Why my wedding WON’T be just a party where we happen to get married

Guest post by Whitter
Katie & Sayre28

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.

Comments on Why my wedding WON’T be just a party where we happen to get married

  1. Love this.

    I love that you are treating your wedding ceremony with solemnity and grace–happy future to you, Whitter!

  2. I’m glad you’ve recognized what is most important to you!

    My wedding was completely atheist/agnostic and my husband and I wrote the entire ceremony ourselves. This mostly consisted of reading several different ceremonies (some traditional, some atheist, some of other religions) for inspiration and then wording it to reflect our own views and feelings. We focused on our family and the fact that we are individuals who have chosen to live our lives together as opposed to “two becoming one.” So, we looked at it as having a big party to celebrate the committment we were making publicly. We didn’t just “happen to get married” because the getting married part was just as important as the party part, but we didn’t make a big production out of either.

    If you’re interested in reading our ceremony, it’s on our website (starts about halfway down):
    http://www.castillo-crews.com/our-wedding/

    • Nikki,
      I want to tell you that I showed my FH your wording for your ceremony and we love it. We are going to use it to help us write our non-secular ceremony. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you for sharing your wedding! You have tons of wonderful ideas, and best wishes to you in your marriage!

    • Nikki, thank you so much for sharing your ceremony. I’ve been struggling with writing my own, and yours will help me tremendously.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your ceremony! We’ve been having a hard time making our ceremony ‘right for us’ and this has helped a lot!

  3. Thanks for voicing this! I feel much the same way about my wedding. My partner is much more a party with a side of wedding person, so it’s been a challenge to balance our perspectives. I think you really clearly articulated why, even with a short ceremony, I can’t help but feel like that’s the main event.

  4. I am not a atheist/agnostic bride, but I couldn’t agree with you more. We are having 18 of our closest friends and family at our wedding…those that we feel will be there to witness our union, not for the party after. Your last paragraph summed up my thoughts and feelings exactly…thank you for sharing!

    • Us too, no more than 10-15 people closest to us, then a dinner, then a turn around the piano bar’s dance floor. I don’t think anyone is really coming for the dinner or dancing!

  5. “It’s true that you can’t help who you love. But marriage is different, it is a choice. I choose my fiance.”
    This should be in your vows! Brilliant!

    • This! but with the addtion of the next sentance also “And I choose to love him, whether it stays easy or at times becomes difficult, for the rest of our lives.”

  6. I love food, booze, and the icing on the cake, but I attend a wedding to see two people I care about wed.
    while I don’t disapprove of the “party where we happen to get married approach” if it’s right for the couple, my reason for accepting the invitation is about the wedding and not the reception.
    personally, I find that offbeat brides tend to put thought into their lives and weddings, which is how they choose to be offbeat.

  7. Thanks for saying this so eloquently. My husband and I are atheist, but our ceremony was SUPER important to us. It did seem like we were doing something different to not just have a really short, secular, now we’re married – let’s party, kind of wedding. We hired an amazing celebrant: Cindy at http://www.meaningfulweddings.com who helped us craft a beautiful ceremony with readings and vows that meant a ton to us. I was a bit worried about the length, but the guests seemed to really appreciate it, and it set a great tone for the rest of our wedding!

  8. Great post, I think you’ve got a great perspective on your wedding.

    I’ve definitely been guilty of throwing around the phrase “just a party”, but I’ve always understood it to imply something different. Like, a normal random party doesn’t require monogrammed napkins and a string quartet, but since it’s a wedding suddenly that’s necessary! I’ve used “just a party” to keep those silly notions in check. I think it refers mainly to the reception and is a mantra against pointless excesses, not necessarily drawing the focus away from the ceremony. (I could be wrong about the common usage of this phrase though, please enlighten me)

  9. My sweetie and I are writing our secular ceremony, which will be officiated by a longtime friend of my mother (who is Jewish, gay, and a legally-credentialed celebrant). He’s done a bunch of weddings, mostly for non-traditional couples, so it surprised me when he mentioned something to the effect of “Well, people will be looking forward to the party, so I think it’s best to keep the ceremony short.”

    I hope that’s not the case! We are inviting 20 immediate family members and close friends to witness this big step in our lives, and there will be cake afterward, and we hope to spend some time with everyone. The party is SO not the point. That was one reason it was so easy for us to decide “no alcohol, no dancing, simple reception with iPod music”: anyone who wouldn’t be up for that in exchange for participation in the ceremony and time with us as a couple wouldn’t be there to support our marriage.

    • With all of the duest respect of course, I for one just don’t feel that way: we don’t see this as a big step in our lives at all – maybe as a chance to flaunt eachother’s awesomeness, at most – and I tell everyone who congratulates us by using words like ‘commitment’ as much: we’re already fully committed to one another and expecting (or will at least try) to live happily ever after anyway, sickness/health/richer/poorer/etc, either WITHOUT or WITH throwing a massive bash, and we simply prefer the latter 🙂
      Just my two cents, to each her own, right?

      • Absolutely to each their own!

        It’s all about what marriage means to you. It’s a big deal to us, and because of that I want the people we love to understand that, but I have friends who will probably never get married, and I in no way think that means they aren’t as committed. It’s just not for them.

        I think people are always going to pressure you into the opposite of what you want. You want a party, and people want you to have some emotional commitment ceremony. I want an emotional commitment ceremony, and people keep telling me that no one cares and I should just skip to the party. This post is just my way of saying no 🙂

      • I certainly think that a relationship can be serious and committed without being a marriage. Plenty of my friends and chosen family don’t have the option to get married, after all. I hope that my fiancee and I will be able to make it legal in October, but if not, we still consider the event to be a big deal. If it weren’t, why would we be doing it at all?

        “we’re already fully committed to one another and expecting (or will at least try) to live happily ever after anyway, sickness/health/richer/poorer/etc, either WITHOUT or WITH throwing a massive bash” — and that’s why we aren’t throwing a massive bash. The important part to us is making our vows in public and asking for support from our nearest and dearest.

  10. THIS !! “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.” AND THIS !!”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.” So perfectly how I feel about the whole thing. I wasn’t going to buy a “wedding dress” but the Intended wanted me to have one, so yes, to the dress. Intended’s mother invited us to elope and then she’d pay for a “big party” for us. We said “NO” to that. Not what we are looking for, thank you very much. Thanks for posting this. I’m glad to know it’s not just me.

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