You have found the man of your dreams, are ready to take the plunge and decide your exchange vows. But you choose to go for a non-religious wedding. Now, this may evoke varied reactions from your friends and family – either shock or surprise. It’s but natural to have raised eyebrows when you decide to go against the tide and want to plan a non-religious wedding.
When it comes to weddings, there are two options in front of you – travel the tried and tested route that couples have taken for millennia following the same traditions and rituals or create a whole new ceremony, scripting a bespoke template to cement your bond and begin a new chapter in your lives together. If the latter is what appeals to you, then that’s when you opt for a non-religious wedding.
We understand, probably a hundred questions are running around your mind now. What is a non-denominational wedding? What are the norms and rituals you follow? Can you have a non-religious wedding in a church? Who officiates a non-religious wedding? How do you prepare your secular vows? Hold tight and let’s dive into this complete guide to walk you through all the information you should have to sail off to this venture.
What Is A Non-Religious Wedding?
As can be deduced from the term, a non-religious wedding ceremony or a secular wedding is an event that strays away from the established tenets of a religion or way of life you may have followed all your life. It is a newer concept that people are beginning to explore.
These days, non-religious wedding ceremonies are gaining popularity, especially among interfaith couples who do not want to subscribe to any one singular edict as prescribed by religion for an important life event. Love these days has gone beyond the tenets of religion, faith, and a prescribed culture.
People are growing to enjoy a diverse relationship which leads to further planning non-religious weddings in order to respect each side. In esoteric terms, a marriage may be a union between two souls in love but let’s admit it, a wedding is very much an earthly ritual prescribed by religion that comprises rules, guidelines, and processes.
The entrance rites, wedding vows, the exchange of rings, the nuptial mass, and the promises of marriage a couple makes in front of God as officiated by the priest – to name just a few of the rituals – are an integral part of cultures across the globe, but there are men and women who like to personalize and customize their day through non-religious wedding rites.
Mostly, these are people who have a strong sense of individuality or may just want to move away from established norms and write their own wedding vows. Whatever be your belief system, you and your partner can plan a non-religious wedding in the most beautiful manner, fusing different elements, vows, and readings from varied religions to create an event of your own.
Plus, you may explore the different non-religious wedding venues that hold notable importance in your story. If you are a fan of American sitcoms, you will remember the intimate wedding Lily and Marshall had in the woods. Just like that, you can plan your dream wedding in a rustic barn, in a museum, in a historical castle, or on the beach. Your call!
At the end of the day, this wedding is for you and to celebrate your relationship. Know that love conquers all! The bottom line is that it should be the best reflection of your vision, feelings, and emotions.
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What Happens In A Non-Religious Wedding Ceremony?
So, I believe you and your SO have made up your mind about a non-denominational wedding and you are about to embark upon the very crucial task of preparing the ceremony script. As you are not going to follow the pre-existing wedding reading or religious vows, you may take suggestions from your officiant in beautifully designing the entire script.
There go your chances of creating fresh new traditions that will uniquely represent the essence of your love and bonding. That being said, a non-denominational wedding ceremony may follow the conventional steps without letting it have any religious tinge. The fun thing about a non-religious wedding is you have all the decisions at your own hand.
You can keep it ‘short and sweet’ or make it elaborate. Although, it’s better not to cross more than half an hour considering the patience and focus of your guests. The ceremony starts with the processional and the officiant welcomes the guests. Here comes the groom and the guests stand up for the entry of the bride. The officiant presents their opening statement.
They can add a personal tweak like a nice story about the happy couple (of course if they are a close friend or family member). Then, it’s time for the readings. Often the siblings and cousins or some of the dear friends come up to deliver. You enjoy the liberty of carefully selecting the readings that precisely express your feelings for each other. It could be a love poem, could be a soliloquy or a dialogue from the movie you first watched together; off the top of my head, the Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda.
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;”
Just how beautiful is that!
Moving on to the most awaited part of the ceremony – the vows. You may fall back upon the traditional non-religious wedding vows. Or, if you are feeling particularly iconoclastic, you follow your heart and convey whatever you want to your significant other. As the bride and groom state “I do”, the rings are exchanged. And the ceremony ends with their first kiss as a married couple amidst all the cheers and laughter of the family and friends.
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How To Have A Non-Religious Wedding
A non-religious or secular wedding can be conducted in many ways (depends on your imagination, really!). Thinking of non-religious wedding ceremony ideas is not as easy as it may seem. There are a few basic factors that may be common to such ceremonies that can help you structure your decision-making.
For instance, choosing neutral non-religious wedding venues. Did he pop the question on a beach? Then how about holding a destination wedding in the Bahamas? Or maybe you can include literature, love poetry, or romantic ceremony music to add that extra zing to the ceremony!
