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The Washington Post reported on a trend last week that might be linked to a decline in religious influence as well as the growth in secular values: It looks like more couples are having their friends preside at their weddings instead of members of the clergy.

Their decision to forgo the more traditional route is a slightly extreme example of a once-quirky trend that is becoming more mainstream. A study last year by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com showed that 31 percent of their users who married in 2010 used a family member or friend as the officiant, up from 29 percent in 2009, the first year of the survey.
Although the majority of brides and grooms still use members of the clergy and other professionals, including judges (61 percent last year, according to the study), the shift toward nontraditional officiants seems to be further evidence of another, broader trend: the movement of Americans away from organized religion.

I love this trend because it makes the wedding that much more meaningful. Shouldn’t everybody who gets married want it presided by a person who knows them both very well? I’ve been to weddings where the priest had probably met the couple once (if that) before the ceremony, and you knew that because the things he said were generic and bland. Had a different couple gotten married instead, his script wouldn’t have changed. I honestly don’t understand why a couple would want someone like that playing such an important role on such an important day in their lives… unless they just don’t realize there are other options.
To be clear, it’s not that priests shouldn’t do weddings. I went to a friend’s Catholic wedding last year where a priest did the ceremony — but it was obvious he had known the couple for years. He made genuinely funny jokes about the couple throughout the ceremony and spoke about each individual as only someone who knew them well could. You could tell he sincerely believed they were perfect for each other.
Isn’t that the point, though? Get someone who knows you and your partner to perform the ceremony.

Recent studies show that most Americans aren’t a regular part of an institutional faith community, and many people say they don’t know a member of the clergy well enough to want to be hitched by them.
“I can’t remember the last time I was at a wedding that wasn’t officiated by a friend,” said Jim Kurdek, the groom from the Southwest Harbor wedding.

I haven’t been to a lot of weddings officiated by mutual friends. And every time a priest who doesn’t know the couple performs the ceremony, I want to ask the couple why they made that decision… but, you know, that’s “rude.”
So I’ll toss it to all of the married people out there. Who performed your ceremony? Why did you choose that person? If you could go back, would you make the same decision?

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.