Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Wedding

At the Sceptics in the Pub last month, Ivan asked me whatever happened in my search to find a secular marriage officer. So I thought it might be a good idea to do a follow-up post.

As regular readers will know (and new readers can quickly find out) in September 2008, Hide and I got married.

One of my duties in planning the wedding was to try and track down a marriage officer. This was no mean feat. Neither of us are religious, so we wanted to keep religion out of the ceremony. The problem was that in South Africa, you need to be either a magistrate or a member of the clergy of a state-recognised religion in order to perform weddings.

I was hoping to find a former clergyman who had apostatised or something, but those were near impossible to find too. So eventually we settled on a Christian pastor, Conrad Kruger, who was prepared to perform what he referred to as a "civil" ceremony.

We basically wrote a script for him, which he recited more-or-less correctly for the ceremony. We based the script on a "traditional" one we found online, and basically stripped out and reworded the religious references. If you like, you can read it here.

If you're keen to see the wedding photos, check them out here.


  1. Nice post, Captain. To clarify a few questions:
    A ship's captain may not perform a legally binding wedding? I always understood that they could. Is this a myth?
    Can a magistrate do a wedding outside a court?

    I have semi-seriously been advocating creating an atheist "church", however it is becoming more clear to me that such a church may be a great vehicle to secure secular rights. If atheism/agnosticism becomes an officially recognised religion, atheists could perform secular wedding ceremonies. I think there could be many other benefits, including providing a public front for atheist rights.

  2. Apparently the Ship's Captain thing only applies under very specific circumstances, and isn't recognised by South African law. Which sucks.

    Apparently a magistrate can perform a wedding outside a court. The trick is to find one who will do it for you :)

    I agree very strongly with the Atheist Church idea. Secular Humanist groups in some states of the US, Scotland and various other places have managed to get that sort of recognition. In those places they're authorised to designate "celebrants" who are their equivalent of clergy, and can perform weddings.

    I've often contemplated trying to get a local Humanist group started (I haven't been able to find any that already exist) in the hopes of gaining just such recognition. I haven't abandoned the idea, but I haven't put any work into it yet.

    I agree that an organised body like that would be of great benefit to the non-religious community, particularly if they could be included in the various fora set up by government for religious leaders to participate in government.

    So that's two of us so far... I wonder how many more members we need before they'll recognise us as a "religion".

  3. Uhm, Owen, marriage may have discombobulated some of you. I think you married a girl named “Heidi”, not “Hide”.

    (Feel free to delete this comment to avoid embarrassment… :p )

  4. @Con-tester

    Thanks for pointing that out :-)

    Heidi used to post under the handle 'Hide', but she just informed me that she doesn't use it anymore.

    That'll teach me to pay more attention.