Simply put, the idea of a non-religious wedding may sound exciting and creative but how do you exactly go about it? If you are stuck, here are a few tips that you may incorporate in your non-religious wedding game plan:
1. Make it private and personal
The more guests you invite, the more opinions (or perhaps misunderstandings) it gives rise to. Ensure that whoever you invite is with you in your idea to have a non-religious wedding. While you may want to include lots of family and friends, know that you also do not want any mishaps or uncomfortable moments for anyone.
Your wedding day is one that should be special to you and one that you want to remember for years to come. Do not plan it out of obligation to others. To make things more lucid, it would be best to have an agenda printed and distributed along with your wedding card so that guests know what they can expect.
2. Choose an understanding officiant
You are probably wondering, who officiates a non-religious wedding? If you opt for a typical religious ceremony, choosing an officiant should not be a problem. However, a non-religious wedding officiant should be chosen carefully. Make sure to do some good research before you make any decisions on your non-religious wedding officiant.
If you want your wedding to go smoothly and tell some of the best wedding stories, a good officiant is important to make sure it runs smoothly. Do have one or more meetings with the chosen person to ensure that you are on the same page. To make it more special, include a welcome note from the wedding officiant.
As you are choosing to break the norms and bring an air of intimate, informal wedding, it would be great if someone from a close circle agrees to perform the ceremony. That person has to be very special to the couple and someone who knows their story inside out.
3. Add personality to your ceremony
The core idea of a non-religious wedding is to make it bespoke. Your ceremony should reflect you, your core values, your love for your partner, and how much you are looking forward to spending your lives together. The entire ceremony needs to have a personal touch as it should say your story.
One way to do that is to have carefully chosen readings and songs. Plan out some interesting non-religious wedding readings so people can see that there is so much more to a wedding than its religiosity. Make it subtle and meaningful so that they stand out. Some neutral non-religious wedding songs can also reveal the essence of what you are trying to portray.
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4. Make your wedding vows emotional
Give your wedding vows a lot of thought and emotion as they make all the difference. Since you are basically scripting your own ceremony, the wedding vows are arguably the most important part that your guests will look forward to. People often think that spectators at a wedding do not pay attention to the wedding vows but that is just not true.
Make the vows unique and meaningful so that they touch a chord with your guests. This could be one of the things they will remember the most and even take away with them. Most importantly, remember to mean what you say!
5. Choose interesting readings
In a religious ceremony, these are mostly pre-decided. But in a non-religious wedding, readings can range from your favorite poem, a sonnet, or just a few lines that you may have penned yourself that best describes your relationship. Bring a unique twist to your non-religious wedding readings and add your special touch. Keep it short, simple, and straight from the heart. The words should sound sincere.
6. Invite friends to do readings
The advantage of a non-religious wedding is that you are not restricted by the traditions and rituals of a traditional ceremony. You are allowed to plan, mold, and design your wedding exactly the way you and your partner prefer. Non-religious weddings are almost easier because you can steer clear of any religious customs that do not appeal to you. Invite your friends for special readings. You can especially involve those who mean a lot to you. These may also include friends who may belong to other religions and may bring their own touch culturally.
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7. Try different unity rituals
The unity candle is an important part of a Christian wedding but in a non-religious wedding, you have the freedom to use other symbols. These symbols can range from your personal experiences or anything profound that truly resonates without you. Once again, look into your relationship, choose what brings you together and select a ritual that both of you believe in. These rituals should exemplify a practice or a symbol that you both admire and have strong faith in.
8. Use technology creatively
The world is the limit if you decide to bring technology to your wedding. The non-religious wedding officiant can tell your story to your guests. Technology truly has brought the world closer and has also made it much simpler. Add a twist of technology to your wedding and bring in some modern energy to your non-religious wedding.
But how about making it more fun and quirky by showcasing your own story to your guests through a video or message broadcast at the venue? If you have one of the best love stories ever, you must tell it. Add some non-religious wedding songs and create a movie through the years telling your story to everyone present and gain some emphatic ‘Awws!’
Who Performs A Non-Religious Wedding?
A civil wedding, that is, one conducted in a court of law, is also a type of non-religious wedding. Predictably, the rites here are performed by a person who is not connected to any religious organization. These can include a government official, a judge, a mayor, or a minister of religion.
Coming to who officiates a non-religious wedding, you should hire an officiant who will conduct the ceremony the way you want it. It’s best to refer to your own state’s laws for the legal position, as mentioned above, but there are couples who opt for retired judges, magistrates, or justices of the peace to perform the wedding. You can also request a friend or family member to become ordained for this purpose and make it even more meaningful!
It’s a cakewalk in the digital world to get ordained online from any non-denominational ministry’s website. All you have to do is to fill-up the form and pay a nominal charge. So, even if your marriage is kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision, you don’t have to rack your brain to find a credible officiant. Either way, ensure the legalities are taken care of whatever be the nature of your ceremony.
Non-Religious Church Wedding : All You Need To Know
Can you have a non-religious wedding in a church? In short, yes. You may be irreligious or maybe getting into an interfaith marriage, writing your own rules, but if you still want a beautiful church as your venue, it is possible. First and foremost, you must figure out the laws in your state. Then get the officiant to do the rest for you.
