Monday, August 13, 2012


This weekend has been good. I was a groomsman for my little brother's wedding. The weather, the decorations and the food were all great. My favorite part was just after we had started the wedding ceremony (located on a public beach), as an older gentleman walked up to the edge of the ceremony, paused momentarily, and then continued walking right passed the groomsmen and the groom himself towards the beach. All-in-all, it was one of the best wedding ceremonies I have ever attended, and yet, it almost didn't happen.

Perhaps I should clarify, the wedding was going to happen no matter what, but that small ceremony of close friends and family almost didn't happen. You see, both the bride and the groom are active Mormons, and, as per Mormon tradition, had originally planned to get married in a Mormon temple. The problem, though, is that no one on the bride's side of the family is Mormon and would, therefore, not be allowed inside the Temple for the ceremony. Needless to say, this outraged the bride's family and some made it clear that they would not attend the reception if they could not go to the wedding. And I completely understand their position.

(Just to be clear, in the Mormon church, when people are married in the temple, only adult Mormons with a "temple recommend" may attend; if a couple chooses to have a civil ceremony before a temple ceremony, they have to wait several months before they can be married in the temple. Furthermore, this is primarily an American policy within the church; in many other countries, the church allows civil and temple ceremonies to be conducted on the same day.)

The night before the wedding, I spoke with my brother about all the drama and I told him that their decision to not do a temple ceremony so that all the family members could attend was the right decision, and if I was in that most uncomfortable position, I would have planned on that from the beginning. Weddings are supposed to be inclusive for families, not exclusive.

The thing that really irks me is that the temple ceremony has nothing to do with the actual marriage. The government doesn't care about a religious rite; they only care about the signatures on the marriage contract. Everything else is up to the preferences of the bride and groom. As I pointed out to several people before and after the wedding, there is no reason why the temple ceremony and a civil wedding cannot be done on the same day, since they are legally unrelated. It is the Mormon church's choice to be restrictive and exclusive, and, frankly, it causes undue tension between Mormon and non-Mormon family members. So much so, that they even considered having a temple ceremony without ANY family members present just to put everyone on "equal" ground. (This, perhaps ironically, did not sit well with Mormon family members...) Seeing how stupid the other extreme was, they finally settled on an inclusive civil wedding. But now my brother feels like he is being punished for choosing to be inclusive and have a nice ceremony which everyone could attend, since the church is making them wait several months to have a temple ceremony.

I think my brother made the right decision and I commend him for doing so. I have seen others make the decision to just do a temple ceremony, and non-Mormon family members always feel ostracized and left-out. It is tragic that what should be a joyous occasion as two families unite, can become marred by the exclusionary policies of the Mormon church. And they call themselves a "family-centered" church.

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