My Secular Wedding

just married_signWedding planning proved to be far more time consuming than I ever imagined, but I’m back, happily married, and planning to return to blogging now that I have actual free time.

The wedding happened recently this summer, and it was completely nonreligious. I was still somewhat worried going in about how my family would react to the lack of religiosity. God was not mentioned even once in the ceremony, and our officiant happened to be a woman (we didn’t specifically look for a female officiant, she was just the person we happened to like best after we talked to a bunch of local officiants). We generally tried to be ourselves in every aspect of the wedding planning from food to music. We had a “first look” and took some photos before the ceremony. We also finally said “fuck it” and moved in together a few weeks before the wedding.

I have no regrets. The wedding was beautiful, and generally a good time. If you are considering getting married in a nonreligious ceremony despite having religious family and friends, my advice is, if you are out about your non-religiousness, go ahead and have whatever wedding you want.

Contrary to my fears, I’ve had no complaints about the lack of religiosity, even from the most religious people who were there. The comments we received were wholly positive. Our family and friends appreciated how personal the ceremony was, and I think it was a treat for some of them to experience a wedding outside of a church setting. We were told our ceremony was beautiful over and over again, and I think for the relatives who don’t know us as well (we had some slightly estranged folks come), the personal touch made it that much more special. One aunt actually came up to me afterward and said she loved that we were married by a woman rather than a man.

The ceremony was short and sweet. My parents both walked me down the aisle. The content was about us as a couple. Our officiant talked about how we met and said some generally pleasant things about love and marriage. She talked a little about the tradition of wedding rings, and she kept it light yet personal. My husband’s brother read a quote from Bob Marley. My cousin gave another reading about love. I’d say the ceremony took 20 minutes maybe, including the time for the procession, which I really appreciated because it didn’t drag. We didn’t have to stand for a crazy long time, and our relatives didn’t seem bored since we didn’t have to listen to an awkward homily or participate in an hour of sit-stand-kneel -communion-kneel-sit-stand as you do in a Catholic wedding.

Maybe the reason it was all received so positively is that weddings are celebrations, so our guests came expecting to have a good time. Then again, maybe people who disagreed with the way we did things just kept it to themselves. I’m fine with that too. I had a wonderful time.

For those of you who followed my posts in the past year or so, few and far between though they were, I have decided to change my last name after serious deliberation. Now I’m getting ready to start that crazy process, so there’s that.

If any of you have wedding stories, secular or religious, feel free to share them in the comments.

Happy thinking,

Nancy

 

 

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Wedding Officiants and a Life Update

Macro Photo of Flowers in Wedding VenueMy fiance and I just selected a venue for our wedding. (One of the big reasons why I’ve been posting less frequently has been just wedding stuff.) After that, the next big order of business will be something I’m pretty nervous about: finding an officiant. My fiance and I have decided that we want a secular wedding ceremony, which means we’ll need to find an officiant in our area who can do that, and figure out whether or not using a secular officiant affects the legal side of things. Does our state care who the officiant is?

That’s not even my biggest concern.

Having a secular wedding means a lot to us as secular people. For me personally, it means saying my vows in a setting that reflects my personal beliefs and worldview rather than just those of my family. It’s the couple making the promise after all. I think it’s important for the promise to be in a format that we personally find meaningful, but for our families, it may be a source of confusion or even conflict.

For many people, a wedding is simply always a religious ceremony. In Catholicism, it’s  a sacrament, so it may be difficult to explain to our religious relatives that we’re not having a priest or minister perform the ceremony.

We might even have a female officiant. (Not that we have to. I’m just very open to the idea.) But in Catholicism, since women can’t be priests, women just don’t marry people. That means something as unimportant as the gender of our officiant could really weird out some members of my family. It would be absurd to them. What if that makes my parents think my marriage isn’t valid?

Maybe these fears are unfounded though. Secular weddings are increasingly common now. How many popular TV shows have had a friend of a couple marry them? Like Barney performing the ceremony for Lily and Marshall in How I Met Your Mother or several friends officiating at Howard and Bernadette’s wedding in The Big Bang Theory–it’s kind of a cool thing to do. My parents have seen some TV weddings like this. Maybe the idea of a nonreligious officiant isn’t as foreign to them now as it would have been a few years ago.

