Are Fewer Weddings Being Presided Over By Church Leaders?

The Washington Post reported on a trend last week that might be linked to a decline in religious influence as well as the growth in secular values: It looks like more couples are having their friends preside at their weddings instead of members of the clergy.

Their decision to forgo the more traditional route is a slightly extreme example of a once-quirky trend that is becoming more mainstream. A study last year by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com showed that 31 percent of their users who married in 2010 used a family member or friend as the officiant, up from 29 percent in 2009, the first year of the survey.

Although the majority of brides and grooms still use members of the clergy and other professionals, including judges (61 percent last year, according to the study), the shift toward nontraditional officiants seems to be further evidence of another, broader trend: the movement of Americans away from organized religion.

I love this trend because it makes the wedding that much more meaningful. Shouldn’t everybody who gets married want it presided by a person who knows them both very well? I’ve been to weddings where the priest had probably met the couple once (if that) before the ceremony, and you knew that because the things he said were generic and bland. Had a different couple gotten married instead, his script wouldn’t have changed. I honestly don’t understand why a couple would want someone like that playing such an important role on such an important day in their lives… unless they just don’t realize there are other options.

To be clear, it’s not that priests shouldn’t do weddings. I went to a friend’s Catholic wedding last year where a priest did the ceremony — but it was obvious he had known the couple for years. He made genuinely funny jokes about the couple throughout the ceremony and spoke about each individual as only someone who knew them well could. You could tell he sincerely believed they were perfect for each other.

Isn’t that the point, though? Get someone who knows you and your partner to perform the ceremony.

Recent studies show that most Americans aren’t a regular part of an institutional faith community, and many people say they don’t know a member of the clergy well enough to want to be hitched by them.

“I can’t remember the last time I was at a wedding that wasn’t officiated by a friend,” said Jim Kurdek, the groom from the Southwest Harbor wedding.

I haven’t been to a lot of weddings officiated by mutual friends. And every time a priest who doesn’t know the couple performs the ceremony, I want to ask the couple why they made that decision… but, you know, that’s “rude.”

So I’ll toss it to all of the married people out there. Who performed your ceremony? Why did you choose that person? If you could go back, would you make the same decision?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    We had our wedding at a B&B and the owner officiated our wedding. He hadn’t known us for years, but he was part of the ceremony which made it all ours. Now, he has known us for years now because we still go there as often as we can.

  • A Hangman on Tyre

    We got married at an RC church – due mostly to family pressure and a bit of traditionalist nostalgia – you can’t beat the church for pomp and pageantry at a wedding !!!!  We had to met the priest a few time prior to the ceremony to plan how we wanted things to work.  At the ceremony he did what we thought was a really nice sermon, that really sounded like he had been observing us and that he had sort of gotten to know us.  Saying things about how we seemed to respect each other and worked well together, etc.

    Two weeks later my cousin got married in the same church and had the same priest.  He gave the exact same sermon, substituting their names where ours had been.  We had to laugh – he had us fooled – but he ended up looking foolish since half the group had heard the same speech two weeks before at our wedding – and laughed about it!

    Would we get married in a church again if we could have a do-over?  Probably not.

  • sillybit

    We used a minister who advertised at the bridal show, and who had performed my husband’s sister’s wedding previously.  We chose him because he allowed you to pick and choose exactly what you wanted in the ceremony, and he was personable and a good public speaker. 

  • Grant Gordon

    Funny that this should come up now. I presided over a friends wedding over the weekend, was a lovely outdoor affair and they wanted something secular, and it was a great honour to be asked. (It’s always bugged me when the wedding tends to take the backseat to evangelising in religious ceremonies, it’s always cheapens it for me). In fact Hemant did a post a while back on a secular wedding ceremony that I partly used as inspiration. If I got married, I’d definitely want someone who knew me well to perform the ceremony, makes it just that much more personal and special, and shouldn’t that be what a wedding is?

  • http://whatloveteaches.blogspot.com/ Slow Learner

    We have no choice: if we want a civil wedding [which we do!] it has to be officiated by a Registrar. We will meet our Registrar a couple of times before the wedding, but unless we really don’t like them, I don’t think we’d be able to get them changed.

    There are plenty of humanists who perform ceremonies, but in the UK (apart from Scotland) the bit they do isn’t legally binding, so you end up having to marry in front of a Registrar anyway.

