New year, new article! Today I would like to talk about a topic that is very close to my heart. Increasingly so.
Among the couples who write to me and whom I meet, many turn to a secular ceremony for one of the following reasons: they are non-believers, they don’t consider themselves as being very religious or they want to be united outside of a church.
So far, it’s only natural that they should pick another option to get married, right? Yes, but… I would like to dig deeper into this question because the answer is not as straightforward as it seems.
A secular wedding, a mere alternative to a religious wedding? Not so sure… (and this is also true for secular baptisms).
A deep journey
A secular ceremony is not and should be just a plan B to a religious ceremony. This type of ceremony, to be perfectly constructed, requires significative and in-depth planning. As we focus on the couple, their story, their values, what makes them unique: there’s no miracle, it requires time, thoughts and a healthy dose of imagination from everyone involved. To produce something as close as possible as to what the commitment means to the newlyweds.
A good officiant will know how to draw that out, by helping the couple’s journey towards the answers to some of the most fundamental and intimate questions. And the officiant will draw her or his creative cards to fulfill the newlyweds’ desires and wishes.
A secular ceremony is much more than an alternative to a religious ceremony. It emphasizes a double question that is essential and yet not always raised: “Why do I want to get married, to you?”
The place of spirituality in a secular ceremony
« I don’t believe. » Here is an interesting wording. I notice we often associate the church with the notion of being a believer or not. But you can believe in many things: The Universe, a philosophy, Nature, and of course Love. Elements that guide and give a rhythm to our way of living, without necessarily being associated with God. Or you can consider them your own God.
This is why, in my opinion, a secular ceremony is not necessarily an antagonism to a more traditional ceremony. Based on specific beliefs or not, the secular ceremony resembles a quest for meaning and a need to ritualize this moment in one’s life. An ancestral need that does not disappear and seems to even strengthen in today’s society.
A freedom without limits (or close to)
Where a secular ceremony rises above being a mere alternative to a religious ceremony is also and mostly because of the freedom it provides. On the choice of venue, of participants, of music, of symbols: everything is possible according to one’s wishes and values. And everything is harmoniously tied together to focus on the place given to love.
I’ve actually already officiated for religious couples, or when one of the partners had a special relationship with God. They wanted a completely personalized ceremony for the biggest day of their lives, which was not possible at the church. As I explained here, secular does not mean atheist. Everyone will find ways to refer to their personal beliefs, with the officiant’s opening.
I hope I’ve managed to share my feelings with this article and that the points I’ve mentioned will help newlyweds-to-be make an informed decision. Let me suggest you one thing: why don’t you simply start by imagining in a few words, a few thoughts, the ceremony of your dreams? You’ll find many ideas on this blog.