Marriage Ceremony for a Christian & Atheist

My fiance and I have been engaged now for 7 months and were planning on having a long engagements (2 1/2 years, the wedding being in summer of 2007), but recently decided to move our date back a year, to July 30, 2006. This sudden change has gotten me a little flustered because now I’m having to start planning a wedding a year before I expected to!

We already have our location and date, but now that we’re starting to talk about the actual ceremony, we’ve hit a bit of a roadblock. He is a non-denominational Christian (baptized as a Southern Baptist, but has since left his former church), and I am an atheist. I would like to be married by a judge and have always seen marriage as a judicial state rather than religious, where as he wants to be married by a pastor and has always seen marriage as a deeply religious ceremony.

This is actually the first time we’ve run into the issue of our different religious views because we both are very tolerant to each other’s views and plan to raise our children to be open to any and all religion and to allow them to make their own religious decisions.

When I attended my brother’s wedding in June, it was a religious wedding, and it was very awkward for him, because like me, he is an atheist. When they exchanged rings, they also said “with this ring, I thee wed, in the name of our lord, Jesus Christ.” I am absolutely not comfortable with a ceremony of this tone. I would rather have no mention of God or Christ, but know that my fiance would much prefer to have a religious tone. I feel that it is disrespectful to Christianity, the ceremony and our vows to be repeating words in which I do not believe.

I want to find a happy medium between religious and not, and would love to have some suggestions. Do you think a pastor would be comfortable doing this type of wedding? His biggest protest was to the idea of being married by a judge rather than a clergyman. I also would like to not have a prayer given during the ceremony because I find it very awkward to be the only one to not pray, but I do not mind a prayer being offered during speeches or toasts at the reception.

Our wedding site is also 6 hours away from where we live, so we won’t be able to talk to anyone local very easily. I just moved from Ohio (my lifelong home) to Memphis, TN, which is my fiance’s lifelong home, so we chose the Smoky Mountainsbecause they are the same distance from both my family and his. The problem now is that we are planning from a distance!

Any suggestions or feedback is much appreciated.

Pastor Buddy

Hi Kat,

Pastor Buddy here from Gatlinburg, Tennessee. WOW! Let me understand this. You are an Ohio atheist relocating to part of the Bible Belt and getting married in the Smoky Mountains which is the heart of he Bible belt?! WOW!

Your fiancee is a Christian. He sees marriage as a spiritual union and you see it as a judicial state. WOW!

My heart goes out to you. You must love one another. But, the marriage ceremony is the least of your problems. It is very difficult for a marriage to work in this modern world as it is. Potential marital problems are exacerbated by your religious views. I suggest you have a heart to heart discussion with your fiancee as soon as possible. The Bible makes a very specific warning that a “believer” not be “unequally yoked” in a marriage. It is a warning not a dire portend. Many times “believers” hope their spouse will change in spite of the warning. It is called love. We hope with all our love our spouse will have an experience with God. I know the following is unsolicited and I hope you understand, but I pray you come to know God and His love for you. That is your fiancee’s prayer also I am sure. All this tells me he loves you very much. If you could infinitely multiply his love for you, you might get close to the love God has for you both.

As I said, you are in my prayers. Lord Bless!

Reader Response

No offense to you, Pastor, but I did not come to this forum to be preached to. I have done my own religious soul searching and have yet to find the right religion to me, but I do feel that Christianity is not the one.

One thing that we might consider a blessing is that my fiance, while considering himself a Christian, does not attend church because he prefers to find his own interpretation of the Bible and his religion. He also feels that he has no place to ask anyone to follow his religion.

We have had many many heart-to-heart talks about religion and one thing we have in common is the belief that Christianity is not the only path to “God.” He is not a strict Christian – he follows the ideals, but not word for word, if that makes sense? His only hope for me is that I find a religion I find peace in. The idea of me being a complete atheist bothers him, and in reality, it bothers me a bit as well, but I want to find a religion in which I truly feel comfortable and can fully believe, and so far, that has not come about. I do a lot of comparitive religion study and try to learn about as many religions as possible in the hopes I will find the perfect one for me because I don’t believe compromising my own beliefs is the way to be religious.

Since I made this post, my fiance and I have spoken more about our ceremony and I think we managed to work out a compromise on our own – we will be married by a religious officiant in a traditional Christian-style wedding, but without strong religious overtones. We will speak to our officiant well beforehand and go over all wording to make sure we are both alright with it. That way we will both be comfortable and happy at our ceremony and both feel that it was a ‘valid’ ceremony to our own beliefs.