Post # 1
My fiance and I are atheist and have been for awhile. But I come from a family chock full of pastors and missionaries and others very heavily involved in the Christian community. I have 7 pastors in my extended family, and my Dad is a pastor as well.
And nobody in our family knows that we don’t believe in the Christian god, or any other supernatural diety for that matter.
Mostly we’ve been able to avoid that conversation as far as it pertains to the wedding, and all along we were planning a secular ceremony. But now, with 2 weeks until the wedding, we’re getting VERY specific questions about how long the sermon is going to be, how many prayers, who will be doing the prayer, which hymns will be sung, who will be doing the blessing before the meal, etc.
When I casually mentioned that we wouldn’t be having a sermon, my parents flipped out. Talking about how it’s critical to have god be the basis and core value of our marriage.
I don’t know how to have this conversation with my parents. I don’t think I can break their hearts with the truth, because it’s not something they will recover from. It’s not like choosing a college they don’t like, or being way more politically liberal than they are. This is life and death, heaven and hell stuff for them. There is no compromising on that front.
Do I add in religious elements just to keep the peace? Even if it means betraying my own beliefs? Religion has no part in our lives and it’s not part of who we are. And on this one special day, it seems like adding religious aspects to the ceremony would be compromising ourselves for something we absolutely reject. Thoughts?
Post # 3
i have a feeling i may be in the minority with my opinion… I am so sorry you have to make this hard decision. It most definitely is your day, and ultimately up to you. If I was you, though, I would try to keep the peace. They are your family, they raised you, they love you, they care about you. I would put in some traditional Christian aspects that they want. I know it sucks, cuz it’s not even what you believe, but I believe it would be best for everyone.
just a couple little things here and there, to keep your family sane.
that’s just my two cents, though
Post # 4
My Fiance and I are both atheist too. I come from a moderately religious family, he comes from a combination non-religious (his parents/siblings) and moderately religious family (his extended family). I told my parents about 6 months ago that we are both atheist. They were very upset, but definitely not heartbroken over it, like I suspect your family may be. I know for me having religious elements in the wedding just to keep the peace would make me incredibly uncomfortable and upset because (and this may offend some, sorry) religion is against my core values of science and evidence-based thinking. Anyway, I personally would not do it.
Of course, only you know what you can do. Do you think that if you tell your family that you and your Fi are atheist if they would disown you or not attend your wedding?
Post # 5
Do you think they will make a scene at the cocktail hour or the reception if the ceremony happens and it’s not religious enough for them?
I kind of have the opposite experience. I used to be an atheist and now believe in God but am not religious by any means. My Fiance is Christian but doesn’t go to church unless we’re visiting his parents. My family is half Jewish, 1/4 Christian, and 1/4 Atheist and FI’s family is fairly Christian. We’re having a religious ceremony (very religious as far as my feelings but in actuality probably run-of-the-mill religious) and I”m worried what all my atheist family will think!!
Post # 6
@Ms.GoodEarth: I think they would try everything in their power to “save” us, rather than disown us. Which I can completely understand. If i thought someone I loved was going to suffer eternal damnation, I would try to save them too! Problem is, there is nothing to save us from. But how to reconcile that with people who can’t even concieve of a world in which a god simply does not exist?
I think my parents would be horrified and crushed. And truly, not being sarcastic, I think they would believe we were being pocessed by a demon. My dad has performed exorcisms before. They’re THAT religious.
Post # 7
@LaurenKK: I think people are generally way more understanding of belief, as opposed to non-belief. As an atheist, I’ve attended many many religious weddings from full on mass to ones where God was mentioned more in the vows than the couple referenced each other. And it’s always fine. That’s what the couple believes and people, even if they don’t like it, probably won’t throw a fuss.
My parents, I do believe would be furious after the ceremony if no religious elements were added. They would seriously be like, “What the fuck was that?” Except without the cursing. 😉
Post # 8
I think I would try to keep the peace with them, in order to avoid not only probable wedding day issues but also further related issues in the future. I would try to incorporate the traditions that make me less uncomfortable.
