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Bride and Groom on the BeachMany couples elect to include wedding vows and ceremonial traditions based on Christian elements or liturgy from other faiths. However, atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists may find themselves at a loss when planning their own weddings. Fortunately, other newlyweds-to-be have discovered other resources to create their special day. The key is to choose elements that hold significance to you and your sweetie, and to make sure you follow a basic order of service. 

A Celebration of Love

In a 2012 Huffington Post article, writer Anne Naylor suggests that couples consider several ways to infuse the ceremony with their own sense of meaning and to make it a celebration of love. For one, reflecting on your shared values is a great starting point. If you’re both interested in defining married love on your terms and shying away from your parents’ traditions, you might choose music and readings that speak to this idea. Also, it’s wise to think about what an ideal, enjoyable wedding experience looks like to you and your partner. Do you want it to reflect a lighthearted and humorous approach, or perhaps infuse it with a higher purpose or sense of spirituality without relying on religious practices? Start having these discussions with your loved one early on to craft a plan.

Constructing Your Ceremony

Understanding the essentials that make up a wedding ceremony will help you create your own non-religious version. At its basics, your celebration will need music, special readings, an officiant, and vows exchanged by you and your sweetie. None of these things need to be religious in nature, but you should incorporate items that speak to both of you. In the same Huffington Post piece mentioned earlier, wedding planner Lucy Till suggests scheduling a ceremony with enough elements to promote celebration and reflection.

For additional assistance, you might look to a November 2011 Patheos article in which blogger and editor Hemant Mehta describes a secular wedding ceremony from start to finish. The couple featured in the piece provided a transcript of theirs to Mehta, who republished it in full. The order of service began with opening remarks, followed by a welcome and address by their officiant. This was followed by a reading, then by a poem that the couple read to each other. Next, the officiant asked the pair’s parents and guests to participate in a community blessing. Together, the couple lit a unity candle after the blessing. After that, the ceremony included another reading, the vows and an exchange of rings. Finally, the officiant pronounced the couple married, blessed them and introduced them as newlyweds to the congregation.

Finding a Secular Officiant

Depending on where you live, you may have some difficulty finding an officiant willing to preside over a non-religious wedding. Thankfully, it’s not impossible to locate someone to perform the ceremony. In a June 2015 Bustle article, writer Emily Kelley revealed that most current or retired magistrates, judges or justices of the peace can officiate. However, you’ll want to check your state’s laws to be certain. For instance, some states like Ohio also allow mayors to solemnize unions, while Connecticut does not. In many parts of the county, those ordained by the Universal Life Church may officiate if they follow their state’s laws for registration and licensing of clergy. 

According to the Pew Research Center, the numbers of atheists, agnostics and those not professing any religion increased from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent between 2007 and 2014. Unsurprisingly, this will mean more non-religious weddings in the future. If you and your spouse-to-be are among them, remember that it’s possible to craft a unique ceremony from secular elements. All it takes it a little planning and research.

Category: Wedding Planning Ceremonies Marriage

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