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You Asked: Does Religion Trump Love?

Dear Sugar,

My boyfriend and I are discussing marriage. I was brought up in an Italian Catholic family, and although I am not very active in my faith, the traditions and values that have been passed down are still very important to me. My boyfriend, on the other hand, was raised Catholic but is now Agnostic. I knew this when we started dating, and it's never bothered me. I admire that he has searched for his own truth and is happy with his own beliefs. I have fallen in love with a kind and generous person, and his beliefs, or lack thereof, really don't have any influence on my feelings.

The problem is now that we are discussing marriage, I would like to honor the traditions in my family and marry in a Catholic church. He is willing to do so but has mentioned that it would make him feel uncomfortable, and I really want this day to be about the two of us. We have discussed other options, but for some reason they are just not sitting well with me. I know I can't change his feelings or mine but I worry about the future and how this will impact our children and our relationship. I am one to fight for love, but in this situation is love enough?

— Religion Woes Rachael

To see DearSugar's answer,


Dear Religion Woes Rachael,

First of all, I want to point out that it says a lot about your relationship that you're both taking the time to discuss this prior to getting married. Differing religious views is always a tricky terrain to navigate, especially when it comes to building a life with someone. And like any other serious issue in a relationship, the solution comes down to your willingness to compromise.

I would start focusing more seriously on the issue of how you want your future children raised — it can seem incredibly premature when you're not even officially engaged, but in the end it's a less negotiable and more serious issue than a wedding. You both need to keep your expectations realistic. If you find that you just can't come to an agreement, then it's likely that you'll be waging this same argument throughout the rest of your relationship, and you'll have to decide if you're willing to do that.

As you work through this, keep in mind that there are compromises out there if you're willing to make them. Do research online and don't be afraid to reach out to other people who might be in similar situations to find out what their solutions and hardships are. And most importantly, keep an open mind and examine every possibility. Once you have all the information, you can make a more educated and definitive decision about your future.


Join The Conversation
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 8 years
Maybe you could compromise somehow. If he says he is willing to do it in a church then maybe you should take him up on that offer if it means so much to you but consider taking out some of the religious aspects of the ceremony. There is no way I would ever put my religious beliefs above love because I'm not that spiritual to begin with. If you love this man and he's perfect for you in every way don't let religion get in the middle of your big day. You can make it spiritual to you even if you have a non-denominational ceremony if you pray before-hand with your family and you keep God in your heart.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 8 years
Have two weddings. My parents got married in a Russian Orthodox ceremony (for my mum) then scooted to the next church and had a roman catholic ceremony (for my dad). I realize this is probably an expensive way to do it but if you just hire the ministers/judges then it'll be a little more cost effective.
valancyjane valancyjane 8 years
lolliriots, you don't have to sign a contract about your kids and you don't have to change your beliefs. The burden of raising kids in the faith is on the Catholic partner. Most priests will marry couples where one is not Catholic. In some case if the non-Catholic partner isn't a baptized Christian there can be problems, but that depends on the priest. My husband isn't baptized and we had no problems. However, some priests (and possibly clergy of other faiths too, I don't know) will be reluctant to marry a couple if they are not churchgoers and don't plan to raise children in the church.
lolliriots lolliriots 8 years
I'm having the same issues. First, I'm not overly religious, nor is he. While I wish to marry in a church, we have different views. I do not want to convert to Roman Catholic, I wish to stay Baptist. While I realize we have the basic same beliefs, I don't think I should have to change some necessary ones, and sign a contract about my unborn kids (what I read, at least) and their faith. We do agree that our kids will be taught Religion, but not forced (We're not Church go'ers anyway) and when they are old enough, can make their decision about a belief. I proposed to marry in a neutral place with a neutral Priest, or something - however, he is on the fence because of "family views", which, most of them do not attend church and only become Religious around Holidays, or when it's suitable. While, I do not have an issue going to these ceremonies during the Holidays, I am not wanting to be unwelcome in a Church on a day that means more than a contract to me. He sort of refuses to believe that Catholic Priests marry a non-Catholic, and a Catholic. But, we'll see. I'm kind of liking the whole beach idea, or a nice lush green yard.
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 8 years
Don't contradict yourself, you're not actively in your faith, nut want a church wedding. He doesn't and you should respect that. If you believe in god, you'd know that he is essentially everywhere. Not marrying in a church doesn't mean that you'll be any less blessed in your marriage. I'm athiest and it's staying that way, i wouldn't ever marry in a church.
Seka21 Seka21 8 years
No. You marry for love not conveniance. You cant chose what religion you were born into. Im Catholic and marrying a Christian Orthadox. We are both keeping our seperate religions. My mum is Catholic and dad Muslim... both kept their own religions and it was NEVER EVER a problem. My step dad (by the way) is Jewish. I wish all my parents the correct things on the correct holidays. I learnt the shabbat prayer (so did my mum) so my step dad wouldnt do it alone. We make him passover dinner and shabbat dinner every friday. Im Catholic and I cook the WHOLE serbian slava in my home and recognise his religious holidays (x-mas 7th jan) and he does the same for me. Its great its like constant spirituality. As long as you respect each other and are considerate it can be managed..and it can be enlightening.
LiLRuck44 LiLRuck44 8 years
lily, good for you for thinking about this BEFORE you get married! You should definitely focus on the marriage, not just the wedding part. I have been religious all my life, including some years a while ago where I wasn't that active, didn't attend church, etc. Once children came into the picture though, it became very important to me. So prepare for that. The idea of a "rule book" is a good one. I'd take it further and hash out details. What about baptisms? What about Christmas, do you teach that it's really Jesus' birthday? Christmas Eve and Easter services, does he plan on attending with you and the kids? Will he be supportive or crack jokes after the service? All of that sends a message to your kids. Most importantly, is he going to be supportive of the kids' decisions to follow in your footsteps in faith if they choose to? If he is uncomfortable being in a church for a wedding, will he still leave work early to take a child to choir practice? It may feel above and beyond, but way better to find out now rather than later. I think premarital counseling is an awesome idea and would suggest it for everyone. Doesn't have to be religious. Sorry this is long winded!! Just my opinion :)
valancyjane valancyjane 8 years
I am a practicing Catholic. When my husband and I started dating I had just ended a relationship with a guy who was raised Catholic but had become an atheist. At that time I was a little wobbly in my faith, and we were long-distance so we could shove that issue out of the way. But finally I asked him: Would you be willing to be married in a Catholic ceremony, and would you be OK with the kids being baptized? He said maybe on the wedding, no on the kids. And that was it. I was OK with not sharing a faith with him, but there were certain things I couldn't handle - I knew I wanted to get married in a Catholic service and I wanted my kids baptized. You need to decide what your dealbreakers are. With my husband (not raised in any church but his family is sort of generically Christian), we talked about this from the beginning, because the experience was so fresh. He was okay with a Catholic wedding and with baptizing the kids, but he was clear that he didn't want to convert (that was fine with me) and that I would be responsible for teaching the kids about faith (also fine). We've had a few ups and downs about going to church together (I feel lonely by myself but he really doesn't enjoy it) and I wish we had hammered that out more, but it's a small thing in the long run. The thing to remember is, as someone said, a wedding is just a day. A marriage is forever. The logistics of the wedding are really not that important. If he's uncomfortable with being married in a church, is he uncomfortable with the idea of you going to church? Of the kids being baptized? Of going to Christmas Eve Mass with your family? Think about what role religion might play in your marriage and talk it through. It's worth the time. My two cents about weddings: You'll have a really hard time finding a priest to perform a marriage outside a church. Sometimes priests will co-officiate at a wedding in another church, but in this case you don't have another church to work with. You might consider the marriage service - not a Mass, so much shorter and less intimidating. Still has to be done in a church, I believe; but it made my husband and his family much more comfortable.
Sumhope Sumhope 8 years
you could have a split ceremony... one in his church and one at yours... a true compromise.
sonya-ina sonya-ina 8 years
It really depends how religious you are and if you are actively practicing. I was raised Ukrainian Catholic and my husband was raised nondenominational Christian. While we are both Christian, there are some difference between our sects of Christianity, though we both believe in major core teaching of Christ etc. The thing is though, neither of us go to church anymore, so it doesn't really matter all that much I guess. I've made the decision that once we have kids, I would like them to go to church, but I'm not sure what kind of church. At that point, I think some issues may arise, but who knows. I was never 100% sold on Catholicism anyway.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