Post # 10
@wildflowerbee: So she should be totally unhappy and have a ceremony that doesn’t reflect her beliefs just to appease her parents? Quick question…if your parents converted to satanism, and demanded that you sacrifice a goat at your wedding…would you do it to, ya know, keep the peace??
@redstarburst: You need to sit down and have an honest conversation with your family. Lay it all on the line, and tell them exactly what is going on and how you feel about it. I have been very honest with both my own family and FI’s family about this topic. We have made it clear that we will not be disrespecting their beliefs as long as our beliefs are not disrespected. We have let them know that a breach in that respect will be handled very seriously. At the end of the day, our families would rather have a relationship with us as atheists than not have a relationship with us at all. It’s all about respect. Life is so beautiful and complex because we all have differences. If they can’t understand that much…I would honestly re-think whether or not their influence is a positive one in your life.
Post # 11
I would never do something on my wedding day that was not true to who Fiance and I are. My Fiance is atheist and I am agnostic and his entire family are Mormon (they are very cool though and wouldnt try to push their beliefs on our day.) We are not having ANYTHING religious in our ceremony and if someone tried to pressure us to then I would find that highly disrespectful. You and your Fiance are grown-ups, I say get some backbone 🙂
Post # 12
@LR2012: to keep with your example… if my family was all satanic, and loved me and raised me that way, etc.. i would try to do what i could to appease them on a day that is truly uniting two families.
on a more realistic note, one of my best friends recently married a man who was raised hindu. his whole family is hindu, and obviously expected him to have a traditional hindu ceremony. She whole-heartidly cooperated with a special ceremony where she dressed in the traditional clothes, wore a bindi (forehead jewel)- the whole nine yards, for her wedding. Because even though thats not what either the bride or groom believed, it is what his family expected, and they are good people and only want the best for the couple.
not saying the OP has to go to that length to appease her family, just saying i think it would be the most gracious thing to do, to show some attempt at keeping her family comfortable, and not making it a day they regret. it doesnt have to be a day the OP regrets, either. there can be some middle ground
ETA: she also had a traditional Christian wedding the same weekend. I loved how it all went together… It really connected the entire, new, huge, strange family 😉
Post # 13
@wildflowerbee: But *because* my family is loving and awesome, they have given us the freedom to have a wedding that makes us happy…one that reflects us and not them. They realize that while a religious ceremony was right for them…they cannot dictate what others (including their own children) believe. We all respect eachother’s differences.
While it is nice to think of the comfort of others when it’s possible…I simply don’t feel that compromising your beliefs at your own wedding is one of those times. Part of being a gracious guest is respecting the wishes of the bride and groom. For example…I think that dollar dances and cash bars are pretty tacky – but I certainly wouldn’t rub that in a couple’s face, or discourage them from doing those things if they felt that they reflected their vision for their wedding.
Post # 14
@LR2012: to each her own 🙂
Post # 15
We’re also atheists, so I understand why you don’t want a religious ceremony. That said…
Have you considered asking your dad, or one of your relatives that’s a pastor, to lead a prayer at the ceremony? Obviously this isn’t important to you, but it is important to your family, and I don’t see anything hypocritical in letting your family ask their supernatural deity to make your union healthy and your loins bountiful or whatever you pray for at weddings, if that’s something that is really important to your families.
Of course, I’m a second generation atheist and don’t have any kind of personal relationship with a religion. I even genuinely thank religious people that pray for me. (Doesn’t matter to who. 🙂 It’s a nice sentiment that they’re wishing good things for you, even if it doesn’t actually do anything. I know some atheists, often those with strongly religious upbringings, can have a really negative relationship with religion, and if that’s the case for you or your Fiance, obviously you should disregard my suggestion.
Also, to PPs: I don’t think the families deserve upbraiding for trying to dictate the wedding ceremony–the OP says that they haven’t told the family they’re atheists, which is part of the problem.
Post # 16
Weddings are about establishing you and your SO as a new family unit. That means that the ceremony should represent your beliefs – not someone else’s! Consider this a first test in boundary setting. Nobody gets to decide your faith but YOU!