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Preparation for a secular wedding

An in-depth reflection on your commitment as a couple

Preparing for marriage

Preparing for your wedding isn't just about organising the party, thinking about the design and choosing the caterer. Preparing for a wedding is much more than that: it involves a long process of reflection on your relationship, your commitment and your own concept of love and happiness in marriage and family life. Because even after years of living together, you can always get to know yourself and your partner better, to make life together even better. By taking the time to reflect on this, you offer each other a fabulous gift of love.

In both secular and religious marriages, this process can be accompanied by the officiant, who becomes a support and guide in what remains both a personal and a couple's journey, and therefore an intimate one.

Alliance dans un récipient de pierre avec de l'eau
Photo Patrick Babou de Studio Gabin

Topics to consider when preparing for your wedding

You will be approaching this new stage in your life together through marriage from a number of angles during your wedding preparation. The traditional preparation with the priest in church covers the general issues of married life, such as communication within the couple, sexuality, the social dimension of the family and procreation, in relation to the precepts of Christianity. Preparation for civil marriage also exists, consisting of a reflection on the commitment based on the articles of the Civil Code and on the construction of life as a couple and a family.

Preparing for a secular marriage is similar to the previous two in the selection of topics covered: views on the couple, views on commitment, reflections on communication and conflict resolution are all part of it. However, this preparation focuses largely on the couple, their history and how they work together. You are encouraged to ask yourselves questions together about the values you share, about your "couple culture": what makes you close, what are the quality moments you spend together made of, what are your couple rituals, what kind of humour do you enjoy together? We'll also talk about day-to-day issues, from sharing tasks and money to family development and managing day-to-day life. Your life plans and your vision of the future are also important topics. And finally "Why getting married? Why him, why her? Why now?" These are all questions that deserve to be asked, so that you can take a moment to yourself in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and move forward together towards a serene future. 

How to prepare for marriage

Traditionally, part of the preparation takes place in a group in the local parish or at the town hall, followed by a more or less extensive individual part. Secular marriage preparation, once again, focuses on the couple themselves, and this stage of the course or joint information meeting is skipped in favour of a direct interest in the future married couple. This is a 'spiritual' process guided by the officiant, who accompanies the bride and groom on their journey as a couple and as individuals.

A secure framework is established from the outset. You enter a non-judgmental space in which you feel comfortable to engage in in-depth reflection on personal matters. Over the course of the discussions and exchanges, you'll get to know each other better and learn to recognise your desires, your wishes and also your limits, and to share them with your partner.

écriture grise en filigrane

The following four main methods are proposed, depending on the topics to be discussed:

- discussion between the couple and the celebrant,

- questionnaires to be answered by the couple,

- individual reflection on personal issues,

- fun activities, to be done in partnership, which shed light on how you work as a couple.

Other options may emerge, in particular

- individual interviews between one member of the couple and the celebrant,

- a guided discussion with the witnesses.

Not all the answers are shared with the celebrant; some remain between you and are your own business. And if some questions don't inspire you or bother you, you can leave them aside!

These are truly special moments to share as a couple, helping to bring a little serenity and fulfilment by refocusing on yourself and your relationship. This accompaniment is spread out over the time it takes to prepare the ceremony, as it takes place alongside the design of the wedding ceremony.

Couple de futurs mariés en préparation au mariage laïque ou religieux avec un prêtre ou un officiant de cérémonie
Photo Patrick Babou de Studio Gabin

Reflecting on the content of the ceremony

This preparation, which lasts from a few months to a year, has two main purposes. Firstly, it helps you to become aware of the meaning you are giving to your commitment and to solidify the foundations of your relationship by identifying the founding moments of your relationship. Secondly, it helps you to design the ceremony that will be celebrated on your wedding day, in the presence of your loved ones and possibly with their involvement. Visualising the ceremony is an essential starting point: what do you want to feel at that moment, what will it consist of, who will take part, what role will your nearest and dearest play, what will be the content and form of the vows you exchange? How your ceremony unfolds will depend on your initial ideas, of course, but it will evolve over time and in discussions with your celebrant. Depending on your personalities and the meaning you give to it, you may choose one symbolic ritual or another, or none at all. You'll decide to ask some of your guests or service providers to perform the music or readings, and so on. The tone and style of the whole event will depend on you and what you want to experience that day. And it's only at the end of this period of preparation for the wedding that your original ceremony will take shape. From the initial idea to the final design, get ready for things to happen inside you... to end up creating a ceremony that reflects you, and to move forward together towards a happy future!

Your celebrant's role in your wedding preparation process

Supporting you, guiding you, following you, advising you, but above all listening to you and helping you to refine your view of your own couple: this is the role of the person you entrust with the design and celebration of your wedding ceremony. Until now, the official name for this profession has been "officiant" in French. There are civil "registrars", the priest is an officiant, and so is the person who celebrates a secular ceremony. Sometimes we hear "celebrant" in French, probably as a straightforward translation from English. But we don't just celebrate, so personally I prefer "cérémoniante": this name perfectly describes the role I play, which is to prepare, design and celebrate a ceremony that reflects the love of the newlyweds.   

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