Need your perspective please to help me talk to my Catholic parent about my non-religious wedding without hurting anyone's feelings.

I’m getting married next year, and I’ve just begun the planning process with my parents and future in-laws. My parents are Roman Catholic. His are southern Baptists. We are atheists. His parents are disappointed, but have accepted our decision to not have a church wedding. My parents, however, are offended and hurt. I’ve always had a great relationship with them, and it’s important to me that they support me in my commitment to my fiance. Since my fiance and I are wildlife biologists, we’re planning a beautiful outdoor wedding ceremony completely written by us. We promised it would be genuine, romantic, and reflect the life-long commitment we’re making to one another. Our thinking was that it would appease guests of all religions, and give us the meaningful ceremony we would like. They insist that our guests (ranging from Baptist to Protestant to Lutheran) would not appreciate such a ceremony, would prefer a religious one, and may even be offended. They suggested we consider a non-denominational wedding. I feel like I’m really letting them down, but at the same time, it seems sacrilegious to hold a wedding in a church that neither of us believe in. In fact, I would be embarrassed to ask a pastor to do that for us. If I was one of your kids, what would you think? What would be a happy medium for you? How would you go about starting the conversation? Has anyone been through a similar situation that worked out? I want them to be involved in my big day, but I’m afraid this conversation will push them away.

One final thing - I’m not here to discuss my personal beliefs. I’m just looking for some perspective that I don’t have, but that I think could really help.

[quote=Jade17;9577749We promised it would be genuine, romantic, and reflect the life-long commitment we’re making to one another. Our thinking was that it would appease guests of all religions, and give us the meaningful ceremony we would like. .

It sounds like you are planning a beautiful wedding. As atheists I don’t think anyone should expect you to have a religious ceremony. If I was a part of your life I’d be so happy that were getting married that it won’t matter where or how you got married. I can’t imagine anyone being offended.


Well, this is a tough one. But I’ll try.

First, we must remember that we can’t live to please our parents. We can try to make them happy by being flexible where we can, but changing our major beliefs to please anyone is a bad idea.

So you can do what you like, but one must also remember that they need not participate if they feel it’s against their conscience. While I understand that you want your parents’ participation, it’s a hard spot you’re in. It also depends on how flexible THEY are. Work out a happy medium for the both of you. There is no “One size fits all” resolution for things like this.

You already have disappointed both sets of parents. If most of the family and friends that are to be invited are also religious, you may want to just get married civilly with closest family/friends, and have a party afterwards.

Trying to make a majority of those attending “happy” or “satisfied” is unlikely to happen.

Personally, I would find any marriage that excluded or disrespected God completely unmeaningful. :eek:

But that’s just me and I’m not invited anyway. :stuck_out_tongue:

First I want to affirm you for living true to your beliefs. Most people live a life far apart from God but want to give their marriage a semblance of Christian basis by having it in a church.

Second, understand your actions will be a reflection of your parents ability to successfully raise children to their Catholic friends, particularly those they would invite to the wedding. You are most likely bumping up against shame, hence the “any church” rather than “no church”. So understand their feelings are going to be hurt.

My wife and I did not want interference from our families so other than mentioning where and when we were getting married, and inviting them to it, no advise or consent was requested or accepted. It was our day (and our money).

Keep it mind it is your day and celebrate the way you want to.

While I won’t give undesired advice, seeing that you are a scientist, I did say a prayer that you would open yourself to the scientific proof of beliefs & concepts found in the Bible.

Have an AWESOME wedding!

Tough one…given that Catholics have a very specific look on what marriage is and what it means. It would be impossible to make any practicing Catholic happy with their children marrying as an atheist.

IMO…don’t try to make everyone happy.

My husband and I came from an opposite situation…we got married as Catholics in a Catholic wedding…with virtually no family or friends who were practicing Catholics.

Everyone was either fallen away and agnostic, atheist or non-denominational. According to our families we were just having our wedding our way.

Congratulations on your wedding!

I was not going to post here because I’m single and have never been married, but I felt that I should.

I’m sure that as much as your parents love you they really want you and your fiance to find faith, convert, and have a full sacramental Catholic wedding blessed by the pope. This doesn’t appear to be in the cards. The fact is you don’t believe in God, so a religious wedding wouldn’t be proper for you. At some level it would be a lie.

I might understand your situation better than your parents. Until about two years ago I was an atheist. I can’t fully explain how that changed, I was raised without faith and didn’t encounter any church until faith (seemingly randomly) came to me. If I could give my faith to you and your partner I would. I do remember what being an atheist was like and I wouldn’t have wanted to get married in a church or swear on a bible purely because those things didn’t have much meaning to me.

As for what you’d want to tell your parents, there is a lot of of common ground between what Catholics feel about marriage and what everyone feels about it. It’s a binding profession of love.

Professions, if they are to mean anything at all, must be made truthfully. Therefore, for you, a church wedding would be improper. I’m not sure what you believe love is, but Catholics believe love is God. Deus Caritas Est. Therefore, for us, it is impossible to take God out of a loving marriage or a loving wedding. (As a side note, a wedding is about the bride and groom. If your parents are concerned about what the guests would appreciate tell them to pay for an open bar and a live band ;))

You expressed these similarities when you said that your service would be genuine and reflect a life long commitment. Emphasize to your parents the “life-long” part. Divorce is an evil that is too common and if you are firm against it then you’re ahead of many Christians.

