Pre the swinging ’60s, when your grandparents were young adults, the idea of living together before marriage was socially unacceptable. While some couples dared to try it, they dared not do so openly – for the judgment of society could be cruel. Gay couples also were in jeopardy of social condemnation.
In 2014, however, living together before marriage has become more the rule than the exception – the “new normal.” And gay relationships too are becoming mainstream in the eyes of most Americans. Recognizing this cultural shift is important for Justices of the Peace who help couples design their wedding ceremonies. Often the old words and assumptions underlying the “traditional” wedding ceremony don’t work anymore and need to be updated.
In the last few years, every couple I have married lived together before tying the knot. Some brought children to the wedding. We worked to bring these little ones into the ceremony. While traditional wedding verbiage might still work in these cases, the modern wedding ceremony should be able to accommodate the reality of children born before wedlock, or the realities of second or third marriages. The outdated Victorian notions of the “virgin” bride and groom – and one marriage for life – rarely reflect the circumstances of couples getting married today, who deserve nevertheless to have a wedding that honors them.
In addition, same-gender couples are entitled to feel that the modern wedding ceremony captures and respects their experience. I worked with an older same-gender couple a few weeks ago to remove heterosexual biases from the language of their wedding script. After 25 years together, with two children entering high school, the laws of their state and country have finally recognized the legitimacy of their union. They deserve to have a wedding ceremony that befits and validates their deep love and commitment to one another and their family.
With the turn of the 21st century, our culture has turned a corner in our views of sexuality and marriage. Today, many young couples test the waters with each other before taking those serious steps down the aisle, and gay couples are delighting in their freedom to participate fully in our societal rites and customs.
If you are gay, have children, contemplating your second, third or fourth marriage, or simply have a different idea about what your marriage ceremony should look like, don’t be shy about asking your Justice of the Peace to modify the language of your ceremony to fit your circumstances and ideas. Of course, most JPs are more than willing to adapt your ceremony in any way that feels meaningful to you. But make sure you select the JP that you feel respects your need to be fully “you” in your wedding ceremony.