    • Anonymous

      In much of Europe you have to get a civil wedding first and the religious wedding is just for show. I like it that way. While that mostly prevents the US custom of having almost anyone officiate (who can get a license to perform weddings), it has the nice effect of strictly separating the legal from the religious. European priests aren’t under the misapprehension that they are performing legally valid weddings

  • Anonymous

    A decade ago, we got married in my wife’s family church. I wasn’t religious, but was fine with it. The Minister had to meet with us to make sure we were compatible long term. To his benefit, he didn’t push ‘god’ on us and moved on when I shrugged about my religion.

    Just recently, my wife’s sister got married. The minister’s  wife (also a minster) married her, but in a Hotel ballroom as a Secular Justice of the Piece. She knows how to drop to god talk when needed.

    The point of my story: things are changing. 

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    My wife’s family is very Catholic so it had to be a priest for us. Her uncle is actually a priest so it worked out, he kinda knew us so it was semi-personal, but largely the generic stuff about love and commitment… although that stuff still makes a for a beautiful ceremony.

  • Nathaniel

    Getting married in less than two weeks and we’re having a close friend preside over the short ceremony.  He is a justice of the peace and also an ordained minister (via a quick online ordination, not a theological calling or background).  It’s been a lot of fun planning this ceremony with him becuase he knows us both well, and feels passionately about making it a memorable and meaningful experience for us.  I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.

  • Anonymous

    We had my mother-in-law’s priest marry us in my mother-in-law’s church. My mother-in-law would not have it any other way (even though we’re both freethinkers) and she informed me it was her wedding/event not ours. Apparently her mother did the same thing to her and she didn’t like it (what better way to fix that than to pass on the tradition eh?)

  • Donna Lafferty

    We got married in 1983, and my Aunt Rosemary (an appellate court justice, and a very cool lady) did the officiating. We made sure she knew our wishes, so the vows didn’t include anything about “obeying” or “worshipping” or any of that nonsense. My family and most of the wedding guests were Catholic, but they seemed okay with our decision (at least they didn’t say anything negative).

  • jamssx

    Rev Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping (now Earthalujah) married us. He’s a performance artist, consumer activist and earth activist who use the format of a gospel group to get over his message of casting out the demons of big business and destruction of the planet. Do I agree 100% with everything he says? No but it made for a great wedding!! http://www.revbilly.com/about-us

  • Gus Snarp

    The random judge assigned to handle weddings at the courthouse on the day we got married. I actually did a lot of looking, and it turns out that it’s really hard to find a government approved officiant here. You can’t just have a friend do it, your officiant has to be a mayor, a judge, or a recognized religious official. Some localities make it much easier, you only have to have a notary public in some places. Not so where I am. So the easiest thing was to get a judge to do it at the courthouse. It was a bit surreal, the bailiff had us sit and wait, then after a while the judge wooshed in in a swirl of black robes, asked if we had any particular vows we wanted to use, when we said no she flipped through her little book, picked a section, read off the vows, we said I do, then she swept out of the room and the last thing we saw was the swirl of her black robes again. We turned to the bailiff and asked: “Is that it? Are we married now?” He said yes and we went out to lunch. But the actual reading she did was pretty nice, I don’t remember it, but we liked it and it wasn’t religious. I vote for her every time she’s on the ballot.

    I think it needs to be made simpler. In fact, given that you have to go to the courthouse and sit down with some minor bureaucrat to fill out your license application and get it filed, that should constitute being legally married. Whatever legal stuff they do with that document should be good enough. Fill it out and sign it in front of the person at the window, they do whatever checking they do if any, it gets filed, and you’re legally married, done. Now you have whatever kind of ceremony you choose, with any officiant you desire, regardless of status, because you’re already married in the eyes of the state. Instead you have to go to the courthouse and fill out the form with the official and you still have to then go and find a recognized official to conduct a ceremony and sign it. It’s kind of outdated. That’s my locality anyway.

  • dwasifar karalahishipoor

    We asked a friend to do it.  We spent some time discussing who might be a good choice, and we settled on a longtime friend: http://urbandjin.com/index_content.html to see a little bit about him.

    He’d never done this before, but he’s smart, funny, well-educated, and aware, plus he’s got a great presence in front of an audience.  He went to the Universal Life Church website to get ordained, which was a big chuckle for everyone involved since he’s no more religious than I am; we consulted in advance about the ceremony, but he wrote it and did an amazing job, and punctuated it with songs.

