My husband’s family is very, very religious; fundamentally so. His dad was performing the ceremony. We didn’t want a religious ceremony. So what were we to do?Jon’s dad is an ordained minister. He travels the world on a mission to spread Christianity. He puts himself in harm’s way regularly to do so; touring the Middle East, sending rescue teams to disaster sites and so on. He doesn’t just go to church; he walks the walk of an evangelical, spreading the word and helping those in need. When I say there are religious differences between his parents and us, these things need to be noted to stress that the very foundations on which we live our lives are motivated by completely different forces. If given his way, the entire ceremony would have most likely been read directly from the Bible. Given our way, there would be no mention of any God. I think this is a problem that many couples face, whether it be religious differences among their families or among themselves and there are few times it will become more apparent than when a wedding is imminent.
As many children of strict religious upbringings are, Jon is an unapologetic atheist. I have a more moderate take on the whole thing, embracing some ideas of spirituality and God while being vehemently against any attempts to legislate my life or my body based on religion. Obviously, the religious issue is a big one between Jon and his parents, and we were prepared to stand our ground when it came to the ceremony. My position was one of respecting the opposing view but being firm about our wishes. Unfortunately, Jon had a talk with them before I could state my case, and by talk, I mean raucous argument in which God may have been compared to both Santa and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Not the best starting off point, but important to note because it shows that fights can go down and it can all still work out in the end. However, the argument led to a standstill in talks that stretched out for a few months. Neither side wanted to engage in another round of heated debate on the issue, and neither side wanted to hurt the other. I would suggest avoiding this course of action because it led to us worrying our ceremony would be soaked in Jesus juice and Jon’s parents potentially thinking we were going to engage them in some naked, orgy-based bacchanal.
I need to point out that I adore my in-laws. They are loving, kind and wonderful people. We try to avoid topics that would shine a light on our vast differences religiously and politically. We all know that we have such polar opposite beliefs that we aren’t going to change each others’ minds, so we just let it be.
The most important wisdom I can impart when it comes to such a contentious issue is to choose your battles. Jon and I discussed what was most important to us and what we wouldn’t mind. This is a limit that each person must decide for themselves. Really take the time to think it through. I often find that if I am willing to give a little on my end, the person on the other side will be willing to give as well. We realized that, while it was our wedding and we wanted it to be our way, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world if a bible verse or two got thrown in, as long as it wasn’t about me obeying anyone and as long as it wasn’t 1st Corinthians. I don’t know why, but I just can’t take that verse. Too wedding cliche, too trite, and honestly, it’s just not accurate. Love does a lot of things that verse says it doesn’t. We hit a snag along the way regarding the verse, actually, wherein my father-in-law secretly tried to enlist my little brother to sing it during the ceremony to “surprise us.” Luckily, my brother knows me well enough to know there would have been hell to pay had he partaken in that, so he tattled and we shut it down. Besides, it was my brother’s job to play the Buffy and Angel Love Theme while I walked down the aisle, not sing bible verses.
In the end, we wrote out a script for the main parts and set a 10 minute time limit for the ceremony. To limit too much ad lib time, we included two very short readings which two of my other brothers and Jon’s brother read (Jon’s brother, also very conservative and religious, may have read a excerpt from the Massachusetts court case legalizing gay marriage without his knowledge. C’mon, we have to get them in where we can!). My mom and dad walked me up the aisle. When we got to the platform, Jon’s dad said “who gives this woman to be married?” to which my father replied, “Her mother and I do. We’ve been putting up with her shit for 30 years, she’s his problem now. Good luck with that!” The crowd laughed and then Jon’s dad turned it out like a pro. He had our guests and us laughing through the whole thing and kept it short and sweet. It was absolutely perfect, even more than I could have ever hoped for. He was throwing out one-liners right and left and we had many people come up to us afterwards to tell us that was how a wedding should be, full of laughter and love.