A religious wedding ceremony ( of any religion) in France is entirely symbolic!
Most couples in France have a religious ceremony after their civil marriage which is always performed in a Mairie by an elected member of the commune of that Mairie.
The curate suggests that the newly weds have a few sessions of marital guidance with a mature married couple who are devoted members of his diocese.
This is interesting when 70% of the French population may never have been to a church or had any Catholic education.
French secularism has a long history but the current regime is based on the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State.
French law is very clear that all religions are welcome but they must be practiced in private. Religious education is “interdit” in state schools. So there are no nativity plays or christmas carols!
The French, however, are still so traditional in every aspect of their childhood education that they end up in a church for their weddings even if they are atheists who have never been to a church service.
Young people are clearly looking for an alternative inspired by American TV and films and I have more and more requests to perform non-religious ceremonies this year for French couples.
But the middle aged French guests are still suspicious of a humanist celebrant’s authority!
I explain that in France , above all other European countries , the Catholic clergy have absolutely no authority in the subject of state marriage. The authority is entirely limited to the Catholic Church and if one is truly an atheist this means absolutely nothing.
So humanism provides a meaningful alternative for someone in need of a ceremony for a rite of passage.
Last weekend I performed a wonderful bi-lingual, humanist ceremony for a couple in Chamonix, France. It was a huge success. A perfectly beautiful venue for a joyful event.
After the ceremony I was quizzed by many French guests who were curious about the “Humanist Movement.”
It’s true that a humanist ceremony seems to be a household word in English speaking countries all over the world but it is quite perplexing for the French.
A humanist ceremony for English speaking people is often just an alternative to a religious one. Most people accept this without too much thought on the subject.
I explain to the French that I am not a committed humanist because I’m not anti-religion but non-religious.
Here there is a very clear difference. The humanist movement risks being perceived as just another dogma. Intolerance is creeping in to the movement’s dialogue .
My own definition of “humanism ” encompasses spiritual perspectives, just not organized religious doctrine.