    We wouldn’t change a thing.  Everyone who was there said it was a great ceremony.

  • Rob Meyers

    My wife and I were married by a friend of ours, at a botanical garden.  

  • http://twitter.com/looloolooweez Louise

    We were married by a Justice of the Peace a couple of years ago. We’d never even met him before the ceremony. I handed him our vows (which we wrote together) and a short secular reading, and that was supposed to be it. But I guess this guy was used to following his own script at weddings, because we ended up saying 2 sets of vows — the ones we’d chosen, and the generic ones he tacked on. He also managed to slip in a couple of religious references. I guess we shouldn’t have assumed that a small-town Bible Belt JoP would’ve been OK with a completely secular service. It certainly didn’t ruin the day or anything, but I still cringe at the memory.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_E5IVDLJRGQTAVFK4KHLDKDH55Y Daniel

    Two U.S. citizens who got married in Ireland.  My grandmother gave us her grandmother’s wedding ring.  Said great-great-grandmother was born and married in Ireland, then immigrated to the U.S.  My wife and I thought i would be cool to get married in Ireland to sort of bring the whole thing together.  A foreign-born secular wedding in Ireland is a huge headache to set up, while a foreign=born Roman Catholic wedding is easy as pie.  So we got married by a stranger in an RC church.  Got married on Darwin Day (Feb 12th) and round trip tickets were only $300, so our ring budget went to flying about a dozen family members out to stay with us for a week.  About 8 friends came too.  We rented some cottages and spent a week touring Ireland.  Capped it off with our wedding; everyone else went back to the states, we stayed another week.

    Funniest parts of the ceremony were A) signing the marriage license is part of the ceremony, and the two blanks to fill in were “Groom” and “Spinster” and B) we spent a week visiting the ruins and thinking of historic events and the sermon was a long metaphor about rock climbing and seemed very modern.

    Would do it again.  Don’t share the beliefs, but it was the easiest way to get the paperwork cleared and it was an amazing shared event for everyone in the family.  (Almost none of them had ever been out of the country before)

  • Esther

    We hired a celebrant for our wedding, who was also ordained as a non-denominational minister.  She was part of this group: http://www.celebrantinstitute.org/
    She did a great job… met with us, asked us about our beliefs (or lack thereof) and values and incorporated those in to the ceremony.  There was no mention of a higher power unless you count some vaguely pagan references to nature.  She also had us fill out questionaires about each other that we gave her without sharing with the other.  It added some nice personal touches that were also a surprise at the wedding itself.  She had a huge variety of ceremonies that she would pull from depending on your wishes (we had a hand-fasting for instance).  Probably would be cheaper to get a friend but we didn’t have anyone particular in mind and she did create a lovely custom ceremony.   

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PWD2M7I7UITLRE24Q4PJ3XZDSU KeriB

    I’m having a friend do it, although my parents are desperately pushing for a Justice of the Peace to do it because they want our ceremony slightly religious, which my fiance and I are very actively against. I might have listened except they refuse to pay for it anyway since it’s a “mockery of a wedding without God”, so if I’m paying, I’m having it my way.

  • Anonymous

    The Episcopal priest that did our service knew my husband and his entire family very well — close family friend.  However, he didn’t know me from Adam’s housecat.  This became clear as he kept mentioning the passel of kids that would be coming from this union and my side of the church went from damp, emotional eyes, to ducking their heads to stifle the laughter.   I think there’s an audible “SNORT” on the videotape after the third or fourth mention of “all the new babies”.

  • http://spyderkl.net spyderkl

    When we got married, our only choices were a) be married by a member of the clergy or b) elope to a nearby state.  We wound up with a Unitarian minister and a wedding at my parents’ house, mostly for my mother-in-law.  

    The minister met with us two or three times, so he didn’t really know us.  But he allowed us to write our own ceremony, which was pretty great.  

    If we had had the option, I think we would have gone with a Justice of the Peace.  

  • Stephanie

    I became a Humanist Officiant several years ago. But I still went through a wonderful process here in CA called “deputy for a day” which allows anyone to be deputized by the state as an official good for the duration of one wedding ceremony. Then you get sworn in- which is really awesome if you watched any westerns as a kid.  The reason I did that was the couple was from another state- one that does not recognize any ‘religious’ officiant who doesn’t have a congregation. 

    I don’t know if I’d have gone through the hoops for just anyone, but it was my father (a widower) and his wife-to-be.  Not only was it nice to keep the wedding intimate and family related, but it let my step mom know she truly was welcome in the family- which I think she needed given the situation.  :)

  • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

    I honestly don’t understand why a couple would want someone like that
    playing such an important role on such an important day in their lives…
    unless they just don’t realize there are other options.

    Now you how the religious feel when we tell then that, honestly, they don’t need God to be moral. :)

    • Jude

      I don’t really follow the connection you are trying to make. Can you explain what you mean?

  • Corbin Dallas

    We got married about 8 years ago at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas.  We had a few close friends there all in medieval garb.  After the wedding we galloped through the casino while one of our friends used change cups to stand in for coconuts as he did our sound effect.  So we got married by a mass marrying stranger.  But it was a fun time and we would do it again I think.  Except now the change cups are gone and we would have to bring our own.

    We have a close friend who was a bit hurt that we didn’t let her do the ceremony.    She is the pastor in a church and it would have meant a religious wedding which we didn’t really want.  But we may have re-considered if we had known the damage it was to do in our relationship with her.

  • Corbin Dallas

    We got married about 8 years ago at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas.  We had a few close friends there all in medieval garb.  After the wedding we galloped through the casino while one of our friends used change cups to stand in for coconuts as he did our sound effect.  So we got married by a mass marrying stranger.  But it was a fun time and we would do it again I think.  Except now the change cups are gone and we would have to bring our own.

    We have a close friend who was a bit hurt that we didn’t let her do the ceremony.    She is the pastor in a church and it would have meant a religious wedding which we didn’t really want.  But we may have re-considered if we had known the damage it was to do in our relationship with her.

  • Corbin Dallas

    We got married about 8 years ago at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas.  We had a few close friends there all in medieval garb.  After the wedding we galloped through the casino while one of our friends used change cups to stand in for coconuts as he did our sound effect.  So we got married by a mass marrying stranger.  But it was a fun time and we would do it again I think.  Except now the change cups are gone and we would have to bring our own.

    We have a close friend who was a bit hurt that we didn’t let her do the ceremony.    She is the pastor in a church and it would have meant a religious wedding which we didn’t really want.  But we may have re-considered if we had known the damage it was to do in our relationship with her.

  • Corbin Dallas

    We got married about 8 years ago at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas.  We had a few close friends there all in medieval garb.  After the wedding we galloped through the casino while one of our friends used change cups to stand in for coconuts as he did our sound effect.  So we got married by a mass marrying stranger.  But it was a fun time and we would do it again I think.  Except now the change cups are gone and we would have to bring our own.

    We have a close friend who was a bit hurt that we didn’t let her do the ceremony.    She is the pastor in a church and it would have meant a religious wedding which we didn’t really want.  But we may have re-considered if we had known the damage it was to do in our relationship with her.

  • Lorimakesquilts

    We were married in the middle of a huge snow storm by a judge wearing jeans and moccasins.  I think we were the only people that actually show up for their court date that day.

    Although it wasn’t personal since he didn’t know us, he clearly loved that part of his job and he was awesome.  It was what we wanted.  There was no way I was going to be married by anyone associated with religion.

  • Keegan

    A family friend (very close to my father) officiated our ceremony.  He had gotten his officiating license to take part in his own daughter’s wedding the year before.  Although I did not know him that well, my husband and I wrote the entire ceremony so it was very personal.  There was no mention of a higher power*, and I think that made him a little uncomfortable since his daughter’s wedding was more traditional and Christian, but he didn’t show it.  It went exactly how we envisioned and I wouldn’t change a thing!

    *during the ceremony.  You cannot, however, stop your guests from including bible verses in their toasts…

  • Keegan

    A family friend (very close to my father) officiated our ceremony.  He had gotten his officiating license to take part in his own daughter’s wedding the year before.  Although I did not know him that well, my husband and I wrote the entire ceremony so it was very personal.  There was no mention of a higher power*, and I think that made him a little uncomfortable since his daughter’s wedding was more traditional and Christian, but he didn’t show it.  It went exactly how we envisioned and I wouldn’t change a thing!

