How to have a non-religious wedding
A large majority of my couples want Jesus and the Church to have nothing to do with their wedding and their ceremony and their vows. If this is also you, I support you. BUT I also support couples who do invite the holy ghost to their big day, because I support my couples in the choices that are the most important to them. NO MATTER WHAT.
However, it does feel like you are cutting your wedding ceremony short without any religious activities or mentions. And while that isn’t such a bad thing, it’s important to remember that the main reason why all have gathered: to celebrate you getting married… marriage… the ceremony. Your vows and the hooplahs that support it should be a bit of a centerpiece of your day.
Skimping on the ceremony and trying to pack it in under 5 minutes seems a bit, well, lackadaisical. Check out these 6 ways to have a non-religious wedding.
1. INCLUDE LIVE MUSIC
Have a musical prelude for guest entertainment, for your processional (so grand) and for during and after your ceremony. It makes things feel more real and tangible and it’s a great way to set the tone for your wedding.
I really like a string trio or quartet, a harpist or a solo guitarist. As a Sixpence client you have access to my preferred vendor list which includes my favorite ceremony musicians. When it comes to selecting songs, you might want to check out Vitamin String Quartet or The Piano Guys for inspiration.
And no, I don’t think prerecorded music has the same effect.
2. INCLUDE A SPECIAL READING
Ordinarily when you see “readings” on a ceremony script your mind wanders to bible verses. However, a r-e-a-d-i-n-g can be anything that is read. DUH. Broaden your mind and think about anything romantic you’ve heard or read. Song lyrics, movie quotes, poems or antiquated love letters. My personal recommendations: anything by Zelda Fitzgerald or an excerpt from a children’s book.
3. HAVE A UNITY CEREMONY
Candle lighting, sand pouring, tree planting, rope braiding, pass out roses to your family in the front row; do something to symbolize two becoming one. There’s actually a lot that can go into a ceremony, check out one of these blog posts for more tips on what to put into it:
4. SAY YOUR OWN VOWS
Forget those repeat after me’s. Ain’t nobody want to hear your officiant say your vows right before you say them.
Talk about a religious practice, where the priest does need to be heard because your marriage is between you (2) and God (makes 3), the priest, a representative of that holiness. If your wedding is to be non-religious then your vows should be more than just a regurgitation of lines. (Not to say that in a religious wedding you can’t write your own vows also).
Write down some vows and opt to say the same last line, something like “this is my solemn vow” or “this I promise” or my all time favorite, “I love you and I like you.”
5. HAVE A MUSICAL INTERLUDE
Either played during your unity ceremony or in lieu of, you can ask a friend or family member to play or to sing a song and this can be a great way to add gravity to your ceremony, get your handkerchief ready… for the tears.
6. TAKE A MOMENT
Have your officiant prompt you to look at your guests, to take in the moment and recognize that all these people have gathered to bear witness to your love and to show their support of your marriage. How awesome is that?
POST POST ADDITION:
Every blog post gets pushed to Facebook where more people can see it and read it. This particular post got commented on by my friend Leslie Johnson, owner of Ceremonies by Positively Charmed. She had a lot to say (totally agreeing with me, so that’s great)…
I just am passionate about this topic and feel the need to respond.
Probably 90% of the couples I work with are looking for a non-religious wedding. Many of them may want to include just a touch of religion to honor the faith tradition of their parents and grandparents, or they may want their own understanding of spirituality expressed.
It is, of course, important to note that marriage and weddings existed long before religion became part of a marriage ceremony! (I am speaking here mainly about western/European heritage.)
When it comes to readings there are actually very few Christian biblical readings that can be found appropriate and meaningful for a wedding day...however, there is a plethora of powerful and profound poems and literary excerpts that a couple can choose from to weave into the ceremony... I usually suggest two so that each person can choose one to express their individual feelings (or they can choose both together) and each side of the family or friend circle brings voice.
Most importantly...the main body of the non-religious ceremonies that I write, which are usually around 25-30 minutes, are custom written and speak to the unique qualities of the couple's decision to wed; their story, their understanding of what love is and what marriage is...their promise and hope.
Josie...there is so much to say on this topic because a wedding ceremony holds so much beauty and SUBSTANCE. If a couple chooses to have a non-religious ceremony they are actually going deeper back into the history of marriage, and it is a wonderful and powerful testament to love that couples have chosen matrimony in every era and culture. I have never found a need for a "filler" and there has never been a fear that there would not be enough to express in the ceremony or that it would be too short.
(Yes, some couples feel the ceremony is not an important aspect and choose five-minute styles, but sometimes they are just under-informed about the possibilities.)
Again, a non-religious ceremony, for non-religious couples, is not missing anything...if anything, the lack of a standardized religious script, opens the space for the feelings, aspiration, and truth of the couple getting married to be shared with those surrounding them in affirmation, joy, and love.
Thank you Leslie for your comment! I’m sure your wheels are spinning by now, dear reader, what non-religious elements are you including in your ceremony?
Prosperity, Love & Happiness,
Photos by Russell Heeter of Anna + Tim