To some, we’ve done everything backwards. Drifters. And yet, making such assumptions can get tricky, when one doesn’t have the facts. Infertility played a major factor in how and when I eventually did get pregnant (both miraculous times!) and to me, our little family has grown in all the right ways, exactly as it was meant to be. Which is why our kids were very much seen and heard during our wedding ceremony. They were involved in many of the planning details and included as a part of our wedding party. Our son was the ring bearer and our daughter, the flower girl. Common occurrences amongst many families who choose to tie the knot after they’ve started said family. Is this nontraditional? Does this make me some sort of edgy person, re-defining older hierarchies and ideals on how the archetype of a family “should” evolve? Perhaps some might see it that way and that’s cool.
It is of no surprise to me that there are many who think children shouldn’t be involved in a wedding ceremony. That if they are, they should be seen and not heard and shushed when they dare be the kids that they are. Having our kids involved in our ceremony and leaving religion out of it were two of the biggest proponents that I’m discovering outside of my own communities, to be considered anything but traditional.
Our recent nuptials were steeped in tradition and ceremony, but not the kind that many of you might be familiar with. As a multicultural family we opted to honor our Anishinaabe (Native) roots (on my side) as we often do to commemorate any big celebration or milestone in our family. Indigenous-style ceremonies are meant to always include children, as they are … and often leaves out religion.
A child’s joy is a flurry of movement.
A child’s joy is shrieks of laughter.
A child’s joy is to tease and chase.
A child’s joy is to be doted upon, played with, and admired.
A child’s joy is to be acknowledged and respected.
And so it was, that we let our guests know that Abby and Wyndham were to be permitted to enter in and out of the ceremony as they so naturally would. That they were permitted to weave in and out from between our legs and to frolic on the water’s shore. Our kids had ample support in being minded, held-up, and encouraged. They did us proud, those wild and rambunctious sprites of ours, taking their roles and responsibilities very seriously.
It was a much-anticipated event that was discussed constantly, dubbed rather appropriately by them as, “our wedding.” Meaning all of us. Some might argue that a couple should be the main focus of a wedding. Or that marriage is a religious institution. I think these are personal choices. Whether or not a couple’s children should be involved in their wedding doesn’t really beg for much debate. What we could debate however is whether or not marriage is a religious institution.
Should God rule over the marriage business?
We had a traditional marriage outside of religion, surrounded by a deep set of spiritual beliefs and faith. I don’t believe marriage to be a (solely) religious institution. I believe in part, it is a government label and civil right. Religion’s traditional role in sanctifying marriages that are recognized by the law and presiding over wedding ceremonies is a Western/European thing and many Indigenous cultures (for example) the world over have been conducting their own deeply spiritual and ceremonial unions, steeped in tradition, independently, for centuries.
“Early Sumerian marriage agreements, which date to the third millennium B.C., are among the oldest records relating to marriage. The couples swore an oath to a series of deities in a small number of agreements, but most of the records contain no mention of gods or religion, suggesting that the Sumerians viewed weddings as legal events. The terms of marriage were decidedly contractual, including specific worldly punishments for cheating,” according to Brian Palmer of Slate Magazine.
Now, there are several secular organizations with registered officiates who can legally magistrate a wedding and that is what we’ve opted to do to take care of the legal mumbo-jumbo.
It’s not only secular wedding ceremonies that are disrupting Western European ideals. With the legal institution of same-sex marriages slowly sweeping the nation, many a church leader is crying foul (even though the church recognizes same-sex civil unions as a legal institution), saying it undermines the sacred place that marriage holds in society. (Even though there are many “believers” regardless of their sexual orientation and/or who they love.) As if nothing is sacred unless sanctified by religion. Just no with that.
I’ve read and experienced much the same when it comes to thoughts on marriage between secular people. I’ve been outright asked why I would want to get married when I’m not religious. “Please show me where religion is the original founder of marriage,” I have answered. And then the debate begins. Ah, Church and State; the separation of which has provided a juicy topic for many a budding theologist’s dissertation.
The definition of marriage and how they should be officiated varies amongst different cultures, universally and historically — plain and simple. A fact of which deserves more respect.
As for kids being involved in wedding ceremonies? Well, if Brad and Angelina deem it acceptable, then so be it! I mean, that mama let her kids doodle all over her wedding dress. That woman is a saint, NO WAY would I have let my kids do that. (Did I mention we got married on the same day as them? That means everything I say is the Holy Grail, too.)