The Humanist Wedding

Reader Bjorn recently got married!

(He’s the dapper fellow on the right in the pic below.)

He and his wife Jeannette had a Humanist wedding ceremony in all of its aspects, and he has now helpfully written about his experience, which I suspect may be helpful to a number of you who want to do something similar in the future.

It’s definitely helpful to me. So far, the only thought I’ve put into my future wedding is that it will be catered by Chipotle and Cold Stone Creamery.

Bjorn writes about who performs the wedding, what they did for a ceremony, and whether the families should be informed of the unique, religion-free nature of the festivities.

You may wonder: What do the bride and groom say if they don’t thank God for each other? What were their vows?

That deserves special mention:

Bjorn:

Where is peace?

It is in your smile.

How do I cope?

Your hand steadies my nerves.

Why do I wake?

Because you are there with me.

Why should I be better?

It’s you I impress.

Why do I cook?

Your happy tongue is worth it.

Why should I learn?

The things we teach each other help us grow.

Why should I love?

Never have I missed or have been missed more.

Why should I marry?

When together, I find myself.

You find my faults and strengths. I couldn’t be who I am without you. You are my first thought and my last. No force affects me more then your smile or your tears. You are my future. You are my home. Your compassion and love can see past my flaws. With you, I am as best as I can be. I can give so much more with you beside me then alone. You are my reason for doing. All I can give, I give to you. I give you my promise to love and respect you. We are different and equal. Together we are more then two. I know pledging to love you is right. Nothing makes more sense to me. Gravity is less certain to me. Each day with you is like a holiday.

I, Bjorn, choose you, Jeannette to be my wife. I will respect you, care for you, and grow with you, through good times and hard times, as your friend, companion, and partner, giving the best that I can, to fulfill our lives together.

Jeannette:

You are my best friend. We are friends who fell in love with each other. We are friends who have shared some incredible moments together. We are friends who laugh and cry together. We are friends who have a mortgage and bills together. We are friends who will grow old together. I’m so lucky to get to spend everyday with such a wonderful and caring person. Any words I say can’t do justice to how much I really love you. I feel the same bliss of my childhood. It may not be as carefree, but I feel as happy and safe as I did when I was little, and know I know I’ll feel that bliss everyday for the rest of our lives.

I, Jeannette, choose you, Bjorn to be my husband. I will respect you, care for you, and grow with you, through good times and hard times, as your friend, companion, and partner, giving the best that I can, to fulfill our lives together.

How wonderful is that :)

  • llewelly

    Er – wait, he’s not even looking at her!

  • http://t3knomanser.livejournal.com t3knomanser

    I love talking about weddings, because my wife and I had the coolest one of them all.

    Okay, ceremony: family only. We had it in the local park (no need for a permit for such a small group) the weekend before the local tulip festival (the flowers were awesome). The officiant was a COBOL programmer and Star Trek nerd (the closing benediction was delivered in Vulcan).

    Afterwards, we went to my landlord’s bar. He opened it up for us alone (not an open bar, but he did it for free). Our friends met us there and we celebrated. After we were wired and jazzed on drinks and cake and pool (and my landlord, unwittingly, added to the Star Trek theme by leaving Wrath of Khan on in the background), we went to the local lasertag arena and blasted the crap out of each other for a few more hours.

    All in all: coolest wedding ever.

  • Brian E

    Seems to be a business opportunity here. I think with the availability of more secular services for both weddings, funerals, and child-births, people will begin to choose them. Especially if we keep seeing this trend toward more secularization in America.

  • http://40yearoldatheist.com Mark

    My wife and I were married by a Unitarian minister. Not 100% secular, but really darn close to it. We got married in a beautiful park in Victoria, British Columbia.

    It would have been nice to have a humanist minister, though.

    Congrats to the happy couple!

  • Ron in Houston

    Awe, I love their vows. It warms my heart.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Jeannette spent the previous week before the wedding at Camp Quest, which proves there are no excuses! You can make the time to volunteer! Of course, depending on all sorts of other obligations, but it is a really worthwhile time.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Oh, and Norm, another counselor, did exactly the same thing! You really can volunteer at Camp Quest, even if you are getting married a week later!

  • Anthony

    Awesome! I actually just got married at the end of July to my atheist wife. We didn’t have to change the ceremony at all, we simply hired a civil commissioner and she was the first to remind us that there was no religion as part of the ceremony. Fine by us!

    Luckily, everyone seemed to love the wedding… it really couldn’t have gone any better. My (quite religious) family may have had rumblings about how we never prayed the whole day or mentioned God once (though my mom did in her toast to us), but they didn’t bring it up, and seemed to be more just enjoying the environment (we had it in a gorgeous garden in British Columbia).

    Our vows too, were naturally god/destiny/prayer/fate/etc.-free, her’s spoke of how I gave her hope for the future and mine spoke of the things I was thankful for about her and excited for in our future. It was great.

    Congrats to the happy couple! Now that I’ve experienced something similar first hand, it’s cool to finally know what the best day of my life was.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    It’s cool that they’ve had the ceremony that they wanted rather than having some guy in a dress wave a voodoo stick over them. That is the tradition isn’t it? What I don’t really understand is why anyone without a religious belief would find a wedding important. I don’t mean that in a snarky way.

    Marriage has always been a religious ceremony to me to legitimise a sexual relationship before family and community and to indicate the likelyhood of who the father of any children might be. Having no religious views and no desire to please the larger community I’ve always rejected the idea of marriage.

