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.

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

  1. “It seems like a lot of Offbeat Brides take the “party where we happen to get married” route when planning their wedding.”

    I think while this is true in some cases, I think a lot of OB’s also place a lot of meaning on the ceremony but realise that not everyone who attends their wedding will, which is why some emphasis is placed on the party… I know for us, one of our biggest concerns was making sure our friends and family enjoyed themselves, but at the same time, many, MANY hours were spent poring over ceremonies from other cultures, and completely re-writing everything we could so that it suited us. Saying that, it wasn’t something I put too much emphasis on in my OB profile, not to negate the effort, nor the meaning behind it, but simply because that meaning is really only there for my hubby and I… and to most other people or at least my friends, while they can appreciate a nice ceremony vs. a “preachy” one when they’re not religious etc, it’s still just words to them because it’s so deeply personal to us…

    …if all that even makes sense…. ๐Ÿ˜

  2. Very well said, love this post!! My husband and I took the same route, and our ceremony was very well received–not a dry eye in the room. We made sure everything about it meant something important to us, and as it turned out, nobody got bored! Woo hoo! All that while both of us being agnostic (though me more than him) and going without many of the “traditional” wedding elements.

    As a side note, while I would talk about all this, my ex-friend (who’d been my maid-of-honor) would regularly chastise me about doing exactly what was said in this post. When I told her I wasn’t doing bouquet toss/flower girl/etc, she told me, “It doesn’t sound like you’re having a wedding, it sounds like you’re just having a big party.” Then, when I told her how the ceremony was the most important part for me, she told me that the reception is the most important, and nobody likes sitting through a ceremony.

    Point is, haters gonna hate, so focus on the important stuff–love, commitment, and the joy of the moment. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. As for me, the ceremony is absolutely the most important part – that’s all planned out – but I keep waffling about what kind of reception to have. I can’t decide between the backyard BBQ with no frills, the dinner out and after-party at a club, or the full-on catered dinner/DJ/dancing bash. They all sound like fun, and I guess the budget will help decide, but clearly the party isn’t the focus for me! ๐Ÿ™‚

    (To clarify – I’m not engaged yet, so these ideas are all only in my head right now. OF COURSE the future husband will have his say, too!)

  4. I haven’t commented on OBB for a long time, as I have been married awhile, but what a fantastic post! For me a wedding is all about the ceremony, and I often feel people neglect to focus on that part of it.

  5. Same here – have been married for a while but felt exactly the same way a few years back, the ceremony was definitely the main event of the day for me and we spent a lot of time getting the officiant, guests’ involvement and wording just right. Best wishes to you!

  6. THANK YOU! I felt the exact same way. While planning my wedding it drove me crazy that almost everything online for wedding planning was about the party. I had no idea how to throw a huge party, so that was useful, but I really wanted to know how to craft a meaningful rite of passage. For us too, the ceremony was absolutely the point. Dinner and dancing was just what happened afterwards. For my husband and me, this was our chance to create the perfect embodiment of our love in one ceremony, and share it with our community. And for the rest of my life, the ceremony will be this amazing and special thing, and the high point of the day. The party was nice too. Best of luck with yours! I found the ceremony advice section of this site really useful.

  7. This is wonderful! I definitely agree on the vows being the most important part, as well as what you said about the government. To me, the important part of marriage is nothing to do with either religion or government. It’s symbolic.
    My fiance and I are also atheists and would feel uncomfortable having a pastor officiate. At the same time, I would feel uncomfortable picking out just any person who happens to be ordained to do it. After all, you only invite people to your wedding who you feel really deserve to be there. You wouldn’t invite a stranger, would you? I think I’d prefer someone who we can feel some sort of connection to, even if it isn’t someone we’re already friends with. I just don’t really have a clue how to find that someone…

  8. So true– Call me an extremist but outside of just eloping, my S.O. and I have considered the posibility of just holding the ceremony and… thats it. No reception, no cake, no dancing, nada.

    • I’ve thought about this, too! If you decide to do so, would love to see a wedding profile saying how it went.

    • I dearly hope you’ll reconsider. Not trying to start drama, but the reception is the thank you to your guests for traveling, taking off work, bringing a gift, and/or just in general going out of their way to support you on your day.

      It would be impolite not to receive your guests in some way… even if it’s just cake and punch or something else low key that you host for them.

    • I sang at a wedding that was very “no-frills” – there were about 35 people in a lovely room that was both ceremony and reception space. There was a pianist for “before” music and my song (which came after the vows), but for the reception there was no music, only cake, coffee, punch, and the conversation of the guests. After about an hour, the immediate family went back to the house to open gifts and continue the conversation. That was it. Very low-key and lovely, and probably the next best thing to eloping ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I think food and beverage can be very symbolic, and I think that’s a reason to have a little something sweet as a shared eat after the ceremony. I guess for me sharing fire, wine and bread is so symbolic of making a community, of thanks and welcome, of hospitality, of celebration of bounty, of nourishment… Just some thoughts on this topic. In the end, I hope you will find a solution that is true to you and your partner ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I LOVE this! It has nothing to do with belief (as far as I am concerned). I am getting married in 10 days! I am with you in the fact that I choose HIM and I would do it again and again! Seal this with a kiss, and a ring and happiness that will radiate through our hearts forever. I do not want the party, I want my groom! I only will have a small handful of people there, and then when it is over, it will be US, married!!! I am loving it! Thank you!

  10. I love this article. Even though I am christian and want a religion based wedding and marriage, I do agree with making it special. I just really want everyone to know how much we love each other and how important the actual wedding is. My fiance is very traditional, but I want a more modern ceremony, so I’m finding ways to “twist” things, and make them our own without losing, the meaning behind the traditions. I do love making everything look good, but that’s just what helps create the atmosphere and gets all the lovey feelings out there.

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