Engaged? What’s next?

Many people become engaged over the holiday season. It’s a festive time to ‘pop the question.’  Wedding plans can be made sooner or later. If you are anxious to get started planning your special day, but all means do so. But it’s also absolutely fine to wait and just enjoy being engaged without taking on the tasks that lie ahead. And believe me, there are many.

There are a few things you must decide first, and the date and location are two of the big ones. Its pays to be flexible with your date, because you may find the location you love the most is booked on the date you had in mind. Also many venues offer different rates for different days and times.

A celebrant, such as myself, is very comfortable with people of diverse faiths and backgrounds.

The other important element is your officiant. Who will marry you? This is sometimes cause for concern and confusion.

If you have your own clergy person, you are lucky indeed. But a couple may find that the church or temple, where they thought they would be married, is not available. Or they discover the clergyperson cannot, or will not, marry them for various reasons. Perhaps they are not looking for a religious ceremony at all, but don’t know how to go about it.

Find the right person to officiate.

There are innumerable concerns, for those who identify with a faith tradition but are non-practicing, inter-faith couples, and others who may be struggling with their current beliefs. And 14% percent of Americans identify as non-religious.

Here is a summary of various types of ceremonies, and some ideas to help you navigate the waters. You have every right to explore options and should interview more than one officiant.

Secular – Judges, Justices of the Peace (now called Magisterial District Judges), County Clerks or their appointed Deputies, and Mayors, may all perform wedding ceremonies in Pennsylvania, although most prefer not to. Make sure to have a thorough discussion of what you would like your ceremony to reflect. Interview the person and come prepared with ideas, because for non-clergy, weddings are not a regular part of their work or life. They may be inexperienced but, hopefully, they will welcome your input. Celebrants are an excellent choice for secular weddings.

Secular, but spiritual – Many people identify as spiritual, even when outside of a conventional religious setting. There are many organizations that foster spirituality, and some of them may have wedding officiants available. The Unitarian Universalist Association is an excellent place to look for an open-minded clergy person. Buddhist priests, Celebrants, and non-denominational ministers, are also options.

Interfaith – Sometimes you can find spiritual leaders from each tradition who will work together, there are even some who specialize in this. But many will not. If you cannot have two clergy, perhaps one can find ways to incorporate elements of the other’s faith into the ceremony. I have officiated for couples who were Jewish and Hindu, Christian and Muslim, and Christian and Jewish, to name a few.

You may discover someone unexpected and wonderful.

Believer and non-believer – If one partner is a non-believer but faith is important to the other, this needs to be thoroughly discussed. If not, it will come up later in the relationship anyway, especially if there are children. If a healthy understanding is reached, a ceremony that is skillfully put together can make both of you comfortable.

If you became engaged over the holiday season (and it could still happen) congratulations!  Enjoy the moment.


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