Getting married and being an atheist seems to be causing a lot of grief to some people. Walking down the aisle in the white-gown does have its attractions, but Church and atheism don’t really go together.
Marriage ceremonies around the world, and the beautiful buildings some of them are held in, can be quite breathtaking, why wouldn’t you want to do what lots of other people do? Because as an atheist you aren’t comfortable having ‘God’ involved in your vows. Like myself, who got married in a church out of ‘tradition’ and to not offend the parents (mine, hers wouldn’t have cared), you will regret it later, because you will realise what a hypocrite you had been.
A wedding is a big day, it is a public demonstration that you love your partner so much, you want to spend the rest of your life together. This doesn’t have to occur in a church, or with any religious overtones, to still be a beautiful thing and to mean something to you, your partner, family and friends.
There are non-religious celebrants in most places these days and you can hold the ceremony anywhere you want. The wedding should be about you and your partner, the vows should express what you both want out of life together.
Why am I saying all this? Well I just received a new comment on a previous post called wedding blues (written after receiving a cry for help from another reader – I hope things turned out alright for her). This new commenter, Sarah, has a similar quandary. I’ve re-posted her comment below:
I’m having a similar quandary here. My boyfriend of four years and I are deeply committed to each other. We will both be graduating from college soon and moving in together. Several of our friends are getting married and we are starting to get the “so when are you going to get married” questions. I had always thought that even though I am not religious, I would have a semi-traditional wedding, just because I hadn’t thought of anything else. The older I get, the less ok I am with taking part in a tradition that it bound up with so many things I disagree with, whether or not they are taken as such today.
I know that I love this man and I want to be with him for the rest of our lives. I would like to have some sort of ceremony/party to show this to others (I don’t know why, maybe I’m just incapable of being strong enough to forgo the cultural pressures of “proving it” to everyone else)
I’m totally lost however as to what such a ceremony would entail and why I would even bother. As far as I see it, the term “marriage” means one of two possible things
1) A spiritual union blessed by a religious organization
2) A legal contract
I have problems with both of these, the first is easy. However the second is more problematic. I believe marriage as a legal entity should be abolished and then people can create their own individual contracts with whomever they see fit. That is why the whole are argument over gay marriage is missing the point. Marriage as a legal contract, and the rights that go along with it, devalue non-traditional relationships, gays and lesbians and singles.
Ergo, if I have a ceremony, I will not be married in the eyes of a deity or the government, So, what the hell is the point? If I have a ceremony of some sort, just because I want one, is that shallow and cheap? Are people going to ask what is the point? How can I explain myself without seeming to criticise their decision to get married? AHHHH….I am a strong woman but damnit, sometimes I cant get over visions of the two of us on a cliff, and a pretty dress and flowers.
I’m not even sure if there is a question there, sorry for the rant. I’m just a bit lost right now.
Firstly, I think you can still have a semi-traditional wedding without any of the religious overtones, you’ll just have to put in a bit more effort (unless you have a good non-religious celebrant handy).
I don’t think it’s ‘weak’ to “prove it” to everyone else. Think of it more like a celebration, you have parties with all your family and friends for birthdays, especially big ones like 21st, why not when you get ‘married’ (in whatever form you choose)?
Yes marriage is a legal contract, whether you do it in a church or down at the registry, and in lots of countries you don’t need to get married to still enjoy all the legal benefits.
You could just live together, have a ‘living together’ party, and still enjoy most of the legal recognition and benefits. The difference with gays and lesbians is that they get no legal recognition. (at least that’s the case in Australia, de facto relationships – heterosexual ones at least – are provided with nearly all the same legal rights as married couples).
I think you may be missing the point of the whole legal aspect of marriage. The legal rights are, in the most part, there to protect you both. Being married confers various rights and benefits, such as: Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities; Inheriting a share of your spouse’s estate; Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses; You have the right to visit your spouse in a hospital and make medical decisions for them. It can also entitle you to buy a house together without having to sign an extra legal agreement. Check this site (where I got most of the above rights from) for a long list of benefits for being legally married and a brief discussion on the lack of benefits to same sex couples. As the link says:
… many of the benefits of marriage won’t apply to you, because the federal government does not recognize these same-sex relationships.
Having a ceremony, of what ever type you both choose, does not make you shallow and cheap. Hopefully, as I’ve previously said, you have it to celebrate with family and friends. One would hope that your family and friends would be happy you are getting married and would want to show their joy and commitment to your relationship.
Being married can, at times, be very difficult, having family and friends who witnessed your nuptials who can then help you through the difficult times can be quite beneficial.
There’s nothing wrong with a pretty dress and flowers, even the toughest woman is allowed to be feminine now and again.
I’m not sure if I’ve helped at all, I’m not even sure if this makes any sense. Anyway what the heck would I know, I’m no marriage expert, especially at the moment.
Whatever you do, don’t do it because others want you to. Do some research; find out what options there are in your State for non-religious marriages. Discuss with your partner if marriage is really right for you both, it’s not compulsory after all.
cheers for now,
Help from others with Sarah’s plight would be appreciated, I’m sure, so please leave a comment.