I met a groom-to-be recently who told me that he and his fiance had wanted a tiny, quiet wedding at City Hall. However, when the bride’s parents discovered their plans, they were so upset that the couple bowed to the pressure and changed their plans. Ultimately, their desire for a tiny wedding snowballed into a very large wedding — so large they had to rent out a big hall out of town to accommodate everyone. For these two, their change of heart was stressful but ultimately felt like the right thing to do. I always tell couples who are wondering about whether they are doing the “right thing” with their wedding ceremony — particularly when it comes to what families want — that weddings are indeed political events. And, that if they choose an alternative arrangement that may seem like a better fit with their values and style and wishes, to take into account the feelings of family who may be upset by their decision. That said, there are many ways (aside from an elopement) to buck the trends, resist the pressure and do things your way. This article gives some great examples of how to do that.
Humanist weddings are naturally an alternative to some of the more traditional weddings. Our guiding philosophy is one that is naturalistic, egalitarian and one that calls for us all in our own way to work toward a more humane and sustainable world for everyone, which also means taking care of the earth. So, in terms of weddings, that means that Humanist belief systems support green weddings, they support same-sex marriages and they support weddings that celebrate diversity and equality between the sexes. Many couples love these ideas and bring these ideas into their wedding ceremony — sometimes through rituals. For instance, Humanist officiants don’t believe a father “gives his daughter away” and many modern brides opt to walk down the aisle alone, with their partners, with both parents or with their mothers. Many do walk down an aisle with their fathers too as a nod to tradition but without the non-egalitarian, traditional idea behind it. Indeed whoever walks them down the aisle does so in the spirit of love and respect and support.
Also in line with Humanist values, many couples these days send out online invites only and opt for natural settings that may include a park, a beach or a backyard. The idea there is to keep their wedding parties small to avoid massive costs and massive waste. While this isn’t a judgment on large, costly weddings — which can also involve all kinds of beautiful Humanist values — it is important for families to know there are amazing alternative wedding ideas out there. My advice though to couples who want to find alternatives to traditional weddings is this: tread carefully and communicate early and with care to address potentially hurt feelings and family politics. Remember, that getting married to your partner also means forming or renewing connections to family and community and the decisions you make will be with you for a very long time.