    *during the ceremony.  You cannot, however, stop your guests from including bible verses in their toasts…

  • Keegan

    A family friend (very close to my father) officiated our ceremony.  He had gotten his officiating license to take part in his own daughter’s wedding the year before.  Although I did not know him that well, my husband and I wrote the entire ceremony so it was very personal.  There was no mention of a higher power*, and I think that made him a little uncomfortable since his daughter’s wedding was more traditional and Christian, but he didn’t show it.  It went exactly how we envisioned and I wouldn’t change a thing!

    *during the ceremony.  You cannot, however, stop your guests from including bible verses in their toasts…

  • Keegan

    A family friend (very close to my father) officiated our ceremony.  He had gotten his officiating license to take part in his own daughter’s wedding the year before.  Although I did not know him that well, my husband and I wrote the entire ceremony so it was very personal.  There was no mention of a higher power*, and I think that made him a little uncomfortable since his daughter’s wedding was more traditional and Christian, but he didn’t show it.  It went exactly how we envisioned and I wouldn’t change a thing!

    *during the ceremony.  You cannot, however, stop your guests from including bible verses in their toasts…

  • JoeBuddha

    I married my sister to her long-time boyfriend. We had a Unitarian minister there (I’m not ordained), but she just observed the ceremony (which we wrote) and handled the paperwork.

  • JoeBuddha

    I married my sister to her long-time boyfriend. We had a Unitarian minister there (I’m not ordained), but she just observed the ceremony (which we wrote) and handled the paperwork.

  • JoeBuddha

    I married my sister to her long-time boyfriend. We had a Unitarian minister there (I’m not ordained), but she just observed the ceremony (which we wrote) and handled the paperwork.

  • JoeBuddha

    I married my sister to her long-time boyfriend. We had a Unitarian minister there (I’m not ordained), but she just observed the ceremony (which we wrote) and handled the paperwork.

  • Warren Clarida

    We had a very close long time family friend officiate our wedding.  He was a favorite “uncle” of mine and became a surrogate father for my wife while she was in graduate school.

    About a year ago my wife was asked by a couple of friend of ours to officiate their wedding.

  • Warren Clarida

    We had a very close long time family friend officiate our wedding.  He was a favorite “uncle” of mine and became a surrogate father for my wife while she was in graduate school.

    About a year ago my wife was asked by a couple of friend of ours to officiate their wedding.

  • Warren Clarida

    We had a very close long time family friend officiate our wedding.  He was a favorite “uncle” of mine and became a surrogate father for my wife while she was in graduate school.

    About a year ago my wife was asked by a couple of friend of ours to officiate their wedding.

  • Dan

    I am a camera man for a local wedding video company here in Philly and I find myself in the same church all the time.

    The priest does indeed have the exact same speech. It’s word for word identical except of course for the couples name. The first time I experienced it I admit it sounded cute. So the writing is successful in that regard.

    But after hearing it 3, 4, 5 times – even more at this point – I feel bad that these couple are getting something so scripted. I wonder if the priest pays attention to himself anymore. The words are probably second nature and gives them no thought when speaking.

    One wedding I did on my own recently, the couple did use a family member to preside and it was far nicer to listen to, even compared to the first time I heard the priest speak (but that could have been effected by my strong atheism.)

  • Anonymous

    In Colorado you can officiate your own wedding so that’s what we did. I wrote the ceremony and a friend helped but we had no officiant other than ourselves.

    I now have the prestigious Universal Life ordination to perform weddings and am presiding for a friend next summer :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10512530 Wesley Fenza

    I got married in Pennsylvania.  It’s the only state in the union (due to all the Quakers) which has a self-uniting license.  Which is to say, we didn’t have an officiant.  We conducted our own wedding, and it was AWESOME!  I would definitely do it that way again.

    • Anonymous

      Pennsylvania is not the only state. My wife and I got married in Colorado, and although we chose not to solemnize the wedding ourselves, we did have the legal option to.

      http://usmarriagelaws.com/search/united_states/colorado/index.shtml

    • Anonymous

      Yeah Colorado you can as well, and I am honestly surprised that it isn’t that way everywhere. I don’t know why, but it just seems so obvious that two people should be able to conduct their own wedding.  I also am glad I did it that way :) best wedding ever.

