April 25, 2019

Do you want a wedding that is spiritual or non-spiritual?

Do you want your wedding service to be religious or non-religious?

These terms are confusing for brides and grooms, for officiants, and planners, too.

Central Ceremonies officiants have personal conversations every week of the year with couples who are struggling to create a ceremony that is inclusive of their families of origin, while at the same time honoring their own personal, and spiritual or religious lifestyles. It is not an easy or simple task in most cases, and so we take those conversations with our couples seriously. The conversations continue—he is a Roman Catholic and she was raised Southern Baptist; she is Jewish and he is from a family that never attended or belonged to a church; they are both living in Austin and were educated in the United States but their families of origin are from India and still living there, she a Muslim and he a Hindu. Clearly there is careful planning to be done, and hopefully the person you choose to conduct your service is sensitive to your own unique situation.

The following are a few comments about the complexities of honoring tradition and religious upbringing or lack thereof while at the same time creating a wedding that appropriately mirrors a couple’s ethics, hopes, values, sense of family unity and, most importantly, their love.

First, spiritual weddings are not necessarily religious. Wonderfully expressive language and high ideals can be used in a ceremony without the use of typically religious jargon. For example couples can select prayers that are gender inclusive and interfaith (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Native American, etc.). In addition to prayers a wide variety of secular and sacred readings or poetry can be selected as a part of your ceremony.

Second, religious weddings do not have to be filled with heavy or dogmatic language that excludes people or uses the wedding to be preachy or judgmental. A wide variety of Biblical verses and historical “church-language” can be used in ways that honor a couple’s family-of-origin expectations without giving up on more contemporary, post-modern ways of believing or thinking.

Third, Central Ceremonies officiants are willing to work with you to find common ground, adding elements such as the unity candle, wine ritual, jumping the broom, remembrances of loved ones not able to attend or who have died, and participation by friends who read poetry, play music, offer solos. Rather than belittling, or giving one religion power over another we feel this kind of dynamic interplay of religious values creates a memory and an opportunity for your wedding to emphasize unity within the diversity of your personal histories.

Seriously considering your personal differences, and ours, is an honest and honorable opportunity for us to work together to create something our world sorely needs; families, and thus communities, built on mutual respect, trust and love, and not divided or alienated by or for the sake of religion.

Our goals are not about imposition of our own religious traditions on you at this special time in your lives but rather to use our time together to explore all the wild possibilities presented by our diversities.

Have I raised questions yet unanswered for you? Let’s chat.


Rev. Sam Riccobene