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
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
When you are of two
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
- 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!