As a wedding photographer, I’m often one of the first vendors who has the pleasure of sitting down with a client to discuss their wedding day vision. I have noticed, however, that over the years more and more of my clients are opting not to get married in a church. Whether they choose an outdoor ceremony or choose to exchange vows in the foyer of an estate, in a museum, in a theater, at a vinyard, a restaurant or a banquet hall, I have noticed that most of these clients share 1 thing in common: they feel the need to justify, when telling me of their ceremony location, why they have chosen an alternative ceremony location instead of a church.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to get married in a church as a part of a religious ceremony. There is also absolutely nothing wrong with choosing a non-denominational ceremony option either. Regardless of the wedding ceremony options you choose, a wedding day is a union of two people, a visible expression of love and commitment to one another, the beginning of the rest of your lives together! So why, I ask, do couples who are having an non-denominational ceremony often feel the need to justify to others (be it friends, family or vendors) why they made that choice?
Chris Johnson, author of A Better Life has graciously offered to shed some light on the subject of non-denominational weddings and how your day can still be joyous and have tremendous meaning without a trip to the chapel.
“We live in a culture of religious traditions and ceremonies. Because marriage has, for so long, been viewed in our culture as being a religious institution rather than a cultural one, those deviating from the traditional settings have felt the need to justify or explain their choice. This may be due to the fact that they see a non-church setting as being not as valid or “real” as a church setting, or worry that others may view their choice this way.
During my travels for A Better Life, I met with many people who perform non-religious/secular wedding and commitment ceremonies across the world. The common thread between these people is a focus on the lives of the couples involved and creating a ceremony for them, as opposed to the doctrines and dogma of a particular religious tradition. In a way, this frees up the ceremony to make it more personal and tailored to the couple involved. While these ceremonies may lack what some may see as traditional elements, they are more personalized with readings, poetry, and music unique to the couple and their celebration.
The thing is, marriages, whether in a church, on the beach, on a lake, in a cafe, in the courthouse, or in a canoe are about the love and commitment of the couple. These ceremonies are about the joy of coming together with family, friends, and those we love, to celebrate. Churches can be beautiful spaces to have weddings and ceremonies, but at the end of the day, weddings are about people and those we love. Perhaps by leaving the confines of a church, temple, or synagogue, you shift the focus more to the people involved, and I would argue that makes it even better.”
So just exactly how does all of this relate to wedding photography? Here’s the scoop and a little wedding photography advice: Whether your ceremony will contain a mass, be non-denominational or contain a spiritual component, be proud and confident of your choice! Your happiness will be reflected in your photos and make the lasting memories that much more precious!
Chris received his undergraduate degree in film production (along with a minor in religious studies) from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. He has spent the last two years working on A Better Life, traveling across the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, and other countries.
You can purchase his book, A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God at www.theatheistbook.com