Those are my thoughts. I wish God’s blessing on you and your marriage and I know your parents feel the same way.

I don’t think you will be able to talk to your parents about your wedding without their feelings being hurt. Your choice to be an atheist and marry another atheist is bound to be a disappointment no matter what. Understand that loving and supporting you doesn’t mean that they will feel happy about everything you do. From a practical perspective, you will do what you want to do since it is your wedding. If any of your religious guests are put off by your DIY approach, they will likely never tell you, because they are too polite. Be nice to your parents, don’t push their buttons, be glad if they choose to attend.

One other thought: at a traditional marriage ceremony, the audience, society, plays a role (if unspoken). The man and woman pledge themselves exclusively to each other and society assents to their claim. The wedding takes place before God and man. When God isn’t invited and you make it up yourself, don’t be surprised if society is confused. Marriage is never only about the couple - as you will start to notice maybe about the time the children start to arrive, or shortly after.

Blessed by the Pope? His Holiness doesn’t micromanage the faithful to the extent of blessing each and every wedding undertaken by the 1 billion plus Catholics of the world. Marriage in front of a simple priest is sufficient.

Man, it’d be a full-time job in itself for sure.

You can totally get your marriage blessed by the Pope!

You ask your parish to submit it to the Vatican many months in advance and you get a certificate from the Pope himself.


Of course you can, but it’s not mandatory and 99.9% of Catholics don’t want it and don’t bother with it. The poster was speaking as if it were mandatory and something any Catholic would automatically want.

Yet that is precisely what one is doing when one wishes to discuss how one’s atheism causes strife to their Catholic family. One’s personal decision to leave the Church apparently put one at odds with one’s family, and the personal beliefs that drove one to this are at the root of this decision.

So when one says one “isn’t here to discuss their personal beliefs,” one is putting ones head in the sand and ignoring the pain they are causing to their family.

One should really examine the root cause of one’s problems: one’s decision to turn their back on the Church.

I would be in the same position as you when I get married.

Any who to the original poster, even though I am not married and I’m not at all and expert on planning weddings I would say first CONGRATS!. Now I do think it is good of you to understand that since you do not not believe that having a wedding in a Church may seem empty. God works in mysterious ways and really a wedding or a marriage was around long before humans were, when God would bring about the marriage of Christ and his bride the Church, I would say that you can’t make everyone happy and I think either way you are going to alienate people who care about you. This isn’t to make you feel bad or convert, that’s Gods job. but again I am glad you realized the effect that your well lack of belief will garner. I would have a low key wedding. I am considering wanting to have one of those myself but in a Church, because most of the friends I have are Atheist or Agnostics, and the Church setting is I would feel uncomfortable for them. But I got a while before I think about that stuff. I do ask God to bless your marriage, when you live for another person it is hard because that other is never perfect, to base your happiness on the world is a challenge indeed so I really do ask God to bless the both of you.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding.

I don’t think you can do this without hurting your parents feelings. If your parents are devout Catholics, you can’t ask them to suspend what they believe is the truth.

Respect their beliefs as much as you ask them to respect yours. Tell them that you love them and that you want them to be there, but if they cannot that you understand and that it does not change your love for them.

And if I may be so bold, as a former non-believer, I pray that one day that you are also touched by the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.

[size=]Jade, what you must try to understand is that your parents are hurting, not just because you’re not marrying in the church of their choice, but because of what that MEANS in their eyes. Catholics see getting married outside the church as a very grave sin. Your parents are afraid for your soul, and they are also carrying around a lot of guilt, wondering how they failed in raising you, that you have become an Atheist. You have free will and you can choose to get married anywhere you want. You have a right to your own life and to make your own decisions. But I hope you will try to understand why your parents cannot feel joyful about this. [/size]

A bit overly harsh, but true enough that this is about nothing but your personal beliefs, or lack thereof. It is a bit naive to say it isn’t.

If you were my child, I would wish you well and give you a big hug. But there is **nothing **one of my children could do to make me accept a wedding such as you describe. I assume you were raised Catholic? If so, they aren’t just disappointed that you are getting married outside of the Church. They are likely heartbroken that you are so far away from the faith they tried to instill in you. This is just the most recent pain. :frowning:

Surely it’s not a grave sin if they’re non-believers? They couldn’t possibly meet the full knowledge requirement.

*Surely it’s not a grave sin if they’re non-believers? They couldn’t possibly meet the full knowledge requirement.

Perhaps I should have said “grave matter” rather than grave sin. Forgive me if I sounded judgmental. I was simply trying to explain to Jade as a Catholic mom how her parents must feel. Surely they must worry about her soul, for she says she is an Athiest. But I had no right to be judgmental. Perhaps I should get to Confession tomorrow?! :eek:

Not necessarily. If I am taught as a child, and accept as a child, that, say, two plus two is four, then my growing older and deciding that in fact two plus two is five doesn’t mean I lack knowledge. It means I choose to ignore the mathematical truth that I have been taught. Unless, say, I do so because I have developed a mental illness that affects my understanding of maths, or lose it due to a brain injury or for some other reason.

It can be the same with moral truths.

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