  • Tinker

    It was the second marriage for both of us and we were not interested in a large wedding. Sure, it would have been nice to have more of our friends there but since a traditional wedding would have cost us thousands of dollars we decided to hit Vegas. Our families paid their own ways to gets there and it cost us significantly less than a wedding in our hometown would have. (Plus we took a five-day weekend and had some fun, putting off the honeymoon until the following year.) The Chapel that we chose had a webcam so that we could put our wedding on the internet for all of our friends to see, which was great since some of our friends we had only met online anyway. To us the preacher did not matter. We went with a traditional Christian preacher mostly because my wife’s mother does not know that my wife is not Christian. I don’t know if it would have been more special with a different officiant but I do know that if we had gone non-traditional we would still be hearing about how we are living in sin.

  • Anonymous

    I propose that we eliminate the solemnization requirement entirely.  Two people should be married as soon as they sign the license at the courthouse.  If they want to have a ceremony afterwards with a friend, priest, minister, ship captain or whoever as master of ceremonies that should be their business but of no legal significance.

    • Kris

      Some states have this. In Colorado, my wife and I were able to solemnize our own wedding. We just had to sign the license/certificate a second time, where the minister would have. We could have done it at the county clerk’s office when we picked it up, but instead we were able to take it home and do it at our leisure on the date we wanted, which wasn’t a week day.

  • 1000 Needles

    My aunt officiated the ceremony for us. We absolutely love her, and she is also an excellent public speaker. We wrote our own ceremony (which used bits and pieces from many types of wedding traditions), but left plenty of room for my aunt to say whatever she pleased.

    I’ve only ever been to one religious wedding. The officiant/priest, who obviously did not know the bride and groom, used the ceremony to yammer about how marriage is between “one man and one woman.”  It was embarrassing and disgraceful to witness.

  • Anonymous

    I recently attended a secular wedding. They got their friend, Jesus (pronounced like the savior), to officiate. It led to some funny moments.

  • http://twitter.com/car_tag Josh Helton

    I’m actually ordained in the ULC. I’ve done 9 weddings so far, mostly friends. I overhear a few comments when various attendees notices the officiant got out of a car with a license plate that says “ATHEIST.” 

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    My husband and I were married by a local Lutheran pastor.  Neither my husband or I are Christian and the pastor knew it, but had no issues with it.  He simply required us to do extra pre-marital counseling with him (and his wife).  There wasn’t a lot of “god” talk and he really worked with us to make the ceremony secular enough for us.  He and his wife both understood that my husband’s family belongs to the church and no one wanted grandma to have a heart attack.  It was bad enough we sprang it on her that hubby was taking my last name. ;) 

    The main reason they wanted us to do more counseling didn’t have to do with religion either, they just wanted to get to know us better so the wedding would go off well.  The same pastor had done my best friend’s wedding, my grandmother’s funeral, and used to visit my grandmother in the hospital during her final months.  I always liked that he was never overly pushy on the god stuff.  He just sat with his parishioners and talked.  It wasn’t all about Jesus and reading the Bible; he and his wife genuinely just wanted to be there for the person.  I respected that greatly, which is why when my husband mentioned possibly having him officiate (to appease his family), I was fine with it.

    My husband and I chose our own vows and even read a modified “secular” prayer that I wrote instead of the usual Lord’s Prayer.  And as a nod to their respect of us, my husband and I chose one of the nicer New Testament verses to throw in the ceremony. 

    I *know* that not all clergy are that awesome. I  got lucky in having a great pastor who could look beyond our difference in belief and see that my husband and I love each other very much.  The most preaching we heard was, “If you guys ever want to check out a service, stop by!  We can always use bright young people in the congregation.”  I could live with that and our wedding was just fine. :)

    Editing to add: I also knew it was going to work out just fine when I told the pastor that I didn’t do well with the whole “obeying” thing. He started laughing and when I looked confused, his wife said, “Oh, honey, if he even tried pulling that line out, he’d be in the doghouse with me!” Turns out she’s pretty damn liberated for a good little Christian woman!

  • Goldarn

    I was married (“sealed for Time and all Eternity”) in a Mormon temple. The elderly gentlemen didn’t know us, had never met any of us before. We had to dress up in ridiculously clothing (that felt very awkward at the time even for me, when I was a true-believing Mormon). The officiator gave us a bunch of advice that I don’t remember, mostly related to the church.
    I would not do that again.

  • Neurolover

    Glad to be participating in this trend soon!

  • Jim

    We had thought about having my uncle – a methodist minister – perform the ceremony, but he was insistant on having some mention of god or jebus in the ceremony. Instead, we had a friend get ordained at one of those internet religions. He is also an atheist. He did another friend’s ceremony recently. The inlaws weren’t very happy about it, but it wan’t until the day after that all hell broke loose. Things have been patched up since, but a few months went by before my wife spoke to her parents again.

