A totally off-putting moment with our officiant

by Melissa on October 21, 2011

Our officiant is a Lutheran minister that is a friend of my fiancé’s family. He was also a teacher at my fiancé’s Lutheran school when he was growing up, so they all have known each other for quite some time.

I’m not religious, and my fiancé is not particularly religious, but we both grew up going to private religious schools, and we have very religious, church-going families – my parents are Roman Catholic and my fiancé’s parents are Lutheran. I would have been happy to have been married by a Justice of the Peace or other civil celebrant, but having a religious-oriented ceremony was one of those things I just kind of chalked up as a necessity for not having overly disappointed parents. (Although I still think my family is disappointed I’m not getting married in a church by a Catholic priest.)

As we started to plan the ceremony in detail, all the religious stuff started to bother me a bit. Once again, I just decided to grin and bear it. I started to explore other officiants who were not religiously-affiliated but could carry some toned down religious elements into the ceremony. But officiants I contacted were about $450, plus an extra $150 if we wanted a rehearsal! Yikes! So, that settled it, we would stick with Ken’s family’s pastor friend.

We had to go for two sessions of pre-marital counseling with him (ugh). Waste of time. During that first session, we were also chastised for living together before marriage and for not going to church. I also was not planning on making a wedding program, but he insisted. Then when I explained what I had in mind for a program, he did not like it. Double ugh. We just ended up turning over that task to Ken’s mom, since she’s familiar with the wedding programs the pastor likes and I had no desire to make one.

Then we started to go over the ceremony details. I specifically wanted the words “obey” eliminated from my wedding vow to Ken. The pastor then explained to us that God places the responsibility on Ken, as the man of the house, to make the ultimate decisions in our relationship.

I about wanted to start yelling impolite things about antiquated views and chauvinism and women’s rights and all that, but I just nodded and said that I did not want to have the word obey and that it was very important to me.

The pastor continued to try to convince us otherwise. Ken interjected saying that our relationship, including our future marriage, is an equal partnership. The pastor then told us that that is not how God intends marriage to be. He explained that if Ken and I disagree about something, that Ken has God’s authority to make the decision. In essence, Ken wins!

I wanted to vomit. And then I wanted to walk right out. But, I did neither.  In that moment, however, I did lose a lot of respect for the officiant that would be marrying us on our wedding day. I didn’t know what to do. There’s really not much you can do to reason with someone’s religious beliefs obviously and I didn’t want to say anything that could be interpreted as hurtful to a family friend. I didn’t know how I felt that I was going to be married by an officiant I didn’t have any respect for. Would that somehow make our ceremony less meaningful?

So, I asked the pastor to read the vows how they appear in his book. Well, as it turns out, the vow does not include the word “obey.” Rather, it says that I will “submit to” my husband.


Submit to = oh, about 10x worse than “obey.”  What is this, 1688?

He finally acquiesced and said he would not use the words “obey” or “submit to” during the ceremony. I have a feeling I will be reminding him of this over and over again at the rehearsal like a brat. I started to wonder. $450 seems worth it all of a sudden to have an officiant that doesn’t hold such disagreeable views. It also seems worth the piece of mind that the pastor won’t slip up at our ceremony and actually use the phrase “submit to.” What would I do? Ask him to read it again? Say “Yeah, ‘I Do’ on everything but that last part”?

As I write this, I guess I’m not sure why I’m so riled up over words. It’s not like Ken would ever force a decision on me anyway, it’s just the principle at this point.