More on Weddings

Philocrites writes about an article describing more personalized, non-traditional, and ultimately secular wedding (and other) services. These have been the bread and butter of a good number of Unitarian Universalist ministers, who have been specializing in “custom services” from the days of the Nehru jacket. And sometimes unconsciously with as much bad taste.

I used to think, perhaps as many of my colleagues still think, that the rationale for taking a fee at a wedding was the value added by such a “customization”. Now, I’m sure that’s not true. Weddings are big business, and at least in Washington, people who want to throw a decent, tasteful wedding don’t balk at a specialist’s fee — for recommendations and standards. They’re paying for wisdom, not flash. And those who want flash I don’t accept for the task.

That’s why I have a set service — unlike the old days where I crafted something for each and every couple — that makes certain allowances if either person getting married isn’t Christian. It really is a winner, and quite traditional. It has the frame of a wedding, and not a party. (And, never, never, never a unity candle. Indeed, I’ve noted recently a bit of unity-candle backlash. Perhaps too many couples catching fire on America’s Funniest Video.)

Yet, I can’t help but wonder if the lure of odd ceremonies isn’t due to their omnipresence in film and television, and so can’t blame people for asking about them. These seem to be the same cultural educators for the grand princess wedding, when this was all but unknown outside of “society” circles three or four generations ago. (My former parsonage-apartment was the scene of many a wedding.)

Couples come to clergy who aren’t their pastor — and increasingly to paid wedding coordinators — precisely because they don’t know what’s right.

Better to lead these couples to a tasteful, dignified wedding service, free of drama and embarrassing self-deceptions than to indulge them. They’re thankful, and I’m spared the egos of those who would make their wedding day a living hell for the people they say they love.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I should have mentioned that I have used the same service each time, too — with slight modifications. (I wrote it in my UU polity course, but I can’t remember all of the models I used. (Imagine a BCP-based structure but following the modern language of the Church of the Larger Fellowship Handbook of Services. Two of the couples preferred the theistic version I had prepared; the others preferred the less overtly theistic language.) The personalization that really matters are in the sessions with the couple talking about the meaning of the ceremony and of marriage in general. There’s so much ceremonial in a wedding — so much more than exists in the wedding ceremony itself — stuff like the reception and the toasts and the dj and the flowers and the honeymoon, that adding even more to the marriage ceremony always strikes me like suggesting that there be a dessert bar in addition to the cake. I mean, what’s the point?

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