June 28, 2010

Nice to Meet You. Now Let's Get You Two Married.

Bridesmaid-with-a-Mission Julie sent me the following NPR article this past weekend, knowing full well that it would inspire me to write something (offensive) on the topic.

More Couples Have Friends Perform Wedding
by Randy Wenner

In the article, Wenner points out that more couples are asking friends and relatives to officiate at their weddings than ever before. 2E's and I knew that this was a trend we'd want to partake in the moment we were engaged -- it was a no-brainer. Neither of us are religious (we tend to lean toward agnostic theism), and we felt that asking her uncle to run the show would be more in tune with our personalities and the tone and feel of the wedding as a whole.

Let me just put this out there -- I have nothing against pastors and priests performing ceremonies, esp. when the couple has known that person and relied on him/her for spiritual guidance for years and years. In those cases, it's not only a sensible but a tangible connection; the guests can sense that there is a unique bond between these individuals. Plus, I've been to several weddings where the Father has thrown out some dark, borderline offensive humor, and I am ALL about that. Dirty jokes are best told in white collars.

But I do have a problem with the Reverend James Wind's comment on the issue:

"When we do a wedding ceremony, there's a set of values that has been carried along for centuries in these religious communities that are resources for making this very important relationship, a bedrock relationship in our society, for making this work."

I don't know about the centuries of "religious communities," but I do know the essence of community, about being surrounded by people who love and trust in and care for you, people who have your back, people who have seen you at your best and your worst and think nothing more or less of you because of it. What could be more important? Are those not the bedrock values that are going to sustain a marriage?

In today's world, when the attitudes toward religion are at both extremes (those who adhere to it without hesitation, and those who question its very purpose), we can't deny that friendship and family are as critical to some as faith is to others. Is it not our family and friends who will help us get through the worst of times, who will comfort us when we experience loss or heartbreak or disappointment, who will help us stay grounded when we feel anything but.

The person who marries 2E's and I will not be a man or woman who we've just met, someone who may know us fairly well from our answers to a template questionnaire. It'll be someone who knows us well, knows us both as individuals and as an "us," and will give us the strongest foundation possible to begin this new life together.

As for the appropriately named gray area -- or the legal issue -- it's a debate I'd love to engage in. It brings us to some much larger questions: "Who should be permitted to perform marriages? Are our marriage laws old-fashioned, or based on ancient principles?" The states with the toughest marriage laws allow for clergyman, clerks, state officials and state judges and justices to perform ceremonies. What do these individuals have in common? What common thread ties them together? When did legal marriages and religious marriages become one entity?

Damnit, NPR, now you've got me all worked up. Ugh. Let's close with a relevant, off-color cartoon.



  1. I'm not religious, but as you sort of get at in the second to last paragraph there, I think I'd feel like the wedding/marriage was less "official" having a friend perform it. I've always had a thing for authority though: always revered my teachers and bosses. But hey, whatever works for ya!

  2. But for those of us who aren't religious, what makes a priest or paster or minister an "official." 2E's and I have no interest in having an "official" wedding. In fact, the only requirement we have is that our guests laugh and enjoy themselves during the ceremony.

    So much of what we think about weddings and how they should look, feel, how we should behave ... is based on ancient traditions. If you're getting married in a church, I see how that ceremony would be faith-based. If you're getting married under a tree, that ceremony might be about the nature of love and humanity. If you're getting married in a bookstore ... well, we're still working on it. I'll keep you posted.

  3. You mentioned that it's friends and family who get you through the hard times, but as someone who is a Christian I agree with you, but also want to add that my faith plays a huge part in getting me through the hard times. Sure I wouldn't be able to do it without my friends and family, but that's only because God has placed them in my life at that moment to help me. Don't get me wrong, when I'm having a hard time, the first person I go to (other than Collin) is either my mom or my best friend, but I know they're both Godly women who share my faith and beliefs and will give me perspective and help me though my issues.

    Collin and I did choose to be married by our pastor at our church, but as you said, we have a connection/friendship with him. He's been my pastor since I was 14 and basically watched me become a woman and he knew Collin and I together the whole 2 years before we got married. But I know that even if we didn't have that connection with him, I would still definitely have had a pastor officiate our ceremony. Maybe that's because I am and have been a Christian my whole life, I don't know, but I do feel like marriage is sanctioned by God so it should therefore be officiated by someone of faith.

    I'm not saying having 2E's uncle officiate makes your marriage any less official than our marriage, the faith part is just a huge part of the meaning of marriage for me which is why I believed strongly in having ours officiated by a pastor.

  4. Hey Cindy,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to include your opinion on the issue. And I understand how important your faith is to you, and how it and God (in his miraculous way) plays a part in everything you do. I totally get it. I have many friends and family members who feel similarly. As I said, I was raised in the same church.

    In our case -- on the other side of the spectrum -- our marriage is sanctioned by two things: our love, and our state. It is our love that brought us together, has kept us together for 6 years, and will continue to do so. And it is the state of New York that will provide the legal document stating that they observe our marriage. (Obviously the latter is MUCH less important to us. Particularly in this time in history, when the "states" have chosen not to recognize gay marriage.)

    You may believe (as many religious people do) that all marriages are sanctioned by God, and I respect that view. For me and 2E's -- marriage is sanctioned by love, and there is nothing more powerful.

    We're talking in circles, of course. I'm just glad we can do so candidly and kindly. :)

  5. I was raised Catholic and my fiancee was raised Presbyterian. I respect having had a religious background, but adherence to a certain faith is something both my dude and I feel disconnected with now as adults -- not to mention that I have some problems with a few of the underlying tenets of Catholicism, but that's a matter for another time. Suffice to say that "agnostic theism" is a great way to describe our belief system, too.

    When the time came to figure out an officiant, we spoke with a couple of local pastors, but it just didn't feel right. They didn't know us, and didn't have any connection to us. Seeing as how we don't have a religious community at the ready, we turned to our "other" community -- our support system of family and friends. And we're having marry us is an old friend whose own marriage we admire, whose morals we admire, and who would give us the shirt off his back (and vice-versa). I think you hit the nail on the head when you asked, are those not the bedrock values that are going to sustain a marriage?


    True validation came, however, when my mother, the one who wanted us to have a Catholic wedding, said about our officiant friend, "Well, it sure is nice to have someone marry you who KNOWS you."

  6. Stirring and stirring and stirring the brew...from an etsy massacre, to a religious crucifixion. Shamone.