Only time will tell with this one. I’ll probably end up sharing more about our secular wedding experiences, so if you’re interested in any specific details be sure to let me know and I’ll try to reply or maybe even bring them up in a future post (once we’ve made those decisions. We’re still not that far in the wedding planning process yet).

Have any of you been to secular wedding ceremonies in the past? Maybe even had one yourself? I’d love to hear about your experiences. How did family and friends respond to a nonreligious ceremony?

All opinions are welcome! Just be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Divorce and Catholicism

Printer Paper Cut With Orange ScissorI’ve been toying with drafts of a post about divorce for a while now, but I didn’t feel like I had the material to really back up the opinion I was trying to express. Then the other day I saw this video from Adam Ruins Everything about why divorce is actually not a terrible thing. I definitely recommend checking this video out. It gets to the heart of why it’s important to have legal divorce be accessible. One fact from the video that I’d never heard before is that by some estimates, the availability of divorce reduced the female suicide rate by 20%. Considering the fact that domestic violence didn’t used to be considered grounds for divorce in many places, and that marital rape wasn’t even legally considered rape until more recently than you’d think depending on the state, the availability of divorce was definitely a source of hope for many people, especially women.

In Catholicism, however, there is simply no such thing as divorce. Marriage, in Catholicism, is permanent. This means if a Catholic couple gets a legal divorce, they are still considered married in the eyes of the church. That can be OK at first. As this Catholic website explains, legally divorced Catholics are still considered full members of the church as long as they’re in good standing (basically if they go to mass and participate in the sacraments, especially communion and confession, and generally follow church rules). They don’t begin to run into trouble until they meet someone else, and decide they’d like to get married again.

Keep in mind that to the Catholic church, a divorced person is still in their first marriage. So to the church, this is a married person asking to also marry someone else. That’s definitely not allowed! The horror! But there is an option to proceed, and it’s called annulment.

Annulment is a process by which Catholics who are legally divorced (or who would like to be) can appeal to a church tribunal (basically a church court) to get a declaration of nullity, stating that one of the major requirements for  valid marriage wasn’t present on the day of the ceremony. These are the requirements for a valid Catholic marriage that would be examined for an annulment:

For a Catholic marriage to be valid, it is required that: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they are capable of giving their consent to marry; (3) they freely exchange their consent; (4) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; (5) they intend the good of each other; and (6) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by Church authority.

This list comes from an FAQ page on this website about annulments. Feel free to check it out for more information.

The thing that strikes me the most about this list is that if these are the criteria that the tribunal looks at to determine if the marriage can be annulled, why don’t they include any details from the actual marriage itself? The relationship after the wedding. A wedding is just a big party with some vows and a contract. That’s not the meat of the relationship. What if it’s an abusive marriage? What if even though both partners genuinely mean to be faithful when they say their vows, there is cheating down the road? What if they just grow apart? Find themselves coming to incompatible conclusions about life and the world around them that put a painful strain on their relationship? It can and does happen. I think those are all valid reasons for couple to consider divorce. But according to the church, only the events of the wedding itself and the intentions of the couple on that date are supposed to be examined.

I have been assured by my Catholic parents that of course the church would never force a couple to stay in an abusive marriage, and would gladly grant an annulment. I would like to believe them, and I imagine that in most cases the tribunal would take that into account. But if that is the case, why doesn’t this site say the tribunal will look into anything about the relationship after the wedding day? In that vein, one particular frequently asked question on the same web page about annulment makes me uneasy:

How can a couple married for many years present a case?

The tribunal process examines the events leading up to, and at the time of, the wedding ceremony, in an effort to determine whether what was required for a valid marriage was ever brought about. The length of common life is not proof of validity but a long marriage does provide evidence that a couple had some capacity for a life-long commitment. It does not prove or disprove the existence of a valid marriage bond. [Italics mine]

I’m concerned about how they will define a long marriage. Is two years long? Twenty?  Long isn’t a very specific word. Also, it’s not uncommon for people to stay in abusive relationships for a pretty long time, even though they know it’s dangerous. The psychology of abuse is complicated, and abusers are often very sweet and loving in between spurts of hurtful language or violence, making victims question whether their abusers are really that bad, only for the cycle to occur again.

