In this day and age, it's sad to me when my clients struggle in their wedding planning because of religion. Usually the problem isn't a conflict in beliefs between brides and grooms, it's an outside family influence of some kind that's causing the consternation. It seems like quite a few of my clients choose to have destination weddings to get away from the church where they grew up, or to be released from whatever religious proclivities some of their family members may have.
Sometimes, the conflict is an age-old one -- the bride or groom's parents insist on a wedding in the Catholic Church, for example. The church won't perform weddings anywhere but in actual Catholic churches -- not outside on pavilions, etc. The bride and groom want to be married on the beach, and since they've only been to church together a few times, and were considering a Catholic wedding for the sole purpose of keeping their parental unit happy, the whole religious thing goes out the window as soon as they find out that they'll have to track down certain paperwork, actually affiliate with the church where they're going to be married in, have the priest at their home church correspond with our priest here and take pre cana (a sort of religious, pre-marital counseling) classes at home, six months prior to their wedding date to get married in the Catholic Church.
Seriously, nobody who is coming thousands of miles to get married on a Caribbean island wants to get married inside an un-air conditioned church in town with no view of the water. So they choose a non-denominational officiant who can marry them on a villa lawn or on the beach, as they please. If they are more religious as a couple, I advise them to get married privately in their own Catholic church at home before they come down for their big wedding weekend. For those who don't even belong to a church right now (another roadblock to getting married by a Catholic priest), someday when you do join your own church as a family, ask about how to have your wedding blessed, or consider a vow renewal in the Catholic Church.
But that's only one example of how religion plays into wedding planning. I have lots of couples who were raised in vastly different religions, but aren't currently practicing anything. So they incorporate traditions that are emotionally important to them and discard those that are inconvenient. An excellent example would be the no less than 25 Jewish weddings I've planned where the couple hosted a pig roast on the beach the day before the wedding, and then got married under a chuppah and stomped on a glass at the end of the ceremony the next day. Just because you are serving shellfish at your wedding, doesn't mean you can't do the traditional chair dance at the reception. Just be sure you have enough sober Jewish gentlemen present to keep the bride in the air. Holding the guests of honor eight feet in the air above a granite porch on wobbling chairs is not the time to learn how to do this fun Jewish wedding tradition properly.
I'd be lying if I didn't say that I've gotten an earful from certain family members who didn't approve of couples' choices at weddings. For some reason, wedding guests think it's fine to tell me all the family gossip and share their very specific opinions about the details of the wedding weekend. Including religious preferences. I guess it's better that they're bitching to me rather than taking it out on the newly married happy couple. All that's less painful than when the brides and grooms are a really different religion, and don't share that information with their own parents before everyone arrives on the island. Let's face it -- there's nothing NOT awkward about me to trying to explain to a Jewish New Jersey mother at a wedding rehearsal that her daughter is a Wiccan, and there won't be a chuppah. It's happened and fortunately, nobody had a stroke, but that's not the way to handle it.
Alcohol can be a really stressful point of contention if any of the bride or groom's immediate family are members of religious entities that prohibit consumption of alcoholic beverages. Especially here in the islands. We always have to mark specific welcome bags booze-free if the recipient is a recovered alcoholic or a child. But when we have to change the cake flavor three times in one day because the guests have threatened to skip the wedding if any of the layers are baked with rum, they're taking things too far. If you don't like or don't approve of the cake flavor, don't eat it. It's not your wedding.
Destination weddings give brides and grooms the opportunity to break free of any religious shackles or expectations their families may have. If your parents don't approve of a non-denominational ceremony, you need to address that before they arrive on the island. Let them be mad and cool off before your wedding weekend actually arrives. Don't misunderstand me -- we've done plenty of bona fide religious wedding ceremonies and imported English-speaking Episcopal priests and Jewish rabbis for our clients, so it's not a problem if that's what our clients want. But more often than not, brides and grooms who are choosing destination weddings are also choose a more spiritual and less religious wedding ceremony too.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!