This summer, my wife C and I will have been married thirteen years. A number of months ago, at a point when our relationship had gone through a rejuvenation of sorts, we started talking about the idea of renewing our wedding vows when our fifteenth anniversary comes up in a few years. In some ways, our wedding was a bit of a rush event; the time between our engagement and the wedding date was relatively short, only a few months apart, and we ended up having a relatively small ceremony in the Baptist church we attended, with most of the details being largely standard Protestant elements. This time, we’d get to think things out a bit more.
Given my own secular celebrant certification, I immediately thought about the details that we largely didn’t worry about the first time around: what our vows¹ would be, who would officiate the service now that we would do a secular ceremony, where we’d hold it, what kind (if any) of unity ceremony we’d do, and so on.
For the most part, we kept this idea to ourselves, but recently, C mentioned in passing to my mother that we were considering it.
I love my mother dearly, but there’s a reason that we don’t have that close a relationship these days: She utterly lacks any sensitivity about my atheism or the mixed-belief nature of my marriage to C. As such, I don’t bring these things up unless it’s something more than an idea.
But C is naturally a more forthcoming person, and my mother responded predictably.
“I don’t know why you’d even do that,” she said. “If you were renewing your vows in front of God, that would be one thing, but…”
My mother has never quite been able to grasp the idea of certain ceremonies or events without religion (marriage and funerals in particular), but this is a special kind of affront. She’s not just implying that she doesn’t comprehend why we would renew our vows if we’re not making that promise jointly to God — she’s saying that the whole endeavor is meaningless if we’re not doing so.
Never mind that this would be an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to each other, in front of friends and family, and to celebrate the triumph of our love over the many adversities that could have doomed it at any point. If we don’t make it about God, it just doesn’t matter, right?
Tim Minchin asked that question rhetorically about the awe-inspiring nature of the universe, but I think it’s something to remember even outside that specific point. Obviously, my mother isn’t going to find the notion of God superfluous in her concept of marriage, but she demonstrated an inability to conceive of any other perspective where it would be. You would think that C’s own continued theism would make it easier to think of a way to envision a ceremony where the purpose isn’t to have God as a witness but to have all of our loved ones serve that role instead.
And isn’t that enough? Does the love and support of others mean nothing if God doesn’t explicitly get an invitation?
I reject that. It is enough, no matter how much people like my mother try to give religion hegemony even over the little things.
As it happens, this isn’t the first time I’ve had this thought. Over a year ago, I sort of fell into² a lyrical exploration of my personal view of our marriage, as opposed to views like the one my mother has espoused (as well as the standard “soulmate” narrative), in a song that I of course titled “Enough.” Here’s the first verse as a sample:
No one here can fairly say I haven’t served my time
Tried to see the picture just as it appears
I have looked for any clues of some grand design
But it only has eluded me these years
So I think it wasn’t fate that led us to this vow
Like some symphony composed of flesh and bone
But I have evidence enough to prove this here and now
And I think it will stand just fine on its own
It’s my hope to share this song more fully with all of you in the near future. Stay tuned!
Image via Pixabay