Riding Shotgun: Goin’ to the Chapel pt. 2, Wherein I Channel Ann Landers

Creating middle ground is key in a relationship. Especially after one’s fiancée learns you plan to tell the world that church weddings are silly.

I learned recently that it may not be wise to write — even in jest — about hiring an actor to play the minister at my wedding. Let me explain.

There are certain things you should discuss with your betrothed before getting married, certain crucial conversations you should have. There’s the Kids Conversation (Do you want them? How many? Do you prefer physical abuse or emotional?). There’s the Money Conversation (Who pays for what? How will bank accounts work? Do you realize how much a writer makes per annum?). And then there’s the Religion Conversation.

Sometimes that conversation is laughably easy: What religion are you? The end.

But I’m an agnostic, which makes it not so easy. Honestly, it would be easier if I were atheist: Do you believe in God? No. (For a discussion on agnosticism and atheism, click here.)

Instead, it’s more like: Do you believe in God? I dunno. Well, what do you think? I dunno. Do you think there’s a higher power? Maybe. Chances are. I dunno.

So, since I can’t come right out and rail against the existence of God, people tend to assume I’m a Christian who just doesn’t want to commit. Until we start talking about details. Like, the relationship of religion to the wedding ceremony.

Being an agnostic means that a wedding, to me, is not a religious ceremony. I don’t care how the ceremony came about, how it evolved, or what society, the state, or religious organizations consider it to be. To me, it’s got bupkis to do with God. You can still call it a spiritual ceremony, but that’s splitting hairs. To me, it’s a public declaration of my commitment to spend the rest of my life with the person I love the most. It’s a little bit for our sake, but it’s mostly for our guests. It’s sort of like a work of theatre: a short one-act play, followed by a kick-ass cast party.

I realize, of course, that my fiancée does consider this to be a religious ceremony. Not really really religious. Just a little religious. God’s on the guest list, but not in the wedding party. I have no problem with this. My fiancée’s beliefs and feelings on this don’t conflict with mine. Good, great, done.

But then I wrote about it.

I wrote about how, for me, religion and weddings don’t meet. I wrote about how religious beliefs, or families’ religious beliefs, can get in the way of two people who love each other. I wrote about friends and relations who have had to hurdle and sidestep the derision of parents and friends who didn’t approve of marriages for religious reasons. And, of course, I did all this with my trademark irreverence. Which came across as making light of marriage in general and the wedding ceremony specifically.

Which my fiancée did have a problem with.

It is, after all, our wedding, and the way I describe it and talk about it to everyone else affects her as well as me. I was a dumb fuck. I own my dumbfuckery. I suspected my dumbfuckery, which is why I asked her to read the original article, which started a discussion about weddings, ceremony, and religion or the lack of it.

We’ve realized that religion — encompassing our wider philosophies on life in general — is just one of those topics that people in a relationship have to revisit again and again. Feelings change. Beliefs grow and are honed. And, because those beliefs guide our actions, our life partners should be informed of them.

It’s the kind of thing that seems too basic and obvious to mention, but as I showed, it’s easy for it to be overlooked and forgotten and disregarded in day-to-day living.

And when I write about hiring a fake minister, I should realize it might be construed as not caring about the seriousness of the ceremony, and that my fiancée might object — not to my opinions, but to how others might read them. Simple thoughtfulness is the best defense against further relationship dumbfuckery.

And I’ll save the wit, sarcasm and trademark irreverence for when I talk about abortion or the Golden Globes.

Article © 2006 by Steve Spotswood