I'm in need of a little advice, and I was hoping someone on here may be able to offer up some! I'm getting married next year. My fiance and I are atheists. My family are traditional Roman Catholics and his are Bapistists. We told our families that we are not having a ceremony in a church, but will instead write our own. We promised it would be as loving, classy, and memorable as any ceremony they have been to. His family was disappointed, but accepting. Mine have dug in their heels. On top of being offended and embarassed by me (they suggested I don't go around telling people I'm an atheist) because I was "raised on the 10 commandments", they insisted that atheists are selfish people and refused to acknowledge that I didn't believe in any god(s) by saying "we realize you don't believe in our god, but..." Needless to say, I was a little hurt. I have never had a sit-down, "I am an atheist" conversation with them, but I have told them on several different occasions that religion is just not for me over the past 3 years. I didn't expect them to be offended; maybe disappointed but not so offended! I've always been very respectful and supportive of their beliefs. They're not disowning me or anything, but we've always had a great relationship. Now they seem genuinely upset, appalled, and hurt. They also said that my wedding is not "just about me", and I need to consider that the majority of the people I invite would enjoy a religious ceremony. Has anyone had this problem before? Do you have any advice? I know I need to talk to them about what atheism is, but I'm at a loss for wedding stuff? Should I consider their religion since they are helping to pay for the wedding (although my fiance and I are in a position to pay as well)? Has anyone offended their guests with a no-church wedding? I'm not sure I know how to do this so that I can have the wedding I would like, without having my parents feel embarassed when aunts and uncles say, "It's not at your church?"
Actually, your wedding IS about you ... you and your husband-to-be. Your parents apparently haven't fully recognized that, being an adult, YOU make the choices for your life and, whether they agree with those choices or not, they and you deserve respect. Placating them by introducing some form of religious content which you don't subscribe to compromises your integrity and that of your spouse. It adds nothing and detracts a lot and will be a fly in the ointment of your memories of this event for years to come.
If you have to pick up the tab for the wedding, do so, and while you're at it, remind those who would influence your choices and decisions just whose party this is.
I suffered a "Big Catholic" wedding dilemma myself. Fortunately, we just got married by a judge. Why spend copious amounts of money on people's entertainment for a day that should be you? I think big weddings are outdated. On that note, it's YOUR ceremony, not theirs. Do what you wish, and let them firmly know that it's not their relationship, not their life and not their business unless you choose to make it so. I have found that being an asshole to pushy relatives is a plus. Sometimes they need to realize how frustrating it is. My opinion to my family was to suck it up or get out of my life. I don't need religion and I don't need family that's going to mock me about my lack of belief. Again, just my opinion on the matter. They push, I push back!
I would think that any Roman Catholic priest would refuse to marry atheists and probably most Protestant ministers as well. In fact it might invalidate the ceremony from a religious point of view for you to deceive them that you are believers.
The only exception I can think of are Unitarian ministers and if you are inclined to compromise with your family, you might ask one and see. My youngest son and his wife were married in a Unitarian church even though they are both atheists. They got married on Halloween and everyone was in costume. They wrote their own vows and it was actually quite nice.
Another possible compromise is to have the wedding in a non-religious setting as many people do these days.
I agree though that it is your day and your ceremony. Once it is over no one is going to remember it for very long. I have been to many weddings and for the most part they are one great big bore for everyone involved except for the bride, her mother, and sometimes the groom.
Certainly, if you are the ones paying for the wedding, they should just suck it up. It is about you two as a couple, to share publicly your bond in love and life. That said, I should hope there is something that both families can enjoy along with yourselves that everyone can take away as a wonderful memory. What came to mind, for me, is the thermodynamic miracle mentioned by Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen (yes, I know... NERRRD....). The rarity of you is akin to a miracle. The rarity of you finding someone who fits you as you fit him, and to love each other enough to pledge your lives together, that is quite a rarity! In all the universe, there is only one of you. In all the universe, there is only one of your fiance. And in all of that, you found each other and beat the odds. Okay, I borrowed from McCoy, too... Thing is... what one man names a miracle, another names a rarity. Plan the wedding to celebrate that sweet rare thing you've accomplished and let your families come back with their miracle. No god-thing needed.
Thanks everyone for the advice! Hopefully they'll come around and want to be involved in the wedding.
Loren - good point. Giving in to a religious ceremony would be starting off on the wrong foot, wouldn't it?
Andy - we suggested a tiny wedding at the courthouse with a nice reception to follow. I think their reaction to that was actually worse than the no-church! We were hoping the "write your own" option would be a nice in-between.
Dr. Clark - that's what my fiance and I said about ceremonies too! They are pretty much a bore for everyone, so we thought that writing our own could be pretty short and slightly more interesting than usual.
As most of you pointed out, it is my day, not theirs. I just don't want this to be something that makes our good relationship go sour. After all, there is much more to life than going to church.