A non-religious wedding can be held in a church as a venue, especially one that does not hold active congregations. If your heart is set on a historically significant church or your parents got married in a beautiful parish church, you can try to find out if they allow secular weddings. It is important that you get it approved and inform the relevant authorities at the site.
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Non-Religious Wedding Vows
As we mentioned above, this deserves a special mention because vows are one of the most important parts of both, religious and non-religious wedding ceremonies. There are some beautiful traditional non-religious wedding vows for couples who want to set a secular tone in their wedding.
You may either select the same passage and repeat it after the officiant during the ceremony. Or, you may want to look into each other’s eyes and recite any passage you love. But some couples may find traditional wedding vows outdated and perhaps even sexist, not conforming with their broadminded outlook.
So if you are opting for an unconventional wedding, what do you do? It’s simple. You just write your own vows. Why don’t you call them ‘love notes’ or ‘poems for life’? It would be more tailor-made keeping with the spirit of a non-denominational wedding. Here are a few samples that you may work from:
1. The promise to love
I take you to be my (husband/wife), my partner for the rest of my life. I cherish our union and promise to walk into the future with respect, trust, and love. I promise to stand by you in good times and bad, making efforts to overcome obstacles and challenges together.
2. The promise of togetherness
I take you to be my lifelong partner, my friend, and guardian with whom I will share my joys, success, failures, and emotions. I look forward to getting to know you more, getting to know the (man/woman) you will become and falling more in love with every aspect I know.
3. The promise of trust and honesty
I take you to be my wife/husband in the presence of the universe and the people we love and cherish. I promise to stand by you, with all my faith, in times of adversity and happiness. We will face each of life’s experiences with trust and honesty and share and support one another’s goals, dreams, and desires. This relationship will be based on the bedrock of love and I promise to walk any path with you.
4. The promise of sharing, caring and supporting
You are my best friend, partner, and support for life. The one and only I want to share my life with. I will stick by your side and be the strength behind your growth. I will strive to make this relationship the most special ever and become stronger day by day. We will remain the best friends for life, all the days of our lives.
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5. The promise of gratitude
I am thankful to have you as my partner in life. I am grateful for the support you offer me, for the joy you bring to my life, for the laughter to ease my pain and for the compassion you fill my days with. I shall forever strive to be worthy of your love and cherish every single moment of togetherness.
6. The promise of unending love
Today, I promise to keep you happy to the best of my ability. To hold your hands in sickness and in health. To share your joys, your pain, your deepest emotions, and your incredible love. I promise to soothe you during your bad days, to celebrate you during your good. Most of all, I promise not to give up on you or give up on us. We are there forever.
7. The promise of protection
I promise to protect you from all evils. I will guide you through difficult times leading from darkness to light. I will go through any danger to ensure you are safe.
Non-Religious Wedding Songs
In religious weddings, music essentially means sacred hymns sung in the church or other forms of religious songs. But who said a bit of contemporary flair can’t be added to enliven the proceedings if you are having a non-religious wedding? Make the playlist based on personal selections, your personality, and the general mood. Here are a few suggestions for you to play some non-religious wedding songs on your special day.
1. While guests are seated and await the bride
The bride enters with pomp and gaiety but while things are being readied, ensure your guests get into the groove with some peppy upbeat tunes that the DJ or the wedding band can spin. Suggestions:
- Love and Marriage (Frank Sinatra)
- L-O-V-E (Nat King Cole)
- I Love Me (Demi Lovato)
- Rare (Selena Gomez)
2. During the procession
This is the time to play a few songs that are more about celebration as it sets the stage for the bride to walk in.
- Heavenly Day (Patty Griffin)
- Stuck with U (Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber)
- What I need (Megan Thee Stallion)
- Conversations in the Dar (John Legend)
3. After-wedding music
These numbers have to be played after you have exchanged your wedding vows and are ready to walk back down the altar post the non-religious wedding.
- Can’t help falling in love (Haley Reinhart)
- Perfect (Ed Sheeran)
- Golden Hour (Kacey Musgraves)
- City of Stars (Emma Stone and Justin Hurwitz)
So there you have it – a complete guide to conducting a beautiful non-religious wedding. It can have its own rituals and rites, it can speak of special wedding vows and promises but at the heart of it, these weddings are the same as others – the beginning of the most beautiful time of your lives with the person you love the most in your life.
Absolutely! Non-religious weddings are all the rage right now, especially for interfaith couples. You can pick a destination of your choice so that your wedding day can be exactly what you want it to be.
The best part of a non-religious wedding is that there is no one way to have it. There is a list of things that you can do uniquely from the music to the location to the flowers. It is all about you and your personal values.
As long as the person is officially registered to marry someone legally, you can have a wedding without a priest. The person who marries you two should legally have the power to do so and that is the only thing that matters.