Neither my fiancé nor I are at all religious despite our upbringings, though we do share a broad-based spirituality. Our families are much more traditional, and might be offended if our wedding ceremony is entirely secular. Is there a way to honor the belief systems of our parents without being hypocritical?—Pamela G., Vacaville
Our grandparents always told us that the two topics one should never discuss at a dinner party are politics and religion. While it’s easy to sidestep the former by leaving the campaign buttons at home on your wedding day, it’s a lot harder to avoid matters of faith on such a momentous occasion. The trusted officiants we queried all agreed: this is one of the most common questions they’re asked, so you’re not alone, Pamela!
Dr. Kimber Lee Wilkes of Elegant Weddings and Marriage License Service recommends, “Begin by asking yourself and your future husband some key questions: How much do know about your parents belief systems and what they expect of you in your ceremony? How would you feel about including traditions from your parents’ faiths, such as the drinking of wine, lighting a unity candle, or even a simple blessing? Would you be offended if the term ‘God’ or ‘A Higher Power’ were used? Your answers will help guide you and your officiant in creating the wedding that you desire.”
Progressive, non-denominational officiant Robert Ringler of Bel-Air Wedding Ceremonies suggests another point of view: “Perhaps it helps to think of your religious background as part of your heritage. From that perspective, you can include readings or symbols from your parents’ religion without being hypocritical. In this way your wedding ceremony can be ‘sprinkled’ with words or rituals that have meaning for your parents, while focusing the bulk of your ceremony on what is important to both of you.”
Terry Plank, a seminary grad and licensed therapist, runs Weddings by the Sea; he offers further insight: “Most religions include a core spiritual teaching that can complement any ceremony without reflecting a strong religious perspective. Examples include reading passages such as ‘…Love is patient, love is kind…’ from I Corinthians 13 in the Christian Bible, or a selection from the Amhil Kabran of the Arabic heritage; or the Hindu custom of Pratigna-Karan where the bride leads the groom around a fire while both make solemn vows of steadfast love to each other. These acknowledge your families’ historic backgrounds while honoring your current spiritual life. Your parents might also appreciate a simple prayer that’s not specific to a particular religion or expression of God. The exact words can be worked out with you, your fiance and the officiant.”
See, it’s not so hard to make everybody happy!