Monday, March 12th, 2012 by Faye

Non-Traditional Wedding Ceremonies


If you are a member of a church or identify with a religion, chances are you are aware of your marriage ceremony options and have a pretty good idea of what your ceremony will look like. The rituals of a Roman Catholic, Orthodox Jewish, Russian Orthodox, or Episcopalian wedding ceremony (to name a few) are fairly set in stone and couples do not have much leeway in how the ceremony will go.  For those who are choosing a secular ceremony or are unaffiliated with a specific church, there are different styles of how to conduct a secular or religious ceremony.

Unitarian Universalism

This religion celebrates diversity, conversion is a matter of self-identification, and membership is voluntary, making it ideal for couples who have a strong spiritual faith but might not prescribe to a certain set of dogmatic beliefs, and for multi-faith couples. Marriage ceremonies are conducted by a Unitarian minister and have no set rules, rituals, or set length. Couples work with their minister to design a ceremony that fits their personalities, beliefs, and can include almost anything they are inspired by!

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association is more of a progressive philosophical organization rather than a religion. The group is focused on equality and progressive values. They are legally considered an Ethical Cultural movement and are recognized in the USA to legally perform marriages. As with Unitarian ceremonies most AHA officiants will work with couples to create a unique ceremony based on a couple’s shared values and desires.

Civil Ceremonies

Conducted by a legal official, civil ceremonies are perfect for those getting hitched on short notice, couples who want a fuss-free commitment, destination weddings, second marriages, and for multi-faith couples. They are typically conducted at city hall, although many officials will travel to conduct a ceremony. The words spoken are based on the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer, but couples can ask to have religious references removed from the spoken ceremony.

Military Weddings

Each branch of the military has specifications for how a wedding ceremony is conducted.  Military brides and grooms should check with their base chaplains or service manuals to make sure they get the details. For dress, grooms can wear their formal service uniforms or opt for the less formal suit or tuxedo option. Women can wear a traditional wedding dress or their service uniforms. Grooms and their military groomsmen wearing uniform must abide by the “no flower” rule, making boutonnieres a no-no. Brides and their military bridesmaids are exempt and may carry bouquets. An American flag should be prominently displayed during the ceremony. Tradition also calls for a Naval sword or Army saber tunnel to be formed by fellow military guests for the couple to walk under as they leave the altar or ceremony location.

Same-Sex

The first thing to consider when planning a same-sex wedding is whether or not same-sex unions are legal in your state.  This will determine the official who can preside over the ceremony. If same-sex weddings are not yet legal then you will be planning a commitment ceremony. Many of the details are the same and same-sex couples share the same hurdles straight couples faces. How religious or traditional do you want your ceremony? Are you combining two faiths in one ceremony? Who will you choose to conduct the ceremony? Etc. Check with the officiant you would like and make sure they will happily and supportively conduct a same-sex ceremony, the last thing any couple wants at the altar is an unsupportive officiant.  Men often choose more formal attire such as tux or suit. Women might choose to have one partner don a white dress, both wear dresses in any color, have one or both women wear suits, or any combination! How couples dress and the details of the ceremony are entirely up to them, as with most weddings these days!