This weekend I attended my friend Oliver’s beautiful wedding in mid-state New York. At the end of a ceremony that left most of us in tears (the bride cried as she read her vows to provide him shelter in her heart), my boyfriend turned to me, glowing. “That was amazing,” he said. “That was the first completely secular wedding ceremony I’ve ever seen!” I had noticed too. Instead of asking for God as a witness, the Justice of the Peace officiant called on humanity and nature. Later, when I asked the groom about it, he said, “Yeah, we managed to scrub out all those words like God and blessings and sacred.”
It’s at these times when I feel sort of left out not being agnostic or atheist. Their ceremony was lovely and perfect and moving. I just wish I could join my boyfriend’s enthusiasm. I wish I could join 99 percent of my friends in their belief that we’re all there is. I’m not sure how this happened, really, how I ended up in such a secular pocket when so much of the country believes in God (96 percent, right?). Maybe it’s partly because I was raised in the United States of New York City, or because I have a master’s degree (the higher the degree, the less likely a belief in God), or because if I was surrounded by people thumping bibles and using the G-word at every turn, I might have to run screaming. But still. Maybe the real question is how I ended up believing in a greater presence at all.
But there are, apparently, many options for those seeking secular unions. Here’s a column on what to do if you and yours have divergent ideas of the perfect wedding, and another on atheists and weddings in general. Humanist and other secular ministers abound, plus there’s this guide on creating an ideal atheist wedding ceremony.
How do you feel about secular weddings? Was yours?
–by Valerie Reiss (Amy’s on vacation)