The majority of wedding ceremonies that I perform are for couples from different faith backgrounds. One may be Roman Catholic and the other United Methodist. One may be Jewish while the other does not come from and does not ascribe to any organized religion.
So, as we begin the ceremony planning process, the question arises:
How should a couple’s individual set of beliefs be reflected in the words, symbols and rituals in their wedding ceremony?
Answering this question entails an in depth and sensitive conversation with each couple.
Some of the questions I ask couples to consider are – Do you want God specifically mentioned in your ceremony? Do you want to include prayer in your ceremony? Would you prefer a Biblical reading, a Native American blessing, poem, or lyrics to your favorite song? And, would you like to include any rituals in the ceremony, either secular or something from your faith tradition?
Based on their answers together, I present couples with options for ceremony wording, readings, rituals, and vows which we then modify, word for word, according to their beliefs.
Another consideration we discuss are family members and guests that will be in attendance. As an example, though it may be familiar to the couple, they may choose not to have guests say “The Lord’s Prayer” because the words may be unfamiliar or may not reflect the faith tradition of some in attendance. On the other hand, though it may not be a part of their tradition, couples may choose a Biblical reading such as First Corinthians “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy …” because the passage does not specifically mention God but will be familiar and comforting to many attending.
It is important for couples to work with officiants that are comfortable with faith discussions but are not dogmatic and are not trying to impose their own beliefs. Seminary training, ordination, and pastoral experience, combined with knowing what it is like to be religiously ostracized when I was young, has enabled me work with couples, creating wedding ceremonies that truly reflect who they are.