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. I think this is my favourite post that I have read on here! It brought tears to my eyes. I love how you said that you can’t help who you love but marriage is a choice, that is what the ceremony should represent and being a bride also having a non-religous wedding it is something I want the focus to be on. Thank you for this!

  2. I cannot tell you how awesome the phrase “a ceremony where there happens to be cake” is. I think I’m going to spend the next six months describing my wedding that way. Thank you!

  3. I don’t feel like we put more emphasis on one or the other when planning our marriage. I looked at the reception as a continuation of our ceremony, to be honest.

    The ceremony is where we got up and said our vows in front of the most important people in our lives; vows that we had already been enacting long before we decided to get married. But even so, in general guests just sit there and watch you, because a ceremony with guests is like letting others in on a private moment between you two. They may be moved or touched, but it doesn’t offer them much of a way to share in your joy during that moment. That’s what the reception is for, as well to give your appreciation for the blessing that you have ___ people that care about you and are willing to stand by you. And isn’t that the reason you invited guests to begin with- to share in your joy?

    I think if the ceremony is the most important to you and you have no opinion either way on the reception, by all means go for it! But that doesn’t mean everyone else is taking the “party where we happen to get married” approach. Just my two cents.

    Kudos to you and your FI, though! I’m sure it will be beautiful!

    • Actually, Jamie, your ceremony can be interactive…guests don’t need to simply sit there. It really depends upon what you want. Guests, I find (as a professional celebrant), really appreciate being involved in the ceremony, in helping marry you. It’s very powerful.

  4. Noting that neither religion nor government really holds the truth to what marriage to your SO means super captures my fiance and my feelings on the manner. What an awesome post to read!

  5. My fiance and I are very religious, and I absolutely understand and respect what you’re saying here. I remember John Lennon (not a religious guy) being asked why he was gonna bother marrying his gf, and he said, “A wedding is a ritual, and rituals are important.” I believe in a sacramental union, but even still, I believe something happens at a wedding whether you’re religious or not, and it’s more than just the boring part before you get to the booze and cake. So I applaud your decision and pray that you and your fiance will have a lovely wedding and a lovelier marriage.

    • I love this John Lennon quote. I am definitely going to be storing this away in my memory. Thank you 🙂

  6. I love this post! It speaks so much to how myself and my fiance feel about everything!

    When we started to think about having a wedding, and I got online to look around, I was interested to find that weddings nowadays were so focused on the reception. While we are both atheists we knew the ceremony was more important to us because we are admittedly romantics when it comes to love, our love, so we’re more excited about being able to commit to each other forever than the ‘party’ reception afterwards. That is also because we are straight-edge, so we knew we would not be having any type of alcohol at our wedding which would disappoint pretty much everybody we knew.

    The more we thought about it, the more we knew a traditional wedding was not going to be for us. As you said, you can’t choose who you love but marriage is a choice, and we want to celebrate our choice. So we decided we are going to elope; having a small ceremony with just us, an officiant, and a photographer. Our marriage is about us; not the government, not the religion, not the party, not the gifts, not the flowers, not the centerpieces, not the anything else but our love and commitment to each other.

  7. Awesome! So beautifully and thoughtfully written! And exactly why I am now a full-time officiant, for couples just like you. Hearing you say all these things makes my heart sing – thank you! I came to see myself as being “the voice” for those who don’t traditionally have a voice – they don’t have their childhood pastor or rabbi or other clergy to whom they connect, and hiring one would feel fake to them and their relationship. Those are my couples – the ones who want something fun, personal, meaningful, and non-religious. I’m not anti-religion, and have including bits or pieces for couples who needed to satisfy Mom or Grandma, usually, but that’s never my focus, and *I* don’t need any of it. The ceremony, in my mind, should be able celebrating the commitment, the relationship, why this is the person for you, in front of those who matter most to you, and to therefore help everyone there understand who you are together and how they can be your cheerleaders and supporters for the rest of your lives together.

    Enjoy your ceremony – and the fun party that comes along afterward. 🙂

  8. I loved reading this and I feel the same way – and I know my future husband does too. There have been so many times when he has said he would rather spend more money on the ceremony than the reception. This is slightly impractical – feeding 50 people is going to cost more money but I love the sentiment and it means so much that he care so much about our wedding.

  9. I just wanted to comment with a “squee” because I made that dress and it’s awesome to see it up here. =D

  10. Thank you for such a great post! I totally resonated with your post–and it was so cool to see someone non-religious (opposite of me and my FI)express the same feelings/attitudes about the ceremony being central to it all (if not for our believing that the public saying of vows in front of as much of our community as possible is vital, we’d have already eloped). And we’re also going to be involving the guests as much as possible in the ceremony because we see marriage as not just uniting two people, but uniting two families as well.

    Thanks, again.–Beautifully said!

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