Here’s a semi-awkward confession: When I got married, I wasn’t really that concerned with the wedding itself.
Then again, I was 19, and my mind was more concerned with the new life I was starting with my bride, not really with the ceremony.
Nor did I think much about the officiant: My father, who was a Southern Baptist minister for virtually all of my childhood, performed the ceremony, which was a very standard religious ceremony that we hardly discussed. (With one exception: No “obey” in my wife’s vows!) We did a traditional unity candle, a little music, exchanging of rings and vows, and bam! We were off cutting the wedding cake, taking pictures, and then returning to find that our guests had devoured all the cake.
It was a fine wedding for us, one that was modest and heartfelt. It reflected who we were as teenagers, just beginning our incursions into the world.
It’s not the wedding that my wife and I would have today, though.
That wedding was almost 14 years ago, and a great deal has changed in our marriage. For one, almost five years ago, our marriage became a mixed marriage when I deconverted from Christianity.
We weathered the storm of that upheaval in our lives, and ultimately we came out of it even more dedicated to each other and to our life together. In fact, in the past few years, we started having conversations about renewing our vows when our fifteenth anniversary comes around next year.
And of course, one of the very first things we discussed was the clearest alteration that we would make: having a secular ceremony.
Even though I might be a bit biased, I have long been a proponent of secular weddings for mixed-belief couples. Many such couples go into their marriages with the full knowledge of their respective differences in belief, and this is to be commended — finding out later is no picnic! But this is most true for couples who do have some kind of change in belief, whether by deconversion (as with me) or conversion to a different religion (or to a religion at all).
Some mixed-belief couples handle this by having co-officiants, particularly if they are both religious but come from separate traditions. (I have been asked — and have asked other celebrants who do multi-faith services — if secular celebrants ever co-officiate with religious celebrants, but I have yet to hear of this.)
But on the other hand, there’s no confusion about who gets what roles at a secular ceremony. You have a secular celebrant, and religion gets left out. That kind of simplicity can be nice.
Maybe that’s not the right mode of thinking for a renewal of vows, however. After all, people sometimes settle with their first ceremony — the one that often marks their legal union — because being married is what matters to them, not the act of getting married.
A renewal of vows, however, is not about a couple’s legal status. It isn’t a high-pressure affair like many weddings are. It is, quite simply, an opportunity for a couple to gather with their loved ones and reaffirm their love and devotion for each other.
For couples like my wife and I who didn’t really care at all what the content of our ceremony was, as long as we could declare our love for each other in public and begin our lives together, a renewal of vows is a second chance, an opportunity to have the wedding that we want now — not because of tradition or the demands of family but because we want to have this venue of expressing our love.
And I can’t frankly think of any better way to do that than with a secular ceremony that can be customized to make this special opportunity exactly what a couple wants to remind everyone of how deep and profound their love is.
If you’re getting to a milestone where you want to commemorate your love, whether it’s for the first time or all over again, I’d love to help you with a secular ceremony that reflects your values and fits your relationship. Drop me a line — consultations are always free!
Photo via Pixabay
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