my fiance and i face a religious thing all the time. i was raised VERY religious being jewish - my family is modern orthodox, and his family is VERY southern baptist. we have many conflicting beliefs but it's one of those things that we are willing to compromise somewhat on. we've talked about how we would like to raise our kids and how our families will react to it, and it's one of those things that you're not really going to know how it'll be until the time comes. neither of us are as religious as our parents are so it's not as major, however there are very different customs and observances that we both have. i think that it would be nice for him to consider converting, but it's not something that i'm going to push or get in an arguement about.
Miggs0708 Miggs0708 8 years
I am a former Catholic, not really turned agnostic, but just more of a theologian I would say in daily life, not like a scholar or anything. My husband was raised Nazarene. His mother and sister are still devout church members and most of my extended family are devout in the Catholic faith. While I knew I did not want to be married in a church, we wanted to make sure all were comfortable and we did just like helen says above - make your own traditions. It will be so much more memorable to the both of you.
sparklestar sparklestar 8 years
As an atheist who has studied theology I can kind of see both sides of the fence here. I was raised without religion and allowed to decide from a very early age if I wished to attend Church or not. I attended a number of different religious places of worship but none of them sat right with me so my parents never forced the issue. I think you need to compromise over a number of things, and also do what is best for your future children together. If you are only doing the Catholic ceremony because of "family tradition" then maybe it is time to make some NEW traditions together.
apma apma 8 years
Lily3484: It is very difficult in some diocese to get a priest to marry you outside of a Catholic church. But they're are some that will do it. It may take a lot of calls and visits but it's worth it.
lily3484 lily3484 8 years
Thanks so much for all the advice! I will definitly take ALL this into consideration. I feel more confident that things will work out. I really like the idea about sticking to a "rule book". I'm glad we are discussing these things out right now and not when we are married. I will look into the options suggested outside of a church but with a Catholic priest present. Thanks again!! ~ D
karlotta karlotta 8 years
You could compromise on how you first raise your kids, then let THEM decide for themselves! Like, get them baptized, teach them the basics about the religion, but not send them to Sunday school... My parents are both Catholic agnostics, and didn't even baptize either me or my brother; yet when he was 7 or 8 years old, my brother suddenly got interested in religion, and asked to go to Church. He was baptized and did his first communion at 14 and is now a very devout Catholic. So maybe, you could leave that up to THEM! As for the wedding, how about not doing a whole religious ceremony, but just a blessing?
ajennilynrushhh ajennilynrushhh 8 years
I agree with kythera on having an outside ceremony or a banquet hall. Or you can get married on a beach-- that's where my cousin had her wedding.
kythera kythera 8 years
My husband is Agnostic too, so any kind of religious talk is totally off limits and it doesn't bother me. I would get married in an outside ceremony or a banquet hall, not a church, that way you make things more neutral. I wanted to respect my husband because we keep religion out of the relationship. We had a very good friend officiate so we did our own vows and it was beautiful. My husband didn't want a big wedding, but he knew it meant a lot to me to have a real one, so we compromised. Wish you the best!
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 8 years
I don't think this is much of a deal breaker. It sounds like he's willing to compromise on the wedding because it's important to you. Is raising your kids Catholic important to you? If so, ask him if he'd mind. I know plenty of agnostics who wouldn't care if their kids were raised religious. Also, you mention that you want to marry in a Catholic church to honor your family traditions. That's nice and all, but if the first reason you mentioned isn't about God my guess is that you really aren't that religious. Marrying in a church is about God and not your family, in a sense. I guess what I mean is, are you worried about pissing off your family, or pissing off God?
facin8me facin8me 8 years
If you are not active in your faith, why are you so suddenly so concerned with going through the motions?
austerity austerity 8 years
Wow, I'm surprised at how religion can become an issue for marriage even while staying WITHIN Christianity. Call me silly, but this doesn't even sound 'interreligious' to me! :P
Vsugar Vsugar 8 years
The real issue is not the wedding, but the marriage. If it's important to you to raise your children catholic and he has no intention of participating in this religion, it's going to get messy. I am an atheist, and I dated a guy once who was very religious - not religious enough that I knew about it until MONTHS went by, but as we got more serious, it started to come out more, and he basically thought he was going to convert me. Anyway, the issue of kids was a big one for me. I have no intention of allowing my children in church, in much the same way that someone who is deeply religious wouldn't consider their children NOT being part of the church. I'm not saying it's impossible, but if you are going to make it work, you need to come up with set agreements - a rule book - and you need to promise to play by the rules. Like, perhaps he will be ok with the kids going to a Unitarian Universalist Church, but not the Catholic Church - is this a compromise that you would be willing to make? Maybe you will agree that the kids HAVE to go to church until they are 10 (or whatever) but then they get to decide for themselves if they want to stay home with dad or go to church. Maybe he will let you bring them to church if you let him take them to Humanist meetings. There ARE ways to manage it, you just need to be respectful and respectfully include and honor each other's beliefs in your parenting, and stick with it.
carak carak 8 years
remember that your wedding day is about both of you, not just you. if he said that being married in a catholic church will make him uncomfortable, you two need to compromise. i would suggest not getting married in a church, but having a catholic pastor (not sure if that's allowed?)
MissJules5x MissJules5x 8 years
ahhh that message was so messed up because my dog just jumped on the desk sorry. but i guess you get the point =) good luck
MissJules5x MissJules5x 8 years
my aunt and uncle had a similar dilemma when they got married. if you want to honor both of your beliefs why don't you have the wedding somewhere you both would love but ask a priest, pastor, etc... to do the wedding elsewhere that way the spiritual connection will be there.the wedding is about the both of you so maybe you should have the traditional wedding with the vows and mention of god (just as a spiritual symbol) but do it outside of a church setting. you yourself said that you haven't really followed the religion so its not as if it would be a terrible thing that would devestate you if you couldnt have it in a church. the wedding is about the both of you so maybe you should have the traditional wedding with the vows and mention of god (just as a spiritual symbol) but do it outside of a church setting.
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