The bride might have been smiling, but everyone knew that she was deeply uncomfortable with the language used by the wedding officiant. And as the ceremony went on, the audience felt her discomfort, and they, too, grew increasingly uncomfortable. Despite the fact that the wedding was being performed by her uncle, it was clear that his religious language was making the bride, an atheist, unhappy. With all of her friends in attendance, her big day was being turned into a religious ceremony, and we all knew that behind her smiles, she was disappointed.
What went wrong?
It turns out that her well-meaning but uninformed uncle was not aware that his references to God were exactly what the couple wanted to avoid.
How much, and what type of religious content will be used in the wedding ceremony is something that every couple should discuss with their officiant. It is an especially important topic to bring up if you are asking a friend or family member to perform the ceremony, because they are not professional wedding officiants and they will require guidance on this delicate matter.
If you want to express your values and beliefs, they need to be reflected in the amount and type of religious wording used in the ceremony. That’s the advantage of choosing an friend or family member to officiate -- you probably know someone who totally gets your outlook on life, and can help you communicate that during the ceremony. Just make sure that’s really the case first with a short chat.
If there is miscommunication between the officiant and the couple, that’s where things start to go wrong.
For example, if the family member or friend performing the ceremony is particularly religious and creates a ceremony that is based on their level and/or type of religion, it might be beautiful to them but for the couple, or their guests, it might be awkward or even offensive.
On the other end of the spectrum, if the couple is more religious than the friend or family member who is officiating, the officiant might not feel comfortable with the amount or type of religious material that the couple wants. This will make the ceremony feel forced, because it doesn’t allow the officiant to deliver a ceremony that feels authentic, and reflects his or her voice and style.
Talk about it!
Our recommendation is that after the initial asking of, and acceptance by, a friend or family member, the couple and the chosen friend or family member sit down and have a discussion. The chat should be focused around how the couple wants their ceremony to feel, including the level and type of religion they want in the ceremony.
As long as you have this important conversation early on in the wedding planning process, you will be able to reach out to someone else if your chosen friend is not able or willing to deliver a ceremony that reflects your values and beliefs. That doesn’t mean this needs to be awkward. On the contrary, your friend will respect an honest conversation about the potential for conflict.
Do you have additional questions about this important matter? Check out our wedding ceremony training pages, and if you haven't yet, make sure to get ordained online today so that you can say “yes!” when your friend or family member asks you to officiate!