I’d like to see the church change its position on divorce. I’d like to see the long annulment process completely eliminated. If the church wants to do a divorce ceremony that’s up to them, but the current legality of divorce is an important right that may be saving the lives of some women. The antiquated view the church has on divorce only creates social stigma, which can erode the support system a struggling person might need to get back on their feet after such  split. The Catholic church is very good at creating stigma, at making certain things taboo. I’d like to see that change.

What are your thoughts on divorce, annulment, and Catholicism? Do you have any experience with the Catholic annulment process? I’d love to hear your story. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Times When It’s Not Appropriate to say “Praise God”

man, hands, church

For some reason, there are some people for whom “praise God” and “congratulations” are synonyms. For whom words like “Thank you so much,” or “Good job,” get replaced with a hearty “Thank you Jesus!”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people shouldn’t practice their religions (regardless of what I think about those belief systems). If you want to praise God, go right ahead. But think about the context of the situation and who you’re saying it to. When you say things like this to a nonreligious person in these types of situations, it can be very irritating at best and even downright offensive, because it feels like you’re refusing to acknowledge their own contributions to these positive outcomes–their own hard work and achievement.

So without further ado, here are some times when it’s not appropriate to say “Praise God.”

  • When your writer child says, “I finished writing my novel!”
  • When your toddler says, “Daddy, I went potty all by myself!”
  • When your friend tells you they got that doctorate they’ve been working towards for so many years.
  • When your other friend tells you how proud they are of the machine they built.
  • When your shy child says, “I met someone and we’re engaged.”
  • When your uncle says he worked his butt off and convinced his boss to give him that raise he needs so that he and his wife can finally start their family in a good home.
  • When your doctor uses their medical training to heal you successfully.
  • When a fireman does his job and puts out your kitchen fire.
  • And last but not freaking least, when your wife says “Dinner’s ready!” (Seriously, my dad does that last one every. Fucking. Night. I have a very hard time keeping to myself how badly I want to tell him to just thank Mom.)

The appropriate response to most of these is “congratulations,” or “thank you.” Things like “Great job!” “You deserve this” or “All that hard work paid off,” are pretty good too.

But “praise God?”

How about recognizing when people have success? How about praising them first? If you’re religious, you can praise God in your own time, but this? This is a time to be with your family. Your close friends. To support and praise the person who loves you enough to choose to tell you about their success. To thank the person who did something for you, whether it was performing a service or doing you a favor. Don’t deflect that moment of human interaction by making it about your religion. Actually love your loved ones. Thank the people who help you. Give credit where it’s due.

What do you think about this list? Agree? disagree? Maybe there’s something you would add to it? Feel free to share your thoughts. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

A Personal Update

I’ve been having trouble motivating myself to post regularly lately, but I definitely need to get back into it. Living with my family is very emotionally draining, and having the chance to just rant about the endless Catholicism I’m surrounded with is cathartic at the very least.

My family lives their lives by the church calendar, which is fine for them, but it’s not for me. I work around it when I can, and if I have to skip meat except for fish on Fridays I’ll do it. That’s not a huge deal.

What is though, is just knowing that I’m not in a home environment that respects my beliefs or political opinions. I still get passive aggressive comments from my dad basically calling me stupid for not believing. My brother likes to pick arguments with me about politics in which he shouts at me. I try not to shout back, but after living in this environment for so long I feel ganged up on and tend to end up being more emotional than I should. It’s very easy to say “I want to be the mature person, to keep my cool,” which I do want very much, but that’s easier said than done.

I also don’t have much of a community to fall back on now that I’ve left the church completely. I have way fewer friends than I once had, and a lot of them are moving to various other states as their careers take them elsewhere. This is a normal part of life at my age, and I’m very happy that my friends are finding careers and starting their adult lives in exciting new places, but realizing that is very difficult because it means that without my family’s support, I’d be basically on my own except for my fiance. I need to make some new friends, and get better at staying in touch with the people I can still get along with: the people whose friendships with me weren’t influenced by religion.

