Nearly 80% of all weddings take place in a church, synagogue or other place of religious worship. I found this shocking. Mainly because, I thought that it would be the opposite, that more weddings were civil ceremonies held at reception sites, officiated by individuals licensed by the state rather than performed by ordained members of various religious institutions in a house of worship. In fact, ‘church’ weddings are on the rise. However, it is technically not the signature of the priest or rabbi that makes your marriage legally binding, it is the stamp by the state. So, the thing that makes the marriage legal has nothing to do with religious affiliation or lack thereof. If you are keeping score, this means that technically ALL marriages are ‘civil unions’ but, not all ‘civil unions’ are marriages.
Of course that takes us into the whole same sex marriage debate. Miriam Webster defines civil unions as: “the legal status that ensures to same-sex couples specified rights and responsibilities of married couples“. However, aboutcivilliberties.com states: “Civil unions are legal contracts between partners that are recognized by a state or government as conferring all or some of the rights conferred by marriage, but without the implicit historical and religious meaning associated with the word ‘marriage’.” No mention of same or opposite sex. I was married in the Cook County Courthouse in a civil ceremony… no priest, no rabbi, no minister. Therefore, although I am legally ‘married’ to my husband, by definition it is still a civil union. However, technically it is referred to as a ‘civil marriage’ . You see, because we have different chromosomal makeup, we are allowed to be legally married. Are you still with me?
If you are confused, welcome to my world. But, lets get back to the church for just a second. Centuries ago, people who wanted to be joined together for life simply set up house together (mutual consent), no questions asked. No ceremony, no gown, no DJ or flowers. Somewhere around the middle ages, things got confusing. Some countries required the government to sanction marriage, some required sanctioning by the ‘church’. Realistically, this was done to document, track and control marriages and probably to make a profit somehow. To this day, some states still recognize common-law marriage which is based on length of co-habitation and mutual consent.
Without getting into a detailed history of marriage , let’s fast forward to the year 1999. Bombarded by requests for marriage licenses by same sex couples, Vermont lawmakers took matters into their own hands and decided to create a parallel license (equal to marriage in everything except name) to issue to same sex couples wishing to be afforded marital rights. Thanks a lot, Vermont…. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! If I understand this properly (please correct me if I don’t), “Civil Union” licenses were created to appease some voters without offending the other voters along the way. In order to be completely politically correct, perhaps it should be called a “Duplicate Chromosome Union” license. This way individuals with gender re-assignment wouldn’t have to have an additional parallel license.
This brings us to 2012 where you can have a civil ceremony and civil marriaige but, it isn’t considered a civil union. You can have a civil ceremony which can be a civil union but not a civil marriage. Fortunately more churches are accepting of all kinds of marriage, unions and cermonies and are willing to accept the religious and cultural differences of couples everywhere. Perhaps that is why ‘church’ weddings are on the rise. Stilil shocking to me but, then again, I’m still trying to figure out who came up with the idea of a ‘parallel’ license.
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-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago