Posted by: Chelsea Novak | March 27, 2006

Damn the man!

Pretty much everything having to do with our wedding has been fun and amazing. If I had smaller feet, it would be the perfect superlative experience. Really. It’s been a blast, save this small detail: Finding someone to marry us.

In some countries, anyone can become an ordained whatever through a variety of mediums and perform a wedding or two and it will be legally binding. A friend that we know and love marrying us, well that would be awesome. It would be so personal and so genuine. But because the puritanical province of Ontario demands it, we can only be married by a certified officiant (a distinction that only can come with an affiliation with a religion), a judge (in chambers) or a justice of the peace. But wait, recently in this province the duties of the JPs were altered, no longer requiring them to do wedding ceremonies. So unless you know one personally, you can’t find one to marry you. And if you want to be married somewhere other than in a judge’s chambers, you’re stuck with an officiant. Who I’m positive are some of the darn nicest people around, but leave me in a bit of a situation.

What do you do if you’re an atheist? How do I get married by someone religious without being a complete and total hypocrite? And how do I get over the anger I feel at having to PAY hundreds of dollars to have a complete and total stranger come to a very special and private moment to legalize a commitment they have no part of with the sanction of a church and the state, two things I have little fondness for?

I suppose you just take it on then chin like you do when you pay your taxes and salute the bureaucracy with your finger of choice, or do like Zeus did and take a dump on the label for my tax return. Thanks kitty for doing what most of us have wanted to do from the day we got our SIN numbers.

Anyway, I thought I’d found a solution in hiring a Humanist officiant. While Humanists are not religious, they are, in the government’s eyes a recognized religion. We met with one and I came away from the whole experience feeling like I was being led into a cult (something I think was a reflection of the individual I met with and not because of the values of Humanism). I don’t like “isms”. I think that identifying with them makes it really easy for people to make generalizations about you rather than putting in the effort to really learn what you’re about. Even having to say that I’m an atheist annoys me because it’s an “ism”.

So you can only imagine the disdain I felt when this particular officiant stated that he adamantly wanted to include a line about the principles of Humanism into the wedding ceremony, as in “Humanism is…”. People are entitled to their opinions and their beliefs, but when I’ve hired you to perform a service, it is not an opportunity for you to recruit people to your movement. To me, it was tantamount to another officiant stating that we were marrying under the eyes of the lord or something like that. Something completely irrelevant to us. If we were Humanists, it might make sense. But we’re not. We’re not anything but the people we are and that’s kind of the point.

I’m being my usual idealistic self in wanting the person marrying me to believe in and value the same things I do. I guess then I would feel validated by their endorsement of our commitment and not like it’s some stranger I’ve paid.

I know I should just let go and hire a retired minister or something like that. Odds are we’ll get someone assigned to us from the city (an officiant and thereby affiliated with a religion, but required to perform a civil ceremony) or use AllSeasons (because they let us do our ceremony any way we want). Most likely it will be just fine and I’ll be so wrapped up in the rest of the good stuff of the day that I’ll forget. In fact, I’m sure that once I have this person booked, this will all abate into a tiny memory.

HRH

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Responses

  1. I sympathise. We were in a slightly different situation, in that neither of us subscribes to any organised religion, but we do have ties to them, so wanted to be able to include things from various religious traditions in our ceremony. This ruled out the Humanists, because they won’t allow any mention of religion in the ceremony (ask Shaver!). So we went with a Unitarian minister, even though we have no connection to that church. It was a little annoying having to recruit a stranger for such an intimate occasion, but I really liked the person we chose, and she listened very well to what we wanted, and was happy to basically read whatever we gave her to read, with no restrictions about what we should put in (other than the legally required verbiage).

    Oh, and she was alos willing to come to our venue, which was important.

    Good luck!

  2. Likewise. As an atheist with no connection to any established religion, I ended up going with a united church minister (a university chaplain) – he was way, way cooler than I expected and was happy to go with our choice of secular script (that even addressed some of my concerns about misogyny – I don’t “obey.” anyone.). It would more aptly be described as a spiritual than religious ceremony. There were no mentions of god and it ended with a beautiful Apache love poem. To this day I’m more unsettled about the institution of marriage per se (given its religious and historical origins and connotations) than the minister. He was great. -Natasha.

  3. Go read Jacob’s post. Atheism is all the rage in my blogosphere today.

    I can’t help you with the Ontarian rules, and we may not cater to atheists, but we can buy shoes in my country. Let me know what you need, my little lady.

  4. I have a number of very cool, won’t-talk-about-religion-if-you-don’t-want minister-type friends who might be available. Let me know if I can help. I know this is frustrating… 😦

  5. One option that a friend of mine chose was to get married twice. Once earlier in the day in city hall, and the second time in front of everyone else with a relative as a ‘minister’. Maybe it would feel like cheating but it worked out nicely.


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