I received the following comment, from JP, into my about page, but decided to post it as a new topic here so others can help:


i found this blog through a google – like you i am not religious but that hasnt stopped a big problem – i am due to be married and both families are pushing for a full trad church wedding (and trad dress etc) and i dont like it – i feel cornered and trapped and not sure what to do. Do you have any advice you can give me?

Please post constructive comments for JP:

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17 Comments to “Wedding Blues”

  1. ozatheist says:

    Hi JP,

    Difficult problem, when I got married, many years ago, I wasn’t religious at the time but also wasn’t so anti-religious as I am now. I got married in a church mainly because I knew my parents would want me to and partly because that was the way I had been brought up. My wife wasn’t so keen as she has always been an atheist.

    Looking back on it now both my wife and particularly myself regret we got married in a church. We both believe that a non-religious celebrant is just, if not more so, as appropriate. There is a greater chance with a celebrant to get the kind of ceremony you really want, particularly the wording (we had WAY too much religious stuff thrown in during our wedding) regarding your vows and what the celebrant says.

    As a side note, my sister has since been married another 2 times by non-religious celebrants, once in a beautiful park that was a lot more romantic and symbolic than the first marriage in a church.

    Remember, ultimately this marriage is between you and your partner, not either of your parents. How does your partner feel about the church wedding?

  2. JP,

    I have to echo JP here. It is your day. What do you and your partner want? I was married in a church, it was traditional. But a) my partner wanted the dress b) she loved the church. We couldn’t have cared less at the time who was marrying us or whether it was in a church.

    We did make the effort of getting married close to her side of the family, and after we went to all that trouble half of them couldn’t be bothered showing up.

    We will renew our vows for our tenth annivesary, it will be a secular ceremony.

    If the family doesn’t like it ask them why? If you findout the real reasons (beyond tradition) you may be able to include them in the ceremony you want.

  3. Fiery says:

    Who is paying for the wedding? Traditional weddings are spendy. They want it, let them help fork over. Is your wife atheist? If not, you may have bigger fish to fry than one day. Will you really regret watching your beloved walk down the aisle? What is the real issue? Boring as traditional weddings are, they only last so long.

  4. ozatheist says:

    thanks to the people from AFA:

    It is your wedding, not your parents. You live once, would you regret caving into others’ demands/beliefs/’ideas of tradition’ when you are on your death bed?

    One word: elope!
    Or then again, why get married at all? Homosexuals can’t, and as a protest nor should you!

    and Roger’s, slightly TIC response (I hope) :-)
    I agree with Dhanya, with the ELOPE part Very Happy .
    You should get married, you can’t have fun all you life.

  5. Jasmine P says:

    both sets of parents and my partner want a church wedding – my parents are also pushing me into the big traditional white dress and veil

    im being pressured guilted manipulated and i feel trapped alone and just so scared – im sorry


    PS id like to mention that im also getting hints that i should have children sooner than later – as if im some kind of baby machine – my brother is getting no such pressure :(

  6. ozatheist says:

    This gets worse and worse, I guess both sets of parents will also want any children to be brought up in whatever religion they follow? This could cause some serious conflicts between you and your partner in the future.

    It’s not compulsory to have children, we were pressured at the start, but after many years demonstrating we weren’t having any, eventually they gave up. Whether you have children or not is totally up to you, either way, perhaps you should get a copy of the book “Child Free Zone” http://www.childfree.com.au/ and leave it lying around the house?

  7. Jasmine P says:


    Yeah they do

    I just feel scared – why should i be forced into religion and motherhood just because im the only daughter – again my brother gets none of this kind of pressure and hassle – he wasnt made to pledge his virginity or anything like that.

  8. [...] Oz Atheist, a reader poses this question: [...]

  9. Locky says:

    If the partner doesn’t want the full shebang either, they can do what my wife and I did, married at the court house without telling anyone the date.

  10. Linda Lindsey says:

    Look for a celebrant from the “Church of Spiritual Humanism.” You can find them on the web. They will do a beautiful ceremony (interview several of them in your area to find one that you like) without mentioning any deities. However, you would have to either put your foot down before the ceremony, or wait for the fallout when the families ask you what was going on after the ceremony.

    Or elope. I’d still find a CSH celebrant to marry you rather than a courthouse. Most JPs use a religious service.

  11. John Morales says:

    I don’t see the problem. It’s just a cultural thing – a ceremony.

    I’m an atheist, but I had a church wedding (Roman Catholic) to appease my mother and my wife’s family.
    Those who mattered knew I was not a believer.

    I think one would have to be very insecure to worry about such a trifle.

  12. Vincent says:

    The wedding is for you, not for your parents. You can’t please everyone anyway, so just please yourself.

    My mother is a devout Catholic. I told her that I would have a non-religious wedding. I asked her “if I invited you to a non-religious wedding, would you come?” and she said no, so I did not invite her, or anyone else. (My wife didn’t get along with her parents then and didn’t want them there for various reasons).
    So, I married in the courthouse with just the judge and bailiff in attendance and have been married 10 years. I have talked to many people who did big weddings and am absolutely convinced I did it right and I’d do it that way again if it ever comes up.

  13. Efrique says:

    (came here via friendlyatheist)

    I’m really sorry Jasmine, this is going to be a tough time for you. Well, it’s already tough, but no matter how you go about this, tough is going to be with you for a bit. Unfortunately, if you don’t broach this now, you’ll be setting yourself up to be pushed around on all kinds of things from now on. I think that could end up pretty miserable.