I need to pay off over $60,000 in student loan debt, but I know at my current rate it’ll be many years before I even come close to paying it off.

I want to move out of my parents’ house, but the longer I live here, the faster I can pay off my debt.

I want to get married, but weddings are expensive and at the moment my practical side says DEAL WITH THIS HUGE DEBT FIRST. So I’m kind of in a weird place right now.

It’s hard to feel like I’m going anywhere. I know my current situation is only temporary, but until I have a wedding date, or a new place to live that I’m moving to on a specific day, it just feels endless. I’ve been living here like this since May of last year. I’ve been living here for more than a year. After college.

I don’t really want sympathy, I just want to express where I am right now and get it off my chest. If any of you have advice or experiences to share, I’m more than happy to read about it in the comments. I hope you have a sense of progress in your life. I hope you feel like even if you aren’t where you want to be, you’re on your way there. If you have any advice for a young adult trying to figure life out, feel free to share it.

All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

 

 

What Does “Never Forget 9/11” Really Mean?

An example of one of these “Never Forget 9/11” campaigns. Most of the ones I’ve seen in my area are just handwritten signs.

I was driving down a suburban road the other day and saw that someone had put up a spray-painted sign stating, “Never Forget 9/11.”

Beneath it, also in spray paint, they had written, “Blue Lives Matter.” (Facepalm.)

Their lawn is covered with miniature American flags.

From the combination of the two signs, I can discern their political affiliation is republican, though I could have guessed it well enough from the first sign, and from the bizarrely numerous American flags. Excessive patriotism is the realm of conservatives in my country. What I can’t guess, though, is what message they’re trying to send with the “Never Forget 9/11” sign.

9/11 will be in every comprehensive US history book. The children who are too young to remember it will be taught about it. There is no conspiracy to hide the event and its significance, at least that I’ve seen. True, eventually the people old enough to remember the actual day it happened will die, but that can’t be helped. It will live on in our schools. In our history classes. Our political science lectures. People will remember that terrifying moment in our nation’s history when our comfortable lives were interrupted by a terrible act of violence. But here’s the thing: it was a terrorist attack.

The goal of a terrorist attack is to make people afraid. To make people dwell on that fear. That’s why it’s called terrorism. I’m not saying we should forget 9/11, but do we really need to put up signs about it everywhere? Dwelling on it is letting the terrorists win. Letting them impact our lives all these years later.

The only circumstance in which I think one of these signs makes sense is if you had a loved one who was lost in the attacks that day. In that case, sure. It has a personal meaning to you. I get that. But wouldn’t a memorial to that individual be more personal than just a blanket reminder about an event we all remember anyway?

My fiance brought these signs up in conversation yesterday, and they make him scratch his head too. Between the two of us, the only political message we could come up with for the signs was pretty dark: “Remember who did this.” That makes this whole thing even worse. Now it’s a call to action. A call to be against a whole group of people. With a certain orange hairball inching closer and closer to the white house, I can’t help but wonder whether or not this kind of sign is a symptom of his xenophobic disease.

Am I reading into this too much? Am I so deep in my liberal brain that I can’t just see a sign and take it at face value? What do you think these signs are trying to say?

Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

Fear Mongering, Race, and Immigration

diversity hands

Image courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With the rise of Donald Trump’s popularity in the US Presidential race, we’ve seen and heard a great deal of fear mongering about immigrants and refugees. This fear mongering has long been part of the Republican dialogue in the US, but Trump has managed to unite bigots all over my country, giving them a more prominent voice in the political scene, and I’m sick of it.

I live in a very diverse area of the northern east coast. My neighbors are primarily south Asian, but there are also plenty of people from all different backgrounds–Latino, East Asian, black, white. You name it, there’s someone around here. Despite all this diversity in close proximity to where I lived, I didn’t interact with a very diverse crowd until late in my high school years. This was the result of my upbringing in a Catholic homeschooling community. The vast majority of the people in that community were not only Catholic, but of either Irish or Italian descent. Not a very diverse group of people. I don’t know what it’s like to be part of Trump’s overtly racist crowd, but I do unfortunately know what it’s like to be ignorant about the issues people of color face in this country, and to believe many of the frankly racist narratives spread by the Republican party and conservative media outlets like Fox news as a result of that ignorance.

