, mom. Thanks anyway.” Then it was over and we went ahead with our totally secular wedding.

    Unfortunately, it was hetero-normative. The official who did our signing talked about marriage being between “a man and a woman,” despite the fact that homosexual marriage is legal here. My mom, my husband, and I all reported afterwards that we had wanted to say something but hadn’t wanted to make a scene. I regret that none of us did. I found that to be an unwelcome and unnecessary intrusion into OUR ceremony. I wish I had thought to talk to the woman beforehand about saying something neutral like “between two people,” but it honestly didn’t occur to me that someone would phrase something in that way here and in this day and age.

  • Carlos

    The short answer is no. Only slightly longer is not to our knowledge, because my wonderful mother-in-law saw to it that we were oblivious to anything negative whatsoever.

    Neither of our families is religious, though my mother still identifies as Catholic. I think she probably came to terms with her three sons’ (and her husband’s) lack of belief quite some time ago. She’s really the only close family member who might have had any objection to a nonreligious wedding, but she was 100% on board the whole way.

    My agnostic wife and I were married in a defunct church converted to a historical society building (The Old Church) in Portland, Oregon. It’s a beautiful location for any type of wedding, so long as you have no issues with a church building as a setting. The officiant, while an ordained nondenominational minister, was utterly responsive to our wishes. It was a fairly traditional ceremony, but with no religious content. My wife’s close friend from childhood read an original poem she composed just for us, and my father read Pablo Neruda’s Soneto 17 (my family’s Chilean). It was downright beautiful – objectively speaking, the best wedding I’d ever been to. And the reception following? An absolute blast.

    I would recommend one thing: Resist the urge to write your vows yourself, unless you happen to be pretty damn good writers. I’ve been witness to too many people stumble over the delivery of poorly composed vows. In our case, it was a collaborative effort with our officiant, who had extensive experience in conducting all types of ceremonies. It might have been cooler if we had committed the vows to memory, but we were very happy with how it went.

    Okay, enough with the rambling.

  • Audrey

    No one said anything to us when we got married this summer about the ceremony not being at all religious. Then again, my mother did (a little passive-aggressively) announce in the Christmas letter last year that I am “actively rejecting Christianity” so I don’t think the relatives were surprised.

  • Vincent

    I asked my mother if she would come to our non-church wedding (married by a judge in a courthouse). She said no, so when the time came I didn’t invite her (or anyone else for that matter).

    She told me years later that she regretted the decision and would have come. But then, just this past weekend she refused to attend my sister’s lesbian wedding so who knows.

  • We didn’t invite anyone. It’s much easier to ask for forgiveness acceptance than for permission them not to be the controlling people they are.

  • I’m getting married this Friday in Germany at the equivalent of a courthouse.

    My family is a little disappointed that we’re not having a religious service. Most of my family doesn’t know I’m an atheist, but they know my fiance is not religious.

    At this point, I think they’re just glad that I’m finally getting hitched, so that I wont be “living in sin” anymore.

    His family are atheists.

  • I’ve had two secular weddings and nobody seemed to have had any problem with it. Twenty-one years ago, ex-husband (who turned out to be gay, but that’s another story) and I were married by a retired judge, and two years ago, my husband and I were married by the owner of the bed and breakfast (Universal Life or Church of What’s Happening Now or something) where we had the ceremony. Both weddings were outside.

    For the first wedding, the judge supplied several completely secular readings, and my ex and I just picked the one we liked. The B&B owner supplied the same type of thing, and my husband and I went through and picked out the parts we liked and added things I found on the internet.

  • I have to admit surprise that this was picked up and generated such a huge discussion! I did want to address David D.G., though.

    In general, Mom’s not a control freak at all. Religion’s the touchy subject with her, but she definitely does not try to dictate my life. She’s not as high-strung as my post might indicate — she’s actually a laid back person who is delighted that IP and I are getting married. She knows that the wedding and marriage will happen according to our desires, but couldn’t help herself in this instance. Moreover, my ire’s also directed at the event coordinator — why push for an answer when I had already said that our ceremony would be secular?

    Anyway, just wanted to chime in because it’s wince-inducing to see such a sweet woman be called a control freak. Sure, the Catholic thing is a source of tension, but she will respect the decisions IP and I make. She loves us both to pieces and it shows. This was probably the first and last discussion on this topic in regards to the wedding.

  • Lyz

    I had some issues when my husband and I first announced our intentions to become legally married…namely, we’re atheists and my father is an Episcopal deacon. When he first heard of our plans, his first question was if we were going to have him officiate the ceremony!!! I was horrified! Not only could I not figure out how to tell my (elderly) father about my atheism, but I had always wanted him to walk me down the aisle – and how could he do that if he were officiating? That bothered me as much as the religion thing at the time…ultimately we ended up with a weird wedding with no aisle to walk down, and a humanist officiant. I still think he’s grumpy about it.

  • stephanie

    My husband and I got married in a historic house by a docent who’d been deputized to perform weddings so the historic society could pull in a little more money to keep the place going. It was terribly romantic, and it also did a tiny bit to conserve some of the past for the future. My wedding was awesome and I still smile a bit whenever I think back to it. I can’t imagine why any atheist would accept hypocrisy and pretension on a day meant to celebrate their life and life choices.

    It’s your wedding and, if you’re lucky, the only one you have. Make it count and make it something that gives you joy every time you remember it. Forget pleasing others, it’s not their ceremony.

  • When DH and I were married nearly 6 1/2 years ago we had an outdoor ceremony and reception at his uncle’s mansion. We hired a judge who was willing to be “short and sweet and completely secular”. We used pop/rock ballads as our music. The flower girl & I were the only ones who walked down any sort of “aisle”, the groomsmen and bridesmaids were already positioned with the groom.

    We planned and paid for everything ourselves so our families weren’t even involved in the process. The only complaint I recall about the lack of religion was from DH’s older sister. She was bothered it wasn’t going to be in a church & that we were using a judge instead of a minister of some sort. She ended up not attending (she lives out of state). If anyone else had any issues with our secular union, they kept them to themselves.

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