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Wedding Ceremony Tips: How to Compromise with Religious Relatives, for Non-Religious Couples

Published Sunday, Dec. 9th, 2018

A young couple argues in the background, while an older woman listens in the foreground, her chin resting on her hand. She has a skeptical look on her face.

Not religious, but your family wants you to have a religious wedding ceremony anyway? Here's what to do...




Here’s the scenario. The wedding is still a ways off -- because you’re a smart couple, and you’re starting the ceremony planning early -- and you realize that the Bride’s mother’s Catholicism needs to be indulged. She’s old-school, and these sorts of things really matter to her.


Further complicating matters, neither of you are religious, and the last thing you want is a wedding ceremony that feels like Catholic mass.



How do you make everyone happy? 


Last month, we published an article about how to create a wedding ceremony that reflects the religious values of the couple and surprise, surprise, it was all about communication. Now, we want to unpack that idea a bit more by looking at non-religious couples with religious families.


In these cases, the discussion with the friend or family member performing the ceremony (the officiant) needs to focus on the expectations of the family vs. what the couple wants, in regards to both the amount and type of religious content in the wedding ceremony.



An orthodox priest leads a very religious wedding ceremony in a church while wearing an ornate hat and robe

This probably isn't what you have in mind...



Some couples want no religion, no matter what the expectation of their families, and that’s fine since the ceremony should represent the couple. However, there is some middle ground available here, if you feel that such a compromise is necessary.


If the couple wants or needs to meet at least of some of the expectations of their family, in regards to religious content in the ceremony, here are a couple of recommendations.


If you decide to compromise...



First, get the religious stuff out of the way as soon as possible.


Get the religious parts of the ceremony out of the way as soon as possible. If the couple is not religious or doesn't want a religious tone to their wedding ceremony, but does want to incorporate a bit of religious content to satisfy others, put it early in the first part of the ceremony.


By putting these aspects or rituals in early, the religious family members hear the words and feel the religious tone right away, and that feeling carries through the ceremony for them. It’s like a nice shot of espresso that keeps them buzzing for a few hours.


At the same time, getting the religious content in early allows the wedding ceremony to expand from religious themes, to more general concepts of love and commitment.


Related: 10 Non Religious Wedding Readings to Add to Your Ceremony



A young woman sips a cup of tea. She has dark hair, a dark sleeveless shirt, and her fingernails are painted an elegant black

A quick dose of religious ritual is like a nice shot of espresso that will keep them buzzing for a few hours...



Second, choose low-key wedding readings that aren't overly religious


There are wonderful written and spoken pieces that have the word “God” in the text, but aren’t overtly “religious.” You can also choose spiritual readings that talk about universal themes of love and commitment without being specifically religious.


These pieces are usually a good compromise and allow for the couple to keep the non-religious feeling they want for the ceremony, while still satisfying the expectations of their religious family.


By picking the right piece or pieces, and putting them early, a family's religious expectations can be satisfied within a mostly non-religious wedding ceremony.


For example, this ever-popular reading from Corinthians speaks about love without feeling like an obvious Bible verse: 


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (Corinthians 13:4-5, New International Version, NIV)



And third, try modifying a religious wedding script with non-religious readings or a personalized unity ceremony


If all this is sounding familiar, we recommend that you check out some of the religious wedding ceremony scripts in our wedding training section, and then modify them in a way to suit your tastes while satisfying your family's wishes. 


While many of these sample ceremony scripts are probably too overtly religious for most couples in this particular situation, there’s probably still a small snippet that can be incorporated into an otherwise non-religious ceremony. You can also use them to mix-and-match with these non-religious wedding scripts in our library! 


Then add a favorite reading or unity ceremony that reflects your love in your own style. 





And if you’re still scratching your head, we’ve got an entire chapter on this subject in our newly revised Asked to Officiate. It’s got even more examples, and is a great way to get a firm grasp on your wedding ceremony. Check it out below! 






Asked to Officiate

Your Complete Guide to a Perfect Ceremony 


Cover image of Asked to Officiate wedding ceremony planning guide by AMM


Have you been asked to officiate a wedding ceremony? Do you want to do everything you can to deliver a wedding ceremony that people will be talking about for years? Then this is your ticket!


This book is like having an experienced wedding officiant looking over your shoulder every step of the way. From writing personalized vows, to planning and officiating weddings, this book empowers you to conduct an authentic, meaningful, and memorable ceremony. Get your copy today, and start crafting our masterpiece wedding ceremony!








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Lewis King
Lewis King

Staff Writer

Lewis loves exploring the space between power, discourse, and material reality where institutions like marriage are defined. He also wears other hats at AMM, like taking out the recycling and restocking the sparkling water.

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