Monday, 8 April 2013

A Plea for Agnostic Marriage Equality

As some blog readers might be aware, Mr Regnier is soon to acquire a Mrs Regnier.

Most of the wedding arrangements have been made, and we have a reception venue, band, and honeymoon all nicely organised. But planning an agnostic wedding ceremony is proving to be trickier than you might expect.

If you're Christian of course, you have things easy and can have your choice of church. On the other hand, if you're an atheist, you can have a civil service with no hint of religion. You can walk down the aisle to the haunting strains of Deicide and take your reading from The God Delusion if it makes you happy. If you're Muslim you can get married in a mosque, or a gurdwara if you're Sikh. If football is your religion, then you can get married at Anfield or Old Trafford.

But neither me nor the soon-to-be Mrs Regnier are especially religious. Neither are we particularly anti-religious. We live in the wishy-washy fence-sitting world of the agnostic. Most of the time we do this quite happily, but when it comes to weddings, agnostics are a seriously disadvantaged group, and there are no places that really cater for what we want. 

We could have gone for a church wedding of course; the Church of England will marry almost anybody. We could have crossed our fingers during the more religious bits, and struggled not to wince as the assembled Regniers mumbled and mangled their way through Bread of Heaven, but in the end, we decided that a church wedding wasn't quite us, and so we went with the option of a civil ceremony. 

Now even though I'm not religious, as someone who has spent a reasonable chunk of his adult life studying and teaching religion, there is plenty of religious music, scripture, and language that is meaningful to me and that I would have loved to have had at my wedding. Unfortunately, as we've discovered, in England you're not allowed to have any religious content in a civil wedding. No hymns, no Bible readings, nothing copied from a church service. Don't ask me why, but it's the law.

Now this is quite blatant discrimination if you ask me. If other shades of religious and non-religious beliefs can have services that matches their religious tastes, why on earth can't us agnostics? Is British society really going to collapse if the future Mr and Mrs Regnier don't do the whole hand-shaking, peace be upon you Christian thing at their wedding but (gasp) do play an instrumental version of Ave Maria? 

This leaves us with a few problems, to say the least, in planning our day. I would have been happy with a prayer in our service as there are some religious people in both our families, and frankly anybody brave enough to sign up for a lifetime with me is in serious need of whatever divine help might be available. We're not allowed one. We both want to the have the Corinthian love hymn as one of our readings, but of course it's off-limits because it's religious. And yes, I know it's a cliché, but it's also a beautiful summary of what it means to love that transcends the confines of religion and if you don't feel just a little bit moved on hearing it it then you're an emotionless husk of a person. So there. 

The choice of vows and promises we were offered each had three options: 1) nauseatingly mawkish 2) romantic as the instructions on the back of a tub of Germolene, and 3) sort of okay. Luckily we're allowed to adapt these, so we've managed to wangle in a bit of the traditional churchy stuff and a smidgin of a Presbyterian vow we found online. 

We're not too fussed about religious music, so that doesn't present too many problems. Mrs Regnier-to-be has picked something classical for her bridal entry, but hasinexplicably, vetoed my suggestion that the groom should enter to Star Wars' Imperial March.

We're at a loss for a reading at the moment. With nothing religious allowed, the most appropriate choice would be a love poem of some sort. But being a miserable old sod, I obviously hate all love poems. Apart from this one 

Any suggestions gladly received.


  1. First, congratulations!

    Second, are you allowed to have non-religious music at a civil ceremony? There has been some beautiful vocal music on Doctor Who in recent years...

    I liked the suggestion of the Imperial March, but I think it sets the wrong tone, as would Duel of the Fates. What about Across the Stars?

  2. Thanks!

    You can have non-religious music at a civil ceremony. Any Doctor Who music would have to be smuggled past the future Mrs Regnier, who can't stand the show. Across the Stars is a good call, but I'd have to veto anything from Attack of the Clones.

    We've got some ideas for music - bit of classical for the bridal entry, bit of jazz for the other bits.