Gauging the “God Factor” in Your Vows and Ceremony

, Gauging the “God Factor” in Your Vows and Ceremony

One’s religious beliefs are always very personal. They often reflect a deep-seated conviction that forms the basis for a person’s moral and ethical practices. Sometimes, these beliefs are quite formal- based on a particular religion or religious creed. Sometimes, they just take the form of a person’s very private spiritual principles, not connected to a specific body of religion. Sometimes, people express belief in a deity like God, or Allah, Brahma, Gaia or Buddha, and sometimes they just relate to the way that they experience or feel a personal connection to spirituality.

Most individuals come to their marriage with some religious history and often the religious foundations for a couple in love and ready to be united in marriage can be quite different. Even if the couple’s religious views are aligned, there may be misalignment with the religious convictions of their families and other loved ones.

So what’s a couple to do in deciding the right balance of religious influence in their vows and ceremony? If your wedding will take place in a place of worship, like a church, mosque or temple, it is likely that there already exist traditional rites that will form the basis of your vows and ceremony. It is still a good idea to become familiar with these templates and rituals so you will be comfortable with them as you stand before your guests proclaiming your vows. Even in some formal religious settings, you might be able to work with the clergy person to request some minor modifications to the standard rites.

If you will be working with an officiant outside of the environs of a traditional place of worship, you will really have to be engaged with your officiant to strike the right level of religious flavor in your views and ceremony. As an officiant, I always ask a couple what their vision and values are regarding the type of ceremony they desire. If they are seeking a more traditional ceremony, with a religious tilt, they can ask the officiant to make sure to include references to whatever deity they choose. Your officiant can also work with you to find scriptures and other passages that can form the basis for readings during the ceremony. On this note, I would like to say that you are not bound by the readings that you may have heard time and again at others’ weddings. For your own wedding, you may prefer to work together as a couple and/or with your officiant to identify readings that speak more to the message you want to convey during your ceremony. (I am personally not a big fan of the ones that are a little “fire and brimstone”-like, e.g., Proverbs 31:10: “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Just a tad sexist..)

What I find more frequently these days, is that many couples are interested in a more modern ceremony, with some “light” references to God or a deity. They want their marriage to be “blessed” during this public affirmation of their love and commitment and, at the same time, to have the ceremony connect with their loved ones and guests, all of whom come before them with diverse religious views. Additionally, there may be couples who prefer to leave references to a deity out of the equation all together and opt for a more “civil” type ceremony and vows.

What makes you comfortable is entirely up to you, but I do think having an awareness of the diversity of your guests is also important. Awhile ago, I attended a wedding in which the ceremony and vows reflected a very conservative Christian doctrine. While this made the mother of the groom very happy because of her religious beliefs, it clearly did not reflect the beliefs of the couple getting married or many of the guests, some of whom were of other faiths. There are ways to connect your guests to the ceremony and vows while not tilting your ceremony too much in one religious direction or another.

One way to address a parent or loved one who wants to see a more religious element than you and your fiancée is to invite that person to select a short reading just prior to the part of the ceremony where you state your intentions and recite your vows. Then he or she can share a passage that is personally meaningful and reflects their religious sentiments, while not overtaking the tone of the entire program.

We are seeing trends where some couples are actually adding private vow exchanges with one another outside of the actual ceremony, for example, during the First Look or as they begin their honeymoon. This is yet another way to make sure that your vows are truly a private and meaningful reflection of your special connection as a couple.

Whatever you decide, remember it is up to you and it is your special moment. Work with your officiant to make sure that the words you say and the ceremony during which you say them are a true reflection of your vision and values. Make that day create a beautiful memory that will always be there to remind you of the sacred trust and love you have for each other.