  • Kirby Clendenon

    My son was married by my brother-in-law, who first got his Universal Life Church ordination free off of the web, and paid $10 to get it on paper.  He went into the Idaho government offices and registered as a pastor, and married them.  There was a lot of property held by my son and daughter-in-law, so they needed a tight legal marriage.  It as great and so much more meaningful.  I recommend it for everyone.

  • Laura W.

    My parents wanted us to get married in their Methodist church, 300 miles away from where my husband and I met and live and work. We wanted to get married here on our “home” soil, but because that would mean my entire gigantic family would have to travel (his small family lives here), we ended up there — central Indiana. The compromise was to not get married in the church or by their minister, who I couldn’t stand. (The dude was a snake-oil salesman who was eventually run out of town after embezzling $250,000 from the congregation. But I digress.) We got married in my sister’s gorgeous backyard with my parents’ assistant minister as officiant. I had met her before, and knew it would be okay because she was a) an out lesbian, b) aware that we are not Christian but not bothered by it, and c) a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan, as are we.

    I can’t abide Wagner, so my sister played “Claire de Lune” on the piano instead. My other sisters sang “New Hymn” by James Taylor. My brother brought the place to tears with “Grow Old Along with Me” by John Lennon. My parents insisted on having something from the bible read, so she did the “love is patient, love is kind” thing, as well as some Khalil Gibran, Marge Piercy and vows we wrote ourselves. My husband wore a Jerry Garcia tie with matching Chuck Taylor sneakers; I wore a simple party dress and my Birkies. The minister wore a suit and tie, and in place of a cross, a Star Trek communicator pin.

    Our wedding kicked ass.
    Laura

  • Laura W.

    My parents wanted us to get married in their Methodist church, 300 miles away from where my husband and I met and live and work. We wanted to get married here on our “home” soil, but because that would mean my entire gigantic family would have to travel (his small family lives here), we ended up there — central Indiana. The compromise was to not get married in the church or by their minister, who I couldn’t stand. (The dude was a snake-oil salesman who was eventually run out of town after embezzling $250,000 from the congregation. But I digress.) We got married in my sister’s gorgeous backyard with my parents’ assistant minister as officiant. I had met her before, and knew it would be okay because she was a) an out lesbian, b) aware that we are not Christian but not bothered by it, and c) a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan, as are we.

    I can’t abide Wagner, so my sister played “Claire de Lune” on the piano instead. My other sisters sang “New Hymn” by James Taylor. My brother brought the place to tears with “Grow Old Along with Me” by John Lennon. My parents insisted on having something from the bible read, so she did the “love is patient, love is kind” thing, as well as some Khalil Gibran, Marge Piercy and vows we wrote ourselves. My husband wore a Jerry Garcia tie with matching Chuck Taylor sneakers; I wore a simple party dress and my Birkies. The minister wore a suit and tie, and in place of a cross, a Star Trek communicator pin.

    Our wedding kicked ass.
    Laura

  • The Pint

    I’m atheist and the husbeast is Unitarian, so religion was absolutely not going to be featured in our wedding – what was most important to us was that we were married by someone who knew us well. We were married by one of our closest friends who is also a really great public speaker – he got internet ordained and did a fantastic job. He wanted to make sure our families knew he was taking being officiant “seriously” because they were church-goers. He talked at length with both of us about what our idea of marriage and partnership meant to us so that it would be *our* ceremony. He did a fantastic job of making the ceremony about not just celebrating our joining, but about the joining of our community of family and friends through us as well. He even slipped in the Princess Bride “mawidge” bit (since it was majority friends as guests and we’re all a bunch of geeks) which was hilarious. Wouldn’t change a thing about it and since we were paying for the majority of our wedding ourselves, we felt no pressure to give in to any pressure to have a more “traditional” ceremony.

  • Tiffany

    My husband and I just got married a little over three months ago. We had originally planned a church wedding, due to pressure from our families, etc. We’re both atheists, and two weeks before the wedding, we cancelled it. I couldn’t handle the pressure to get married in a church. I didn’t even feel like it was my wedding. And, being under 21 (we’re both 20) and living in MS, we were going to have to go through a crap load of useless paperwork.

