I recently found myself discussing my work with a few hundred English speaking ex-pats on an internet group. They were curious about what a celebrant actually does. They all seem to agree that today’s elaborate, symbolic wedding ceremonies are a huge waste of money and make no sense. They fired questions at me about the relevance, legalities and philosophy of it all and I found myself on the defensive.
I thought I may as well share my answer to some of their questions with those who happen on my website. It follows on from my last blog.
“I thought I was answering questions here about the legalities of my job in France , not the validity or morality of it.
I didn’t fully realize I would get roped into having to justify the fact that people actually pay me to organize and orchestrate beautiful ceremonies for them .
I am not at odds with elaborate weddings of any kind . It is a phenomenon in every country and culture in the world!
Man needs ritual and celebrating a rite of passage is a necessary part of life in society. The most common ritual being celebration of a birthday.
It is interesting that the subject of “marriage” provokes such opinionated interest and a great deal of thought goes into the argument. Whether it be mixed cultures, mixed religions, same sexes, divorced couples or already pregnant brides, handicapped couples etc. the humanist solution is totally impartial and makes no judgements.
One could argue that this is because it has no legal significance but this is very quickly changing in Britain . In Scotland a humanist celebrant can perform a civil marriage. The humanist society is very actively campaigning to achieve this in England.
In France this will never happen in my opinion.
The state has been totally divided from the Church for over a hundred years and a Church wedding is entirely symbolic.
A civil ceremony may only take place in a Mairie and it must be performed by an elected member of the commune.(normally the bride or groom must be resident or have resident family members in that commune and the civil ceremony can not be linked to any church of any kind.
I think that even a humanist ceremony would be just considered as another religion….. Even if it seems to be an alternative to religion. The french have already found their alternative , an elected member of the PUBLIC.
So after the formulated civil marriage most couples still want an elaborate, classical ceremony. Why?
Primitive man would kill a stranger from a neighboring village unless he was introduced to the tribe by a trusted ally.
The next right of passage into a tribe would be peaceful physical contact , rather like shaking hands.
Next step sharing a beverage with a stranger…………..rather like a cup of tea or a glass of wine.
Next……….inviting them over the threshold into one’s home! And sharing a meal…
Final step is when someone is trusted to sleep in one’s home and the host actually sleeps unguarded.
We still unconsciously respect these rituals today even in our free society.
A marriage is a hugely important rite of passage , not only for the couple but for their families and many people feel the need to express this step either elaborately or modestly.
Why does this matter to anyone? Apart from the person paying the bill!
It is a huge industry everywhere in the world. Providing employment and joy to literally millions , from florists ,caterers and musicians to photographers, registrars and clergymen.
It is a joyful event usually exploited to the full because there aren’t many opportunities for this during a couple’s life together.
My work as a non-religious celebrant provides a valuable solution for those who want to perform this rite in a meaningful way without the so-called Authority of a religion. It is extraordinary how long the Churches have monopolized this Gig for so many hundreds of years!
Certainly in Europe before the 1700 ‘s most people couldn’t afford blessings or rings etc. and a union was performed by a binding of the hands followed by a glass of wine or beer and a knees up.
In answer to the question about my own spiritual beliefs
“Observation without judgement and reaction” is what I’d like to achieve with my spiritual practice. ( I definitely haven’t managed it yet. )
I believe that it’s possible to attain a great deal of mindfulness in our daily lives with effort and practice.
But most of us only have moments of feeling at one with the world. Maybe Jesus, Buddha , Mohamed , etc, were evolved souls who worked very hard to attain a high level of mindfulness.
I understand the word mindfulness to mean being fully aware of one’s connection with the world and beings around us .A state of mind which can only feel completely peaceful both within and with the world…..without fear of any kind.
I also believe that we focus too much on the negative drama of this world.
Thanks for reading this far.