Godless Mom Married In A Church?

Godless Mom Married In A Church? April 26, 2019

I’m not married. Most of you know that already. My “husband” and I have been living in common law sin for over a decade now. Marriage has never been a big deal to us. Though we do intend on tying the knot at some point just to make sure all our legal ducks are in a row, for now, we’re just godless fornicators raising lovely bastards.

Though neither of us sees much sense in overspending for one night of catered food, awkward conversations and white people shimmies like the Macarena, we have discussed where and how we would finally get hitched on a few occasions.

Often, we settle on just saying our vows lakeside with a justice of the peace and then retiring with close family and friends to an Airbnb on the water for BBQ and craft beer and some local wine. The idea of spending any more than say, $1000 on the whole thing is just beyond our comprehension. We used what might have been our wedding money to live in the Caribbean for two years instead. You served amuse bouches to distant relatives you haven’t seen since that night. I went scuba diving with eels. You bought a dress and I rented a poolside condo and hired a maid and a full-time nanny. You got a makeup artist, I got a tan. You came away with a husband, debt and a hangover. I came away con mal español, dueda, y un hijo mexicano. No one can say who spent their money more wisely, it all depends on taste and priorities. I was certainly stupid with my money, but I do not regret my choice, that’s for sure. To some, a wedding is everything and I am certainly not judging, especially considering just how much money I spent on tacos, arrachera and Victoria beer (sin limón, por favor).

Even if money were no object, though, John and I would likely do the same thing. Lakeside vows, small party on the lake, etc. The only change we might make is that we’d hire Chef David Chang to cook ramen for everyone, but that is pure umami fantasy at the moment.

We’ve never really considered marrying in a church, though. Being as neither of us is religious, the topic just never really came up.

The other day I got an email from a reader and she asked,

My fiance wants to get married in a church. He’s not religious, he just feels a close connection to the tradition, he says. It seems to be very important to him. I am an atheist, too, and I really don’t like the idea. What should I do?

I used to think there was someone perfect for me, that they would just neatly fit into this person-shaped space I was saving, and he would have all the right habits and all the right opinions and all the right songs on his most-played playlist. I thought that if we disagreed on something that mattered to me, like the death penalty or religion, that there’s no way we could make it work. I thought if he had hobbies I felt were a waste of time, it wasn’t the right fit.

Then I met John. He wasn’t my type at all. He wasn’t much of a reader, didn’t like Zelda or Modest Mouse or activism. He was a hockey fan, which, at the time, was a no-go for me because of the hours upon hours a week of time-investment I couldn’t fathom. He didn’t like playing Trivial Pursuit and his favourite documentaries were about rock stars and not wrongful convictions. He didn’t pay much attention to the injustices going on around our world, had never read 1984 or Catcher in The Rye and he only sorta kinda liked the Deftones. I dated him for a while, and we got along great, but I thought I couldn’t be with him because he wasn’t much like me at all.

The thing is though, we got along so well that even though we broke up, we still hung out. A lot. We ended up moving in together with another friend as roommates and it wasn’t long before I considered John my best friend. Of course, on nights we’d had one too many, “best friends” led to other things and when it came time for me to move to Mexico, I couldn’t imagine life without him. When I finally moved, I’d call him every night and we would talk for hours about how cool it would be for him to move to Mexico, too. He was very seriously considering it, when one day, I realized something wasn’t right. I took a pregnancy test. I was carrying his little dude.

That’s when John, who had never been beyond the borders of Canada or the US before, sold everything he owned and came to be with me in Mexico for our son. It was rocky because we had to adjust to so many rapid changes in our lives, and after two years in the Mayan Riviera, John told me he had to move back to Canada for several personal reasons. He was not going to budge on it.

It had nothing to do with the fact that we had a son and everything to do with the fact that I could not imagine my life without my best friend and so I agreed to move back with him. This huge compromise (I loved living in Mexico) was the first of many because I learned right then, that no relationship will ever work without huge, uncomfortable compromises coming from both sides.

Though we had an unstable beginning, John and I have found a rhythm based entirely on give and take, not sweating the small stuff and supporting each other when it truly matters.

So, if John told me tonight that he wanted to get married in a church and that it really mattered to him, I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes.

You see, to me, a church is just like any other building. There is no actual power being held there. It’s not as though setting foot inside will turn you into a religious zealot. Nothing is going to happen to you or your husband if you seal the deal at an altar. Your life will go on just as it had before, the only difference is that now you’re a Mrs. and he’s your next of kin in the eyes of the law. You have not invited god or religion into your relationship, because god is not real. You are not going to be struck down with a bolt of lightning as you cross that threshold because none of it is true. It’s just a brick and mortar building like a school, a house or a banquet hall.

Of course, there is the question of giving money to an institution I don’t want to support, but let’s be real, I do that every day already when I put gas in my truck or I buy anything wrapped in non-biodegradable packaging or I upgrade to a new smartphone that uses cobalt mined with child labour. If I’m willing to compromise my concern for climate change so I can get from A to B faster; if I’m willing to compromise my strong belief in getting to zero waste for a Cadbury Creme Egg; if I’m willing to compromise my opposition to child labour so I can use Instagram and Uber; if I’m willing to compromise, on a regular basis, all of those positions for non-essential things, what does it say about me if I’m not willing to compromise my antitheism for one day to make my best friend and the love of my life happy?