    Instead, we pretty much eloped with a few members of my family in tow. We went to a small courthouse in TN where we signed papers and ten minutes later, got married. The JOP, or whatever his title was performed a surprisingly beautiful entirely secular ceremony. 

    At the end he said, “Do you mind if I read something?” I was afraid that it was going to be some sort of Biblical passage. Instead, he read a short traditional Native American passage about marriage.  There was no mention of God throughout the entire ceremony, unlike in MS.

  • Kelly

    I am recently engaged and my fiance and I are planning to have the mutual friend who introduced us officiate the ceremony. When we told her, she immediately went online and got ordained by the Universal Life Church… she is really excited, and so are we. She knows us both so well, and will respect our wishes as far a what is, and is not, said. Also, she represents the beginning of our relationship because she introduced us, and I like that connection carrying over to our marriage.

  • Anonymous

    My wife and I were married this summer, and we attended one of my good friend’s weddings shortly after.

    Neither my wife nor I wanted to get married in a church – I’m an atheist and she’s not at all religious. In Colorado, where we got married, it’s legal for a couple to marry themselves, but we didn’t want to want to write out and plan our own ceremony. We hired an officiant who we found online, and had a short consult. He performed a secular ceremony that was exactly what we were looking for, and we spent the rest of the day celebrating with our family. It was wonderful.

    My friend and his wife got married in a church. Neither of them are particularly religious, but they are not atheists by any means. They had met the chaplain who performed the ceremony ahead of time, but they didn’t know him on a personal level. The ceremony itself left a bitter taste in my mouth though. Every other sentence was “god this” or “jesus that”. There was no emphasis at all on the love between the couple – it was all about how they are united in god. As I said, it left a bitter taste in my mouth – this was their day, not simply a weekly sermon. 

  • Anonymous

    My husband and I met in the church as teenagers and went to that church the entire time we dated (until I finished my BS) but by that time, our old preacher had retired and a new preacher/douchebag had taken over.  My faith was falling apart by the time we finally decided to marry but I thought my doubt would be temporary, the church was a big part of both our families, and my mom really wanted me to have a big wedding .  So I got married in the church but had the retired preacher marry us instead of the current douche.  It was meaningful because the preacher knew us from the time we were children and was more like a kindly grandfather than a religious peddler.  If I had it to do again, I would have eloped and married on a beach but that is mostly because I did not enjoy the social pressure of the wedding and I now know my crisis of faith was more than just temporary doubts.

  • George Locke

    Without error bars, I’m dubious that a difference of 2% is significant.   If the number goes up again in another 2 years, I’d be happier, but this post reminds me a bit of sports commentators http://xkcd.com/904/

  • Randompawses

    We got married in a RC ceremony to keep the MIL happy.  :(  If I had it to do again, I’d tell her to go f*** herself!  I hated that my love had to sign a contract to have the kids baptized, be raised in the church, etc., when we both knew it wasn’t going to happen.  Lots of last minute panic and changes because of a bullheaded priest and a MIL who wanted to run things.  *I* wanted to just elope and have a JoP do it…..

    • Randompawses

      Forgot to add I was the bride…..

  • Justin Barlow

    I’m not married, but last year I did officiate a wedding for a couple friends of mine. I got ordained online through the Universal Life Church, mostly because I thought it’d be funny to be able to honestly say that I was an atheist and a minister.

    Hadn’t planned on doing anything with my ordained status, but ten days before a wedding that I’d RSVP’d “no” to (because it was too far away), the bride calls me and tells me that the minister – another friend – had to back out, and asked if I could do it if she can work out a way for me to get there.

    The ceremony was non-religious, with no references to any deities, just things about rings being a tradition of unbreakable love, and things like that. I DID borrow my hotel room’s Bible to hide the fact that  I didn’t have time to memorize the ceremony she wanted, though.

  • Greisha

    We have this wonderful option in CA and my daughter recruited her best friend from high school and college to do it two years ago.  We were not surprised since she was godless from the start.

    Everything went very nice and groom’s family did not have any problem either.  For the full disclosure I should add that both families look traditional enough – respective mothers and fathers are happily married to each other for a long time.

  • Mellissa Sandoval

    We were married by an Elvis impersonator.  

  • http://twitter.com/lowlitmemory Ayesha Jeary

    We live in England and decided to get married in a register office. We’d only met our registrar once before the day, but I kinda liked it that someone we didn’t know was marrying us; it made it feel ‘official’ in a way. Not that we had any other option of course :)


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