It seems like a lot of Offbeat Brides take the "party where we happen to get married" route when planning their wedding. I have a lot of friends who did this as well, and I completely understand why. For one, planning a party is fun. Not to mention, you've invited a hundred (or perhaps five hundred) people to watch you get married, but really, you've invited a hundred people to said giant party. You're concerned with feeding and boozing them, and in reality sometimes the caterer details demand more of our attention than personalized vows that can be written the week before. For many of my friends, the ceremony didn't seem to require that much of their attention anyway. They chose a minister, eliminated some key archaic parts, and didn't think about it again until the rehearsal.*
*This is not intended to be a blanket statement to say that religious ceremonies are blind tradition or have no thought or meaning behind them — I definitely do not believe that to be true. I am simply describing the route that my friends took with their ceremonies. They still made me cry tears of joy, they just didn't seem to have to make many choices about them — tradition had done that for them and they, as individuals, were happy to go along.
My fiance and I are atheist/agnostic, so I knew right away that our ceremony would be drastically different from other weddings we had been to in at least one key way. I've been spending some time looking at other atheists' or agnostics' weddings, and it's been amazingly helpful to see what thoughts everyone has on an atheist or civil ceremony. Primarily helpful because it's led me to the conclusion that, while I may imagine myself as many things, a "party where we happen to get married" bride I am not.
In some ways, I may be non-traditional. When it comes to many details of the weddings, such as monogrammed napkins and table linens, I really could not care less. But the more I read and research, and the more I think about what kind of wedding I want to have, the more I realize that while I can play cool, nonchalant, easygoing bride all I want about everything else, I absolutely care 300% or more what happens in our ceremony.
Organized religion, in many ways, just doesn't make sense to me. But I also struggle with the idea of marriage being something controlled by or approved of by our government. What I do understand is the speaking of vows — the promise to love each other, being stated out loud not just for us to hear, but for our loved ones to witness as well. I can't in good faith ask for God to bless our marriage, but I can ask my family and friends to support us and help us along the way. I can ask them to acknowledge our commitment to each other for what it is: a loving bond that we have chosen for ourselves, and a promise that we make to each other.
Our ceremony will certainly not last two hours, but in my eyes, it is still the main event.
I've come to realize that I'm not okay with anything less than pledging my love for my fiance out loud for everyone to hear, and I'm not okay with him doing anything else either. I will admit, in this case it helps that we are hopeless romantics. We are already the type to swoon at words of love and symbolic gestures. But it really is more than just being caught up in the romance. Perhaps it's true that you can't help who you love. But marriage is different, it is a choice. I choose my fiance. And I choose to love him, whether it stays easy or at times becomes difficult, for the rest of our lives. That's a big freaking deal, and I intend to tell the world as much about it as I can. And then I intend to put a ring on it.
So my ceremony won't include the Lord's Prayer, and it won't include a reading from Corinthians. It won't include any classical music, flower girls or a minister. It will certainly not last two hours, but in my eyes, it will still be the main event. Our guests are not being asked to attend a party where we get married. I am asking them to witness our vows, to support my fiance and me in the choice that we are making. I'm asking them to come together as a supportive community, to sit through my tears and sickly sweet readings about love and, quite frankly, to be happy about it.
The food and booze is just the icing on the cake… so to speak.