What that says about me is that I either haven’t really thought it through or making a statement about how much I loathe religion is more important to me than my relationship. Which doesn’t really bode well for that relationship, does it?

There are so many reasons why getting married in a church could matter even to an atheist like John. He could want to get married in a church because that’s what his mother wanted, who is no longer with us and whom he loved with all his heart. He could want to get married in a church because it’s a family tradition and it means something to him. Hypothetically speaking, he could want to get married in a church because his family is religious (they’re not) and will give him a hard time if he doesn’t and he’d rather just do it that deal with the fallout. There are so many possible reasons why it might matter to someone who respects you and your lack of belief, reasons that could be entirely rational. Having that matter to them doesn’t mean they don’t get you. It doesn’t mean they’re the wrong person for you. It doesn’t mean they’re disrespecting you. It just means you might need to consider stepping outside of your comfort zone for someone who matters to you a great deal.

So, if you haven’t pieced it together already, I’d say go for it. As long as your fiance isn’t trying to convert you, you don’t have to join the church or fake belief to do it, and the church you’ve chosen isn’t triggering because of any past traumas, I say do it. Churches can be quite beautiful and that smile on your husband’s face is going to make it even more so. You’re going to be starting out your relationship in a selfless way, and if you ask me, that is a recipe for marriage success.

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Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay

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  • This may sound odd, because I am an unabashed antitheist, but I could be a “cultural Christian” easily. While I find the Bible abhorrent (as anything other than literature), I cannot deny its impact on “western” civilization, and I can love it for the good parts, or even simply because it is my cultural heritage.

    So, whenever I marry my amazing life partner Katrina, it’ll probably be in a church. The ritual aspect is part of the fun, IMO.

  • KarenOfRocks

    My dear husband grew up in the evangelical protestant tradition, while I was raised Catholic. We married right after he graduated from college, half a year before I did the same. Both of us were questioning our respective Christianities, and seriously talked about having a judge perform our wedding, until my mother threw a fit and declared that if we didn’t have a Catholic wedding, she wouldn’t consider us married. Not yet mature enough to call her bluff, I reluctantly agreed. My groom wasn’t delighted, but he willingly went to the mandatory pre-marriage counseling sessions with my local priest. We had a very small morning wedding in the Catholic student chapel, and to my mind our marriage was actually blessed by the neighborhood cat who wandered in though the open sanctuary doors while we were at the altar.

    That was in June of 1980, so we’ll celebrate our 39th anniversary fairly soon. But the wedding and the anniversaries don’t matter, really, it’s about our lives together. Still, I appreciate that my husband took on a wedding in a church he disliked to salvage family harmony so long ago.

  • When the wife I married in 1976 we decided to go the Justice of the Peace route. When our 25th anniversary came up in 2001 she said she’d like to repeat our vows in a more traditional setting. We finally agreed that there would be a minister but the place was the hall where the Boy Scouts had their meetings.

    So we did it and had an entire Boy Scout troop as witnesses.

  • CH1: So, if John told me tonight that he wanted to get married in a church and that it really mattered to him, I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes.

    GW1: Sure, why not? That would fit quite well with the Christian idea that women should submit to their men. God, after all, was a man, so female submission is God’s way. (Of course I’m being sarcastic here. I think it would be a terrible idea for two atheists to get married in a church, even if one or both wanted to do it.)

  • I do object to self defining yourself (unless that was tongue-in-cheek) as “living in common law sin”. These days, it hardly matters, anyway. Nor does it matter, except to you, if you want to get married in church. The good news is, you get to choose the church, AND the minister.

  • Rennyrij

    I wonder how many couples were married in a church (or temple or synagogue, etc.) because “Mommy would throw a fit” if they didn’t? Mommies (and Daddies) can be a real pain, sometimes, and very self-righteous in their demands for going along with tradition. They are so hung up on the fear of what their friends & relatives will say, that they’ll risk the love and trust from their kids for the approval of others. That said, a goodly percentage of young women still want the glamour of the white or pastel gown. A couple I know were married in a firehouse by a magistrate. The groom and his men wore plaid shirts and tan vests, and the brides’ maids wore same-color blouses, over blue jeans. Everybody wore bluejeans. The wedding vows were their own. The music was “home-spun with cowboy boots”. It was lovely! The necessary information is in the county record books, no need for a church’s records.

  • Matt Brooker (Syncretocrat)

    This reminds me of my friends Mike and Marie who were both atheists but he was culturally protestant (from a Highland Scottish family) and she was culturally Catholic (and her mother wasn’t going to give ground on seeing her daughter married by a Catholic priest). Luckily they remembered that as alumni of Aberdeen University, they were eligible to be married in the university chapel by the university chaplain – who is also the Bishop of Aberdeen, and the university chapel is the 2nd largest granite-built building in Europe. When phrased as, “we’ll be getting married by a bishop in a cathedral” snobbery trumped doctrine and everything went ahead without objections from either side…

  • Jim Jones

    Go to Vegas. Let ‘Elvis’ do it. Cheap AND memorable!