    Understand within yourself that you are in a strong position, not a weak one – you have an inalienable power of veto, because anything you feel strongly enough about, you can always choose not to take wedding vows until a reasonably acceptable (to you) solution is found. It’s not a shotgun wedding, so how is anybody going to get you to say “I do” until you’re reasonably happy? Understanding you have the ultimate veto should help you to remain calm while you work through this.

    First of all, you need to work out exactly what you do want (For example, what’s your ideal wedding? Are you certain you wish to get married?), what you definitely don’t want and what you could accept. Figure out what kinds of things the parents and your partner might want that you feel you /could/ accept (possibly some aspects of a reception, for example) – you need a few things you can give way on later – after the issues are mostly sorted out. With the parents, don’t give these away until you’re reasonably happy, and you feel you can begin to make compromises on what remains.

    That is, your first step is to be completely honest with yourself. The second step is to be honest with your partner – you need to discuss it with your spouse-to-be and make sure you both understand each other clearly.

    You can’t hope to tackle your parents-in-law-to-be without having discussed it and largely sorting it out with your partner first.

    My suggestions:
    - postpone the wedding until this is sorted out.
    - if you can work it out with your partner where you can come to some agreement between the two of you about what you can both accept, then you can present a united front to both sets of parents
    - If you try, but can’t resolve it with your partner immediately, you may need to tackle your parents before it’s finalized with your partner. You might want to think about whether there is someone you can trust that you feel you can talk to who might help you broach the subject with your parents.
    – make it clear to your parents that you’re not happy with what they’re trying to do; you’re an adult, and it’s your wedding, not theirs. Make it clear that if they expect to come to /your/ wedding, they need to pull their heads in, and they are simply NOT going to get everything they want. (If you need to, you might consider suggesting that elopement is a possibility, as is simply living together and never getting married – they need to lose their prior expectations, and something like that might help.)
    – Tell them what you expect with regard to your wedding.
    – Same thing with having children. Your body is your own, and they have no rights to it. Tell them to back off. If your relatives can’t behave in a decent manner, they deserve no place in your life nor your children’s lives (when and /if/ YOU decide to have any). Let them taste that thought for a day or two.

    You know all the stuff you’ve said you’re unhappy about? You have to find a way to convey that information. Tell them.

    Don’t let yourself be pushed into doing any of this if you’re not comfortable with it.

    Keep asking around for advice and support. There are lots of us! – check out some of the atheist blogrolls and see if you can find several where you think the atmosphere sits well with you. Try asking in a couple of places – you might get some different answers, and some may suit you better; if this post hadn’t already been pointed to by friendlyatheist, I’d suggest that as another place to ask. Greta christina’s blog is another place you might look and see if you’d like to ask there. There are hundreds of possibilities. You might also like to post to the discussion groups on richarddawkins.net (I found it difficult to navigate around there at first, but it gets easier), or maybe some other discussion groups.

    Some honest communication is called for, and you’re going to need support for that. Keep asking around, and keep talking.

  14. k says:

    If you’re old enough to get married, you’re old enough to make your own decisions and not rely on your mommy and daddy’s approval anymore. Either you’re an adult or you’re not.

  15. Sarah says:

    I’m having a similar quandry here. My boyfriend of fours years and I are deeply comitted to each other. We will both be graduating from college soon and moving in together. Several of our friends are getting married and we are starting to get the “so when are you going to get married” questions. I had always thought that even though I am not religious, I would have a semi-traditional wedding, just because I hadnt thought of anything else. The older I get, the less ok I am with taking part in a tradition that it bound up with so many things I disagree with, whether or not they are taken as such today.
    I know that I love this man and I want to be with him for the rest of our lives. I would like to have some sort of ceremony/party to show this to others (I dont know why, maybe I’m just incapable of being strong enough to forgo the cultural pressures of “proving it” to everyone else)
    I’m totally lost however as to what such a ceremony would entail and why I would even bother. As far as I see it, the term “marriage” means one of two possible things 1) A spritual union blessed by a religious organization
    2) A legal contract

    I have problems with both of these, the first is easy. However the second is more problematic. I believe marriage as a legal entity should be abolished and then people can create their own individual contracts with whomever they see fit. That is why the whole are arguement over gay marriage is missing the point. Marriage as a legal contract, and the rights that go along with it, devalue non-traditional relationships, gays and lesbians and singles.

    Ergo, if I have a ceremony, I will not be married in the eyes of a diety or the government, So, what the hell is the point? If I have a ceremony of some sort, just because I want one, is that shallow and cheap? Are people going to ask what is the point? How can I explain myself without seeming to criticise their decision to get married? AHHHH….I am a strong woman but damnit, sometimes I cant get over visions of the two of us on a cliff, and a pretty dress and flowers.

    I’m not even sure if there is a question there, sorry for the rant. I”m just a bit lost right now.

  16. ozatheist says:

    please check this post for my response.

    Others, please respond to Sarah on the new post


  17. mike says:

    You wrote: <>

    This is a very narrow view of marriage. What about thinking about like a formal, solemn (but nonreligious) promise made in front of family and friends that you will commit your life to partnership with a particular person whom you love? Can’t public declarations of love and commitment be important to you, even without religion and law? If not, then maybe you’re right that marriage isn’t for you, but I suspect you could settle on a reasonable meaning of “marriage” that you like.

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