The people who believe these things aren’t all bad people, and I think it’s important to remember that. If you are a white person who grows up in an all white or nearly all white community, your experience with race and ethnicity is likely very limited. Race is not something you think about in that situation because it’s simply not there to notice much–and when it is, it’s that one person from church who thinks a lot of the same things you do, not a large group of people with any chance of influencing the culture of your community in a major way. You are fortunate –yes, privileged–to not have race influence your life much. But that doesn’t mean that’s the way it is with everybody.

It was in a college class that I first learned racism is not over in this country. It was the same class in which I learned about mass incarceration, about how terrible the prisons in my country are, and about how law enforcement disproportionately targets minority populations, flooding our prisons with them when white people commit crimes at the same rate and are just left to it. College is way too late to learn about these things, but it’s much better than learning them at 55 or 60 when I’ve been voting for decades as if minorities never face any issues, when I’ve been siding with people who just don’t know any better for decades and as a result keeping the status quo.

One of the most pervasive lies that right wingers continue to push is the idea that racism is a thing of the past. Many conservatives claim that if black people would just follow the law, they wouldn’t experience police brutality, which is something I’ve blogged about before. They say this without comprehending that in order to believe that, they must first buy into one of the most racist stereotypes about black people:  that they are more likely to commit crime than people of other backgrounds. Meanwhile, a lot of the crime we see associated with minorities is the direct result of poverty. It’s not as straightforward as a Jean Valjean situation. These people aren’t stealing bread necessarily, but if someone reaches a point in their life when they realize college and a career is virtually unattainable, and that the easiest way for them to make money is to sell drugs on a street corner, what do you think they’re going to do? Maybe it’s time we started addressing the route causes of crime.

Then there’s the strange connection that has been drawn between crime and immigration. One of the biggest fears that Trump’s supporters seem to maintain is that immigrants will come to this country and ruin it. They won’t assimilate to our way of life. Muslims for instance, from places like Syria, who are currently fleeing violence as refugees, will bring radical Islam with them to this country. Mexican immigrants, likewise, will bring their “criminals,” as Trump says. “Rapists.”

This is largely based in a fear that the bad things happening in these countries are innate in the people from them. That their culture and ours can never intermingle peacefully. I hear a lot of these sentiments from members of my own immediate family, and it’s extremely depressing to listen to, to know that the ignorance has remained pervasive in my family.

The other day, I was in the bank, and a South Asian woman in her thirties was waiting for the teller to get something for her, and she started singing “Fight Song,” under her breath. Yep, the one by Rachel Platten that’s been on the radio a lot. That one. I don’t know where this woman grew up. Maybe she grew up here. Maybe she grew up in India, or Sri Lanka. But her family must have come to America relatively recently compared to when my family came, and here she is, participating in aspects of the same culture and livelihood that I participate in on a regular basis. She seemed happy. How can people want to take that away from future people like her, people who are just seeking a better life? How can they say to refugees “No. This country isn’t for you. You’ll ruin it. You’ll ruin our culture.”

They won’t ruin anything. They will participate in it, and also exist outside of it. They will bring their own cultures here, and we’ll probably gain some new restaurants, and our music will have new influences, and we’ll see different clothing on our streets, hear different languages spoken in diverse areas. That’s the America I’ve come to know and love. That’s the America I want for MY children, and for their children. We need to keep talking about race, about refugees, about immigration, so that the ignorant people out there can hear it. I don’t mean getting in people’s faces and pushing it on them, but the media should be talking about it. People should be sharing articles, and vlogging, and blogging, and educators should continue the good work they do of helping people understand the statistics that many of us are fortunate enough to ignore. Maybe it’ll get some people thinking, and that’s at least a start. I came from a family of immigrants if you go enough generations back, and if you live in the United States, you almost definitely did too.

In light of recent events, what are your experiences with diversity? How did you come to your current understanding of the various groups around you?

As always, feel free to leave a comment. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy