The bride's grandmother's Bible

Thursday, May 23, 2013

“a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.”

from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer

Weddings have a whole lot of religious history, and modern brides have combined cultural and family legacies along with religious traditions to craft ceremonies that reflect their personal beliefs. My parents, who were both raised in different religions (Catholic and Greek Orthodox, respectively), married in at a Congregational Church. John's parents (Catholic and Baptist) were married by his father's family priest in a backyard ceremony. And despite all those different beliefs and unconventional choices, I know it's still hard for them to imagine anything but a traditional wedding in a little white church for John and I. Truth be told, it's hard for me, too–I struggle with losing out on the pretty pictures on the steps of the Presbyterian Church where I attended nursery school because I don't believe what's being talked about inside. 

I've noticed a lot of wedding bloggers talking about religion recently, which is why I'm opening up about my own faith; it's been a little lonely lately, feeling like the odd girl out when God comes up. And I figured that since the blog world was so big, I couldn't possibly be the only one who wasn't attending church on Sunday mornings or saying my prayers at night.

I'm an agnostic–so when there's a ton of turbulence, I still silently chant, "Please be okay. Please be okay," to no one in particular, and I don't rule out the possibility of a deity unless it's been a spectacularly bad day. I finally came clean to my devoutly Catholic grandmother last fall during Election Season; she told me we'd just have to change people's perceptions of the non-religious, and clearly Pope Francis agrees. But in spite of how certain I've always felt about my religious uncertainty beliefs, planning a wedding has made me feel like I need to get a church and start believing, lest we be minister-less for our big day.

Of course, we don't actually need a minister–or be Episcopal to use that beautiful prayer. I've just been worrying that our family and friends may disapprove, or that we'll be missing out on a Cosmic requirement for a happy marriage when I know that simply isn't true. What started off as a tongue-in-cheek conversation about which of our friends would be the funniest person to marry us has turned into something of a plan; John and I imagine our ceremony presided over by one of our closet friends–someone who's been there through our early courtship, our long distance dating and our lives today. We'll bring together cultural and family traditions, and maybe even a religious one or two, and though our officiant may not have any particular spiritual sanctions besides our own, I love the idea that our ceremony will reflect who we really are–happy agnostics in love.

How has religion played a role in planning your ceremony? Do you and your partner (or families) share the same faith?


  1. While my husband and I were raised in different faiths (he is Catholic and I am Greek Orthodox) we came to the understanding quite early that we shared the same beliefs and spirituality, regardless of names, titles and affiliations. When the time came to plan our religious ceremony, we decided that the most important element for both of us was to feel 'right' about where it was held, not so much whether others might approve or disapprove. In the end, we married in the Greek Orthodox church because we felt the most welcomed in that environment, it just felt like that is where we belonged for whatever reason, because it felt right for both of us, not because it had to be. At the end of the day, however you choose to plan your ceremony, the love between two people is what matters most, plain and simple, and from what I have seen (virtually, of course!), you and John have that in abundance, I would consider that union already blessed by the heavenly cosmos!

  2. My husband & I were raised Catholic but he still believes & practices while I do not. Because it was so important to him, we got married in the Catholic Church. I worried about losing a bit of ourselves in the standard, religious service. Thankfully, our priest was amazing, my godmother helped me choose the music & sang them for us & our family & friends surrounded us- it was the perfect marriage ceremony. No matter what you believe or where your service is held- all you need is love!

    always, koru kate

  3. Well, you know how I feel about this subject. :) Kudos to you for staying true to yourself. One of the many reasons I admire you is because of your honesty.

    So much has changed over the years regarding religion and tradition and I think that your thoughts and ideas are a great example of progressive thinking.

    Here's to making new traditions for many generations to come.

  4. ps. this reminds me so much of my struggle with Bryan and my families over choosing not to christen Emma when she was born. His family is Jewish/Greek Orthodox and well, you know my father is a Southern Baptist preacher.

    The bottom line is it's your choice. :]

  5. I'm with ya, girl. There might be something out there, but maybe not? I do wish I had a real faith when things get hard, but I just call what I believe in the "universe" and pray to whatever that everything will be okay, and that's gotten me through a lot. I was raised in a pretty religious town, and went to bible summer camps and all that, and all they ever did was make me feel bad about myself. Organized religion is just too much for me, personally. I think having a friend marry you is the way to go!

  6. Wow. My husband is an all-out nonbeliever, while I was so Catholic up until Confirmation at age 17 I could debate about the bible with the best of them. Then a theology teacher I had really changed things for me, and I started to doubt. I only attended Masses on holidays with my parents and AAAAALWAAAAYS wanted to be married outside.
    But! That didn't happen. We were married in a church that neither one of us ever attended, simply because the pastor was easy-going enough not to make us do marriage counseling (which would have made us wait a considerable amount of time to get hitched). It poured like crazy just like my mom had been afraid of and it felt extremely odd not being in my home parish.
    Around this past Easter I started feeling the tug to be a practicing Catholic again, but have only dipped my feet back into praying every Sunday services yet. I don't think Ethan will ever be religious and I'm okay with that, as long as he lets me send our babies to private school.
    Weddings are so much more creative now than the church route, I think having someone close to you perform the ceremony will be extremely special and touching for not only you and John, but everyone attending as well. As always, beautifully written; religion is a tough subject! But you, of course, were nothing but graceful =)

  7. Ok. I guess I never speak up about it on the blog because it is so polarizing... I am not religious. Closest to agnostic. When I thought about our wedding I spent about five minutes thinking about how official and wedding-y a church feels. But then, that is not a part of me. I love churches for history and beauty, but not me beliefs. I have been to some very religious weddings in the past year that actually have made me uncomfortable because it seems like the couple is spending their ceremony marrying Jesus. For them, that might be all they have ever wanted. For me, my wedding was totally about two people, with human emotions and human faults, committing. My best friend officiated. It was perfection. If you make your wedding reflect you and John as a couple, it will still feel real and official. Remember what you wrote for me? Go back and read it again. xoxo

  8. I remember when Izzy and I had the religion and marriage convo. He was raised Catholic and I have my own beliefs but I don't feel I belong with any one religion. When we started getting serious I finally asked him what he would want out of a wedding ceremony. I want to respect his beliefs (and his family's) but I also want to stay true to myself. I don't believe that I need to believe in a certain religion or go to a building in order to prove how I believe. To me, that's between God and me and if God is good with me (and I believe He is) then it's all good.

    Luckily, Izzy's not expecting some overly religious ceremony. And we both agreed that as long as our ceremony is a reflection of us and our joint beliefs then we'll be good.

    To me a wedding ceremony is so much more than just religion. It's about love and life and family and all the things that are brought together because of two people. Obviously you have to keep in mind how EVERYONE attending your ceremony feels, but if they love you then you including them in such an important day should be enough.

  9. I hold many of the same opinions you do. I say prayers almost daily but I don't go to church. It's such a mixed bag of beliefs. But...I do believe there is a deity and I'd like my girls to believe in something. It's a tough subject.

  10. Lena, bravo to you for broaching such a sensitive and personal topic. I love the idea of having a friend marry you guys. I've been to so many nontraditional ceremonies, in the most nontraditional venues, and each one is beautiful in its own way. In the end, you're celebrating your decision to make a lifelong commitment to one another -- you're celebrating your relationship and your story and all the things that make it unique and special. That's what matters. And regardless of who marries you, be it a minister, pastor, or friend, your ceremony will still be sacred and meaningful. I, for one, am excited to see how it all comes together for you guys! Oh, and by the way, loved your final line: Happy agnostics in love. Ha! That's so great. xo

  11. Oh Lena I LOOOOVE this!! We're both spiritual, but we don't go to church (well, Christmas and Easter... we're those people...). We were married by a non-denominational minister and he was FANTASTIC. He honored our spiritual beliefs without going too far... focusing on our love of life and nature more than on anyone's specific idea of God. That said, we also totally thought about a friend -- and I love that you're planning to choose someone who knows you both well. That's the most important part!! Whatever you do, your wedding should be you... not what you think you should be. The blessing is your promise and your love. :) xoxo

  12. My hubby & I were both raised as Catholics (although only my Mum is Catholic; my Father is an atheist) and we are both now agnostic. My grandmother is also devoutly Catholic and it was a huge deal for her to come to our wedding on a boat with a celebrant instead of in a church with a Catholic priest. She called it a "pagan wedding" but she came and she got over it ;-)

    You have to do what's right for you & John. The wedding is about you two, no one else!

    Clare x

  13. My husband and I are not religious people, but it was important for us to embrace some of the Filipino traditions into our wedding that is typically in a religious ceremony such as the cord, veil and sponsors. I love religious ceremonies because they have a lot of tradition, but we are not traditional people so we did it in our own way.

  14. Neither Kyle or I are religious at all. But my mom is crazy for it and actually told us when we got engaged that we needed to find a church so that it would be meaningful when our pastor married us. Ironically my stepfather (a pastor) ended up marrying us so it WAS meaningful sans going to church each Sunday. In the end it isn't about religion, it truly is about having someone that understands you as a couple and is meaningful to you in some way marry you. I specifically gave instructions that I didn't want it to be overly religious because that just isn't us. My Stepdad respected that and blended it really well.

    On a side note, that photo got me a little teary eyed. My Grandma carried a Bible and a single orchid on her wedding day and at one point asked me to blog about it. I never got the chance before she passed away so I am glad you did!



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