A Letter to Parents Whose Children Decide Not to Get Married In a Religious Ceremony

Do we trust God to act in all the events in our lives,

or only the ones that meet our approval?

Barbara Brown Taylor

Last weekend I officiated a wedding that the groom’s parents boycotted because he was marrying a woman of a different faith (not the couple pictured above). His father was embarrassed and worried about what his relatives in their country of origin would say.

The groom spoke of his father with love, compassion and understanding.

He was hurt but somehow not angry.  I marveled at his generous spirit.

Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve had one or both sets of parents boycott a wedding because of religion.

And so this post is intended for the mother or father who is thinking of not attending their child’s wedding because they don’t approve of them marrying outside “the” faith.

My intention is not to scold. Rather, I invite you to reflect on my perspective. . .

Over my years of ministry I’ve come to realize certain things that I believe are true about God and religion.

I ask that you forgive me if at any time I sound presumptuous or arrogant. That’s not my intention.

“I’m spiritual, but not religious” is what many engaged couples tell me.

Although they grew up in homes that had some religious affiliation, much like yours, they themselves no longer attend weekly church services.

While many of these couples have drifted away from the church rituals of their upbringing, they still believe in God.

They desire a ceremony that honors the sacredness of what they are doing without it being religious, i.e. denominational.

With many of these couples, their parents, like you, still go to church and, like you, often times are disappointed with the couples’ decision not to have a religious-based wedding.

I believe God is never found in a church building simply because it is a church building.

People bring God to a church building. 

Family and friends, knowingly and unknowingly, bring God with them to the ceremony.

It is their love, joy and wishes that make a ceremony sacred – for God can only be found in the love and joy of God’s people.

I believe that when a couple sends out wedding invitations, they are really saying to family and friends “come celebrate the great good we have found in each other, and bear witness as we give our word to each other.” 

It really is that simple.  And what could be more sacred?

I believe a couple enters into the mystery of life and love when they give their word, their vow, to each other.

In an age when talk is cheap, what could honor God, who is “The Word,” more than for a person to give his or her word to their beloved with an open heart?

I believe the sacredness of a ceremony also comes from recognizing that family and friends are the “collective memory” of the day.

In years to come, when life gets messy, they are to remind the couple of the love they celebrated and bore witness to. And that is a sacred responsibility.

I believe a wedding ceremony, when done right, renews and refreshes everyone present.

When done right, a wedding ceremony reminds us what life is all about – friends, family, love, loyalty.

What could be more sacred than creating that simple, yet profound reminder?

I am saddened – and at times angered – when a couple tells me their mother and/or father have threatened to boycott the wedding because they’re not getting married in a church.

I don’t understand how a parent could inflict such cruelty upon their child, especially when this daughter or son is marrying a good person – a person of integrity.  I can’t understand the harsh words you inflict upon your child.

How often do we say, “God is love”? 

Can any one of us truly comprehend the magnitude of this belief?  I don’t believe any human can – not even the head of a religion.

Do you not believe that God’s graciousness encompasses more than we can imagine?

Where there is love, there is God. 

Every religion holds some understanding of this tenet.

Is not God in the love your child has for their partner? Is it not possible that God’s love extends far beyond any church service?

To believe in God is to believe in an awe-inducing, life affirming mystery. To believe in God is not to believe in magic.

Do you really believe that in the face of love God could be angry?

Why do you claim your anger is a reflection of God’s anger?

Embrace your child, bless your child in and through your hurt, believing all the while, as did all the holy ones of every religion, that in the end. . .

all will be well. . . 

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

If you’re a parent who’s upset that your daughter or son is not getting married in a religious setting, and you’ve been laying a “guilt trip” on them (hey, let’s call it for what it is), then here are seven questions I invite you to reflect upon.

Let these questions spur a conversation with your son or daughter and their partner.

Talking is way better than guilt-tripping!

  1. Why is it important to you that your son/daughter get married in a religious setting?
  2. Do you understand that your child no longer attends church?
  3. What do you think will be the consequences if your child does not get married in a church?
  4. What do you think God thinks of all this?
  5. Is your child’s “love” for their partner a gift or a curse?
  6. What is your biggest fear regarding your child not having a religious wedding?
  7. If you are worried “they” will judge you or the couple for not having a religious wedding, why are “they” being invited to the wedding?   COURAGE!
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