A Humanist Approach to Weddings

One of the most important subjects I explore for a wedding ceremony is religion. I want to know something about the couple’s faith traditions, if any. What is their thinking or practice at this time in their lives? What are the family traditions (if any) and how important is it to honor those, even if the couple themselves are not strongly tied to these beliefs?

It is not unusual in our modern world to find that young people are not as deeply religious as preceding generations. The Pew Research Center reports thatyoung adults are more likely to be religiously unaffiliated, especially in North America. Unaffiliated doesn’t necessarily mean non-believer, but clearly there is a shift.

Why there is a decline in religiosityis debatable, but one reason may be that with more education comes more questioning. The more data-driven and analytical we become the more likely we are to apply that to religion. Think of it, around 100 years ago, more than a quarter of children in America did not even attend school. Today 37% of Americans between the ages of 25 to 34 have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Another element that has turned people away from religion is the corruption and scandals within religious institutions. Feel free to speculate about other reasons, but for my purposes, it doesn’t matter why, just how to honestly express the couple’s views honestly.

Many couples I work with arebelievers, just not involved with religious institutions. I many people say they find their spirituality or connection to a High Power in their own way, along with others who are unsure (agnostic) and some who are non-believers.

When couples ‘come out’ to me as non-believers there is often an underlying fear of judgement. They will get none from me, but society does judge those who are not church-going, God-fearing individuals. And calling oneself an atheist does have a somewhat, negative connotation, because it means withoutGod, and lackof belief.  There seems to be an emptiness there, a void. But it doesn’t have to be.

I suggest instead: Humanist. This is a positive term, one that says, I believe in goodness and I don’t need God to be good. Humanism stresses the importance of humans rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanists believe in the potential value and goodness of people, emphasizing common human needs, and seeking rational ways of solving problems. That is a very positive approach.

So back to weddings! In a ceremony without any strict religious dogma, without prayers or scriptural readings, blessings or pronouncements about God, a Humanist approach can help express the couple’s values. Through their wedding ceremony they can declare to family and friends that they, too, are good people, who share values such as kindness, caring for others, and doing good in the world, just like their religious fellow humans.

And it’s not difficult to do. It is easily accomplished by simply including statements about those values. And of course, there are those readings we hear so much about!  You’ll find great content everywhere, from literary sources, poems, prose, and even scientific sources such as Cosmos, by Carl Sagan, when he concludes that ‘for small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.’ There are countless possibilities.

In our modern world, not only can we say: ‘love is love,’ we can say: ‘good is good.’

thank you Lisa Rhinehart for your beautiful photography!


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