    Of course no one needs to care what I think and can marry whoever they like for whatever reason they like. I just don’t know why atheists feel the need. Surely the tax benefits aren’t that great?

  • Malcolm

    I’m sure I’d learn to cook if there was some happy tongue in it for me.

    Yik yik fnaar!

  • Adam

    Holy crap! Its Drew Carrey!

  • http://www.ehpcreative.com eric perkins

    Those vows were very sweet. You can tell they were from the heart and that is what marriage is all about. Not god.. its about each other :)

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Marriage throughout history has been mostly about treating women as property, and glorifying a transaction and transfer of a dowry for a wife. I’ve hated the history of weddings. I decided that I should get married for lots of different reasons. I was excited to get my family, and her family and friends together for a party. Of course, you don’t need to get married to have that. I wanted to make it more simple for us to be on the same medical insurance. Some providers do allow for unmarried couples to be on the same policy, but not all. It would also make it easier if I needed to visit her in the hospital. Tax breaks hadn’t crossed my mind. Sure, it’s falling in line with an ancient tradition, but the ceremony was a good excuse to expose our atheism and humanism to our greater family by presenting it as a positive and not as a reaction to something religious.

  • Karen

    Those vows were absolutely wonderful.

    The expression on Bjorn’s face in the photo is similar to one my own husband wore at times during our reception. Not to worry — we’ve been married for 28 years and are still content with each other and our marriage… with no deities hanging about to claim credit.

    But my admiration and complete awe is reserved for Jeannette, volunteering at Camp Quest a week before the ceremony! Even the most laid-back bride tends to be distracted almost to the edge of insanity that close to her wedding. Kudos Jeannette!!!!

    Oh, and the white-and-red color scheme is delightful. I wonder if they chose it with the park bridge in mind? Very cool.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    The bridge was an accident. Jeannette and I were both really calm all day. It was just too much fun to get stressed over. Jeannette’s mother was a different story, but that was contained. Stress in a group can spread like a virus. Luckily, we had fun, and everyone else did too, except for the teenage boys around.

    Oh, and we also recruited the Freethought Band to perform at our ceremony. It may be worthwhile to see who in your local atheist or humanist organization has skills which can be put to use. That’s one of the benefits of being in a community, after all, giving and sharing.

  • http://www.thechildfreelife.com Duane Brown

    My wife and I (both atheists in Virginia) got married two years ago in a small, local nice environment that wasn’t religious at all, but beautiful and caring. It definitely wasn’t Justice of the Peace style, either. Trying to find a really good, nice place for two atheists to get married around here (where there is literally a church every 1/2 mile) is not a very fun task. We would NOT have gotten married in a church, even if it was the last place on earth. We would rather go to the courthouse first. I am just glad that we didn’t need to go that far.

    If there are any atheists/agnostics in the Fredericksburg/Stafford, VA or surrounding area, I/my wife highly recommend http://www.countrycharmchapel.com as a location to get married.

  • Anthony

    Geez Duane, that’s crazy, we live in Stafford like a couple miles from that place. Granted most everyone I know here is religious, but I’ll keep that place in mind in case anyone who’s not is interested. Thanks!

  • http://ghostsofminnesota.blogspot.com Ghost of Minnesota

    In the highly unlikely event that I ever get married, I’d want it to be something like this.

  • Jen

    Congrats Bjorn! Those were some beautiful vows.

    I am going to be a bridesmaid in a wedding next March that is being held at a Unitarian Church. The couple is not particularly religious. It would thrill me if they wrote such lovely vows and had such a godless ceremony.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Jeannette

    I would spend my whole summer at Camp, living on a diet of really bad camp food, and getting eaten alive by bugs if I could. Unfortunately camp is only a week long. I was sad the whole week before my wedding because camp is over. I deserve no admiration, because working with these kids is simply something I love doing.

  • http://www.metriq.biz/ nile

    Well, if you feel you really to need a ceremony to live with someone, and to have it all written down on a piece of paper, which lawyers can dismantle with the flick of a pen, the words used are way better than most. Looks like you had a fun day, and I bet it was a corker of a party!! Congratulations to you both.

  • stephanie

    I’m turning into such a sap in my old age. Even reading this sort of thing gets me all moopy.

    My husband and I were married by a historic docent who’d been deputized to perform weddings so the little landmark they volunteered for could make a little money from small private weddings. There are lots of wonderful ceremonies every day that have very little to do with religion. Hrrm, I’d guess you’d call church centered vows the original fairy tale wedding.

  • http://infidelicacy.blogspot.com/ Steve

    My wife and I were married by some friends of mine in a humanist ceremony that I wasn’t even aware was a humanist ceremony when I wrote it. (That was back before I was aware of what humanists were!)

    It was lovely. One of the things that’s always annoyed me about religious weddings is how much emphasis is placed on god, while almost none is placed on the couple who are getting married, and for our wedding, it was all about us.

    The best thing? My wife actually allowed me to use the wedding march from Flash Gordon as we were walking in.

  • http://www.thechildfreelife.com Duane Brown

    Anthony,

    I’m glad that I could point that wedding place out to others. Most everyone I know around here is religious to some degree as well — that is why I figured I would put the word out upon reading this entry that yes, a dignified, non-religious wedding place DOES exist in the Stafford, Va area.

    Ok, maybe there isn’t a church every 1/2 mile, but depending where in Stafford you are, it sure seems like it. I’ve lived here my entire life virtually and seen churches pop up all the time. Best thing about them is the church signs — quite humorous and/or just weird.


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