Wednesday, September 16, 2015


"The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain."

"Isn’t this statement encouraging news for parents whose children are sealed to them?"
--Richard H. Winkel, 2006 General Conference

I'm not really into weddings. I understand their purpose, and I support marriage in general. But weddings? Gag me twice with a crusty plunger...

Part of my disdain for weddings comes from my Mormon upbringing. Because of Mormonism's strict rules about weddings (they must be held in an exclusive Mormon temple, and only adults who hold a "temple recommend" may attend), I have only attended two real Mormon weddings, despite coming from a large Mormon family.

The consolation prize for any poor uninvited saps (i.e. heathens and children) who want to wish the happy couple well is a monotone reception, usually held in a local church's gymnasium. I can only handle so much sparkling apple cider, chalky dinner mints and white cake back-dropped with recycled plastic lilies draped over white wire arches. Oh yes. Mormons have a type. If you're lucky, they might have a slide show of engagement pictures, a chocolate fondue fountain or a third-cousin playing contemporary piano music for the low price of a future favor of equal or lesser value.

With such a bland template to go off of, you can imagine the challenge my wife and I had in planning a purely secular ceremony, which would not only celebrate our relationship and reflect our personalities, but would actually be enjoyable.

First and foremost, we didn't put arbitrary religious restrictions on who could attend. I was tempted to say that anyone whose wedding I would not be allowed to attend would likewise not be allowed at my wedding, but this seemed just as petty as when Mormons do it. Besides, our wedding was a celebration--not merely a stamp of worthiness.

Because Mormonism had left a bad taste in both our mouths, we decided to use a non-denominational minister who promised to accommodate our secular views. Naturally, some family members encouraged us to use a Mormon bishop who would happily officiate our ceremony free of charge. But this would undoubtedly mean our ceremony would be neck deep in references to god and heartfelt pleas for us to recommit to Mormonism so we can be married in the temple for "realsies" (after giving 10% of our money to the church for a year, of course...).

The minister was great. Well worth the money. We met with him several weeks prior and went over the itinerary. He was very professional and made a point to go over our religious views so the ceremony would reflect our beliefs. When we said we wanted a secular ceremony, he said he could easily take out all religious references from his service and focus instead on our relationship, loyalty and love. Ya know, the stuff that a marriage should be based upon. We were not disappointed.

The ceremony itself was outdoors at a quaint local farm, rather than a stuffy windowless room in the blandest of mini mansions. We stood under an ivy-covered gazebo, surrounded by close family and friends--and not just the ones who agree with us philosophically. We were even able to personalize aspects of our ceremony in a way a Mormon couldn't even dream of doing, such as pre-writing funny notes to each other which the minister incorporated into the service and playing Star Wars music as the bride walked down the isle.

Even the reception was personalized. We had catered food and Italian sodas--far more substantial than any reception I have ever attended. The cake was an homage to a video game (Portal) which we both enjoy playing and which served as a catalyst for one of our first long conversations. Not to mention it had several flavors, so everyone would enjoy it.

Throughout the reception area we had candles with inside jokes carved into them, and several pieces of art which we had made. The purpose was to celebrate our relationship visually in fun and creative ways. It wasn't about an invisible omniscient third-party who would watch us have sex (think about that, believers). It was about us. Not in a selfish way. But a in a celebratory way.

I mentioned that I have only attended two real Mormon weddings, only one of which was immediate family: my younger sister. My family is huge. I am the fourth of 8 kids. I was too young to go to either of my two oldest siblings' weddings. Instead, I waited in the temple lobby. My second older brother was married while I was on my mission, and a wedding is not an approved reason to leave the "work of the lord."

My younger sister was married while I was attending BYU, and it is basically part of the admission process to have a temple recommend. So I was able to attend her temple wedding. The officiant was an older gentleman who repeatedly praised my sister and her new husband for choosing to follow god's commandments, and admonished them that if they continue to be worthy to go to the temple (meaning, continue to give the church 10% of their money), then they would have a successful marriage which will totally continue in the eternities. The speech was all about their marriage in the context of obedience to Mormonism. Bleh. Gross. Double gross. "Yank-out-my-fingernails-with-your-gingivitis-teeth" gross.

My younger brother married a convert to the Mormon church. I wrote about their wedding in another post. Long story short, there was a bit of a feud between the parents of both families: my parents wanted a temple ceremony at the exclusion of non-Mormons and her non-Mormon parents wanted a civil ceremony so they could attend (no duh).

My brother made the difficult decision--and it was difficult--to have a civil wedding on a beach outside of Seattle, accessible to both families. My mother was heartbroken, even though she knew full well that my brother and his wife would still be married in the temple later. Yup. Mormons can do both.

As a way of discouraging a reasonable and inclusive wedding, the church usually makes more ecumenical couples wait several months before allowing them to be married in the temple (for "realsies"). The church had my brother wait about 3-4 months, which is quite short compared to the usual year long probation. I recall him saying once that he felt like he was being punished for doing the right thing. I replied, "you are."

The moral of the story, and of this post, is that secular weddings are better than religious weddings. They are more inclusive. They focus on the couple and celebrate their marriage. They bring people together, rather than divide. Because of the Mormon church's ridiculous policies to exclude certain people from weddings, I have only been present for two of my siblings' weddings.

I don't know that I have ever considered what my ideal wedding would be. But if I had, I think our inclusive secular wedding, which brought my family together for the first time in 15 years, is it.


Tide commercial (wait for it):

1 comment:

Corinne said...

That quote...Ugh!Your children may stray, but inevitably they will come back, whether it is in this life or the "life to come". So much for free agency.

Also, I love the dangling carrot of heaven. So on point!