06/06/2012 01:25 pm ET Updated Aug 06, 2012

Wedding Theology for the Spiritual but Not Religious

As a liberal, progressive minister in Brooklyn, I receive frequent requests to officiate weddings of couples who want to be married by a religious leader, but who don't want to have a particular tradition's stamp pressed too deeply upon their hour of celebration. This is also a common concern for interfaith couples, as well as same-gendered couples seeking to avoid conservative judgement. I'm often asked to craft a ceremony that's spiritual but not too religious. At the core, folks simply mean they want the ceremony to be about their love, and not any one tradition's dogma. The liturgical trappings, style and family concerns may differ from couple to couple, but there's a central message that I seek to convey across all the ceremonial differences. My theology and my advice, for the spiritual but not necessarily religious, on their wedding day is as follows:

Today you now travel the next portion of your road together. You'll be learning side by side how to live into a relationship that our often money-focused world struggles to define and quantify. With it you'll have wisdom to share in your glimpses of communion in one another's eyes; in your shared commitments of support and encouragement; you'll have wisdom to share in your compassion for the sake of compassion. You'll have wisdom to learn and share in how you navigate the moments of passion and pain. Be generous with this love for one another and for those who are blessed to witness it. It is in these actions that we make true the rite of marriage.
Remember that marriage is an invitation to live life together. When you come across the difficult times, as we all will and have, remember this day and how you chose this road to walk together. Remember in those difficult times that your decision and commitment were made in joy -- and from that joy you will both grow and bring into this world something that could not have been without your love for one another.
You both will grow. This marriage isn't how you were made. It's a beautiful thing that happens and will continue to happen. It takes a playful spirit over the long road to make real. Love needs to wear away sharp edges. Continue to wear away one another's sharp edges. Seek to be well worn and recklessly loved; to stop, to feel the joy of the everyday, to be Real for yourselves and with each other.
Love calls us to strive to move past what we know, what we believe and what we can do on our own. It challenges us to connect, to reconnect and to recommit to what we can be in the presence of love. Relationships wither before the gaze of being right, or knowing how things are or must be. They strengthen more from the little things you both will to do together than the great things you may accomplish alone. At the end of your days, the culmination of your shared breakfasts together will count for more than any mountain you move on your own. Look for your love in the most unexpected places -- in the quiet moments, in the soaring life all around us. May this practice inspire you to attend to small daily acts of love more diligently, more patiently, more kindly than great acts of sacrifice for one another.
Theologian Carter Heyward writes that, "Love is a choice -- not simply, or necessarily, a rational choice, but rather a willingness to be present to others without pretense or guile. Love is a conversion to humanity -- a willingness to participate with others in the healing of a broken world and broken lives. Love is the choice to experience life as a member of the human family, a partner in the dance of life..." Your marriage today signifies more than a commitment to one another; although it certainly does mean that as well.
I challenge you to see your marriage as a reminder to be present to one another without pretense or guile (without complexities or pride). May it be a way for you to live more deeply into your humanity. May it help you to heal those places where we all need healing. And through that love, and through that joy, may you help to heal the corners of the world in which you choose to dwell.

Loving commitments are a beginning and end to themselves outside the doctrine of any one tradition. I find this to be the core of what a wedding calls us to be for ourselves, our family and our wider community.