Ana recently asked me to write a blog post about interfaith and interracial marriage ceremonies. What a loaded topic!
I didn’t know what to write, until I realised that the topic was fairly well covered recently by an email from a local high school student who asked of me an “Expert Authority Statement” on religion, the church, rituals and marriage.
So, Ana, I hope this helps – and if you’re trying to figure out how to mix your faith or religion (or lack of) with getting married, read on.
What do you think the purpose of marriage is?
Marriage is a union of two people and it’s purpose is to create a place where those two individuals can create a life together, exclusive of anyone else. That union brings legal benefits and assumptions, but ultimately it’s a personal and intimate union, created for the primary benefit of the individuals, bringing secondary benefits to the community and society.
Being a civil celebrant, what difference do you see between religious marriages and the ones you conduct?
I don’t see any difference between religious marriages and civil marriages. Any and all marriages are intimate and personal – it’s the celebration that differs – and commonly religious celebrations of marriage are quite antiquated, odd, impersonal, and out of touch with modern relationships.
Religious marriages are known as sacraments rather than ceremonies Do you feel there are benefits in a civil wedding in comparison to a religious wedding?
The benefit of a civil ceremony is the creation of a space for you both as a couple to find your own way, respectful of your culture, your preferences, and your tastes.
On marriages that are conducted religiously, do you feel that there isn’t actually a connection to God and rather the marriage is as a result of conformity to parents?
My experience is that many people are married in religious marriage ceremonies for the benefit of others, not themselves. Even some marriage ceremonies I perform in chapels are in the chapels to appease a grandparent. How crazy is that?!
What are your opinions on marriage? (who it should be between, pushed in society etc.)
My opinion on marriage is that it’s a good and beneficial union to be in. It firstly benefits yourself by creating a space where you and your favourite human can be together organically, naturally, without stress or worry about the status of your relationship. There are community and societal benefits to couples committing to each other for life, and even side effects like making families and friendships, but families have been made outside of marriages for decades now, and couples are more than able to be together without a marriage, so the primary benefit to joining a union called marriage is to make a path forward where the two of you being together is not a variable, but a certainty.
Could you describe to me your views on religion and rituals coexisting?
Rituals are just a prescribed order of actions that a society agrees are required for a ceremony or event. I personally don’t find much benefit to a broad set of rituals prescribed to us as a population anymore. On an intimate level there’s certainly room for couples to identify with rituals and to find meaning in them, but much like religion and faith, couples being married today are creating one-of-a-kind marriages and their marriage will include rituals they want, and their faith or religion will play the part they require it to play.
It’s not my role to impose a belief or ritual upon anyone.
Have you noticed an increase in civil weddings? Why do you feel this is the case?
Over fifty years ago 100% of the marriages begun in Australia were celebrated and created in a religious ceremony, today over 75% are celebrated by a civil marriage celebrant.
That’s a drastic change and a representation of our society’s movement to a personal view on faith, and our community’s desire to celebrate the beginning of a marriage in a personal way
What do you feel is religion’s role in modern day society?
The word ‘religion’ means so many different things to different people. To me it was a box I had to fill out on forms at school. I asked dad once what religion we were and he said “Uniting Church” so I wrote that. Years later, as a 21 year old, I was invited to church and I found so much joy and peace in reading the bible for the first time, and then talking about it with friends in that community and listening to messages preached at that church. But as I spent more time in that community I found that most were not interested in unpacking the adventurous stories of creation and existence found in the bible, but instead the community was intent on pushing a common set of beliefs and rituals upon the greater community, and many of these rituals and beliefs I found myself not agreeing with.
That global community has become obsessed with going to heaven tomorrow and has lost focus on bringing heaven to earth today. A movement that has become about ourselves and our safety, not about others, and their wellbeing.
And that’s what I call religion. A movement that found it’s roots in the stories of God, creation, and the human experience, but has gotten lost along the way and become somewhat of irrelevant part of society.
So I feel that religion’s role in modern day society is lessening as the wider community’s intellect grows.
But if you are talking about religion being dissecting the stories of the bible, reading the stories of old and seeing how we can learn from them then that’s a lot of fun. Finding the relevance to life today in life yesterday and the stories of where we came from. If religion is more about others and their wellbeing, over my own, if it means advocating for hope, freedom, and purpose for all who walk the earth, then I think that movement has a great future. After all, who doesn’t want to being heaven to earth today.
How does Australian society reflect upon the marriage ritual?
Australian society in pop culture sees weddings and marriage in quite a negative light, but in reality, and in my experience, everyone wants their wedding to be an awesome celebration of the awesomeness of their relationship, and everyone wants a lifelong fruitful, exciting marriage.