Hi guys. My name's Max, I'm from the small Mediterranean island nation of Malta, and I'm in need of a little support from my fellow atheists.
Let me start by saying: I am from a 98% Roman Catholic country. It is part of our constitution. We only just legalised divorce last year. Separation of church and state is not something that happens here.
That said, most of my family are pleasantly secular if sometimes a little old-fashioned. They're not bible bashers or generally hypocritical, they're normally the kind of pleasant Catholics who believe in mainly in charity, kindness and "do unto others", which is a pretty good moral code.
I'm generally quite quiet about my own religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and mostly I don't make trouble. Usually we coast by on just not talking about it too much, and that's worked. Until now.
The difference is that I'm getting married next year. I'm 24 so I'm still relatively young, my fiance is the same age. We would never be able to afford a wedding so my parents stepped in to pay. Understand the cultural differences here: a normal-sized wedding is about 350-400 guests, they are formal and incredibly expensive. I'm going for a "small" wedding, which is 250 people (about 100 of these are distant relatives my parents want there, which I won't complain about).
The problem of course is that my parents, who normally allow me to go about my business as I see fit, have now decided that I should have a church wedding. I have already stated to them that I'm extremely uncomfortable with the idea (my fiance is also an atheist), however they don't want to listen. I'm really thankful and grateful for all that they've done and continue to do for me, but I feel like I'm not being allowed to chose my own beliefs on my wedding day and it seems a little unfair.
Of course if it comes down to it, my fiance and I will fund the wedding ourselves, but denying their help after they've offered it will come as a slap in the face to my parents.
I feel like I have no way of escaping this situation without either compromising my beliefs or making my parents feel like I have rejected them.
Please can anyone offer any advice on dealing with this situation? Am I wrong to feel like I can't compromise on that point? Please tell me if I'm being unreasonable.
(tl;dr: parents want me to have catholic wedding, very uncomfortable with the idea, since they are helping me financially how is this situation best dealt with?)
I know how you feel.
I got married a year ago, and my wife is seventh day adventist. She and her family wanted a religious wedding, and I didn't.
But I looked at it this way, I love this woman, I want to marry her, and if that means having to sit through people talking to an imaginary friend, that's alright. The end result is the important part.
Although, having to kneel while the pastor was praying was extremely difficult.
A friend of mine was also in a situation almost identical to yours. She and her husband are both atheist, but they liked the way a catholic church in town here looks, and they wanted nice wedding pictures, so they wanted to get married there. The only way for that to happen though, was for them to attend that church for a YEAR. So they had to bite the bullet and be bored every Sunday for a year.
Like I said, the end result is what matters. Getting married to the person you love is the important part. Who performs the service is just an afterthought. After all, it's only one day.
One year?? That is a lot to pay for nice pictures!!!
I would ask them why it matters to them. If it were me, I would threaten to make my vowels a treatise on the love between two people in a world without God--or something so scandalous they would never want the relatives to hear it. I know, you don't want to disrespect them. I am not serious. This is a difficult situation so I would just keep talking to them about your feelings, needs, and dreams for your wedding. Hopefully they will see how very much this matters to you! If it comes down to it, you could have a smaller wedding on your own, in your choice of place.
It depends on how important being true to oneself is. What is your future wife comfortable with? Letting your parents decide on the ceremony is very generous of you. I would want no part of that especially since your wife is not catholic and you are an atheist. A small intimate service conducted as you two desire could be more rewarding. After all, it is your wedding.