Defining Marriage – Confusing? You Bet!

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, 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.

Click here to find out some of the best matrimony sites from where you can find your life partner.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Civil Unions vs. Same Sex Marriage

Civil Unions became legal in Illinois this past week allowing many couples of the same sex to make a legal, binding commitment to one another. Sounds like same sex marriage to me. Actually it just sounds like  marriage, so whats the big deal? Why does it have to be called anything other than what it is?

I have been a part of the wedding/bridal industry for 28 years. I have seen a lot of weddings, I have personally attended hundreds of weddings and I have had the honor of being a bridesmaid half a dozen times most recently at the ‘union’ of my close friends in 2009. The quotation marks indicate that the ceremony was not legal at that time but no different than any other wedding or ceremony I have attended, with the exception of  being way more fabulous.

Usually  I have facts and interesting tidbits to share about trivia and funny pictures of things like  the Queen of England’s hat. Today I just have a lot of opinions…. and some seemingly stupid questions.

 How does a Civil Union differ from a Same-Sex Marriage?  Is it the same thing? If so, why is it not defined as such? Why does the language have to change because of your sexual orientation? Is the word for LOVE different? Is the word for COMMITMENT different? In fact, why would it even be defined as anything other than marriage? No one refers to my marriage as an opposite sex marriage, even though it clearly is and many times in our union we have been less than civil!

The same people who are enraged about political correctness, who are enraged about having to say  ‘Happy Holidays’ in December are the same people changing the language of how we express our love. The last time I checked, love is supposed to be inclusive  not exclusive.

In case you haven’t guessed, this is all designed to make sure that ‘those’ people aren’t allowed to use the word marriage to define their commitment.  It is reserved for us, the heterosexual people of the world who have done such a great job of defining marriage. We have defined it as a reason to have pre-marital contracts, multiple divorces and  drive-thru wedding chapels. That sounds pretty sacred to me.

I fel in love with my husband (the love of my life) because he has a great sense of humor and a compassionate soul. I married him because he had a great insurance policy.  We might have gotten around to it eventually but we were kind of busy that summer so we just ran to City Hall to seal the deal before my next doctor’s appointment.  The point is that our marriage does not define our relationship. The words on a piece of paper do not make our commitment any stronger, they just allow us to become a legal family. So why do those same words instill fear in the hearts and minds of so many when they are used to allow people of the same sex to become a legal family?

If you are lucky enough to find someone who loves you and the two of you want to spend your life together- go for it! Call it civil union, call it same sex marriage, call it whatever you want, we all know what it is. Grab that person and hold on for dear life because it is a scary world out there filled with hate and fear.

Congratulations to all the couples who were able to enjoy their ceremony at Millenium Park this week. Kudos to Governor Quinn for passing this legislation and Mazel tov to Mayor Emmanuel for starting his day by officiating the ceremony for one of his top aides, David Spielfogel  and his partner, now husband.

Interfaith Ceremonies – Coming Together

I have always thought that relationships are a spiritual bond and marriages are a legal bond. To me, the marriage license is a  signed contract to be adhered to in  accordance with the laws of your state and an excellent way to get benefits from a dynamite health insurance policy.  For others the wedding is a deeply religious statement,  the marriage being a contract  recognized by God. Leaving religion completely out of the wedding ceremony is fine for some but not all and  for every person on one side of the argument, there is an equally compelling stand for the other side. There is no reason to leave your beliefs at the altar. Instead, try bringing them together, celebrating each of your individual beliefs and their cultural significance!

For couples from different cultures and  different religious faiths, a wedding ceremony can pose some sticky problems for their respective families and prove to be an argument-starter at every family function.  When you fall in love with someone you don’t think about the resentment your future in-laws might feel if you celebrate holidays they do not recognize. In most cases, these things can be ironed out but, remember that someday there might be children involved and addressing the problem sooner rather than  later is better than sweeping it under the carpet. Instead of choosing one belief system over the other, decide on what is important to you (as a couple) and make your own rules.

Long gone are the days when there is a stigma attached to marrying outside the faith, where someone had to give up their beliefs in order to take their vows. now, interfaith ceremonies are abundant and  the message is clear: compromise and patience are the key to a successful merge of two different cultures.

#1) Write your own vows. This will give you a chance to express yourself in terms of how you feel about the other person and the commitment you are making. You can use as much religion and culture as you want.

#2) Have two officiants.  If you both agree, having two officiants will ease a lot of stress from your families. You will merge the two faiths to form your own unique ceremony.

#3) Eliminate the religious portion completely.If you do not want to have a relgious ceremony and a civil ceremony suits you, then do not be afraid to elminate religion altogether. This doesn’t mean it has to be dull!

#4) Incorporate both religions and cultures equally. This is a celebration and you shoud find an officiant or clergy who will embrace both of your cultures! Your families will be pleased that you have put so much effort into incorporating BOTH cultures! As for the reception, do some research into how each of your cultures celebrate marriage and you as much or as little as you would like.

This is your wedding, your life and your future. The last thing you want to do is argue over a few words spoken during a ceremony. Compromise is the key as long as your cultural customs do not offend anyone, you are safe. Make this your day and everyone will rejoice in the union you have created for one another. 

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago