Our Families Want a Religious Wedding, But We Don't

Atheists and Weddings

Our families want a religious wedding, but we don't. What should we do?


This may be the first situation where a person's atheism comes into serious conflict with the religious assumptions and beliefs of his or her in-laws. You may encounter numerous circumstances in which such conflicts can occur over the course of a marriage, but in many respects this can be one of the most serious.

For a lot of people, a religious wedding is necessary to launch a successful marriage — thus, if a religious wedding is rejected, then the marriage itself will be regarded as unstable.

If your future spouse agrees that a religious wedding is necessary, then you face an entirely different set of problems and choices (addressed in another section). If, however, your future spouse is at most apathetic about having a religious ceremony or even would prefer something different and less traditional, then the question becomes how the two of you assert your preferences over those of your families.

Of course, that is a question which faces many couples who are getting married, but usually the context is with more mundane issues, like the color choices, the numbers of guests, or the menu at the reception. As harsh as the arguments over such topics may get, none can rival the hard feelings which created when it comes to arguments over the inclusion of religion in the wedding.

So, what is to be done with families who want a religious wedding? The first thing to always keep in mind is that this wedding is primarily for the two of you, not the parents, siblings, or other relatives. It would be wrong to say that it isn't for them at all, because a wedding is very much a community event; however, it is primarily for the two of you.

Because of that, your wishes must carry the most weight. You will have to live with the memories of this wedding longer than anyone else and this is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your lives — why would you want that day and those memories to be marred by the inclusion of religious rituals you don't want?

That brings us to the second thing to keep in mind: although you shouldn't feel that you have to compromise your principles and values, you should be willing to compromise on minor points which aren't a big deal for you. The fact that you are having a public wedding and are inviting family means that the wedding ceremony is partially for them as well - otherwise, why not simply have a civil ceremony with a couple of random witnesses?

If a family wants a religious reading or song included which does not specifically offend you, then why not let it in? Unless what is being asked of you is really insulting to your principles, then a refusal to do anything which reflects your families' values suggests an insult to them. Why are you inviting them to join you on this occasion if you are just going to turn around and snub them in the process?

The third thing to keep in mind is that the two of you must stand together.

Of course, that is in many ways what a marriage is all about — standing together as a single unit, in good times and in bad. If you two cannot put up a united front now, you will only have further problems later which you should start working to avoid immediately.

It may not be easy to stand up to the demands of families and parents, especially if they are taking financial responsibility for the ceremony. Nevertheless, even if you are risking losing that financial support, you are probably better off with a much smaller wedding which is designed according to your wishes than a larger wedding which offends you. Standing for your principles isn't always easy, but it is often necessary.

When the family (or both families) sees that you won't be divided against each other and that both of you, as a couple, are firm in your wishes, it will be much more difficult for them to force you to change either through bullying or though well-placed guilt trips.

Just as you should not snub them by dismissing any and all requests they might have, it is wrong for them to try and force you to conform to their ideal of what you should do — the best way to resist that is to remain united and support each other as much as possible.

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Your Citation
Cline, Austin. "Our Families Want a Religious Wedding, But We Don't." ThoughtCo, Nov. 27, 2015, thoughtco.com/when-families-want-a-religious-wedding-248553. Cline, Austin. (2015, November 27). Our Families Want a Religious Wedding, But We Don't. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/when-families-want-a-religious-wedding-248553 Cline, Austin. "Our Families Want a Religious Wedding, But We Don't." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/when-families-want-a-religious-wedding-248553 (accessed November 20, 2017).