Religion in your Civil Marriage Ceremony

by Jennifer Cram, Brisbane Marriage Celebrant ©(13/11/2019)
Categories:  | Wedding Ceremony |
previous    |    contents     |   next
Bible open at 1
                    Corinthians 13 with wedding and engagement rings
                    lying on the pageIn Australia there is no prohibition on including personal expressions of religious or spiritual belief in a civil marriage ceremony, and there are many ways to do this -  as long as any such inclusion is at the express wish of the marrying couple.

In this country, 3 out of every 4 marriages are civil ceremonies officiated by authorised (civil) celebrants. However, for some couples, marrying in a civil ceremony poses a dilemma when they would have preferred to be married in a religious ceremony, but for some reason that's denied to them, they are of different faiths, or family members are upset that they are not marrying in a religious ceremony.

Thankfully, all of these issues can be addressed within your civil marriage ceremony.

When you have no religious beliefs but family members do


By far the most common situation I encounter is that where the marrying couple have no religious belief but significant members of their family do, and are upset that it won't be a religious ceremony. So the challenge fo you, the couple, is to acknowledge their beliefs without compromising your own.

The obvious (and most frequently used) solution for Christians is to include a reading of 1 Corinthians, 13 in the ceremony. It mentions neither God nor Jesus, but Christians recognise it, while others view it as simply a poem about love. A reading specific to another faith can just as easily be incorporated. And what adds to this inclusion is careful choice of the reader.

Another great solution is the Warming of the Rings Ritual, that is not specific to any particular religion. That's the one where the rings are passed around all of the guests, or selected people. It is all in the wording. I invite those participating to hold the rings, infuse them with their love and support, and make a silent wish for the marriage or say a prayer according to your personal belief system.

Blessing of individuals or couples by members of the older generation are virtually universal. So inviting a beloved parent or grandparent to deliver a blessing after you've said your vows and exchanged your rings, works well on every level.  The blessing can use wording of a particular religious tradition, be spoken extempore by the person delivering it, or be a secular blessing.

When you are of two different faiths


One of the ways to deal with pressures to marry in one faith or another, is to have a civil ceremony that incorporates elements of both religions or rituals that have an element common to both faiths. You can also have a leader in each faith co-officiate with me.

When would prefer to, but can't, marry in a religious ceremony


There are some situations where a religious ceremony is not possible for a variety of reasons. In such situations you can incorporate elements from the marriage ceremony of that faith group in your civil ceremony. So you could
  • Use the wording of the vows that are part of the ceremony
  • Use the wording of blessings or other parts of your faith group's ceremony in your civil ceremony
  • Use rituals common in your faith group's ceremony in your civil ceremony

When one of you is a believer and the other is not


Your wedding vows do not have to be identical. So one of you can incorporate wording such as "In the sight of God"  in your vows, or carry religious symbols, such as a rosary.

I can also create a version of common wedding rituals, such as the lighting of the unity candle, the sand ceremony, handfasting, or cord of three strands, to acknowledge your individual beliefs.
Thanks for reading! 
Questions or comments.
                      Click to contact

< previous    |    contents    |    next >