How to Get Married

How to Get Married


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A bold rethinking of the wedding ceremony—and what comes before and after—designed to prepare us for modern marriage.

Many of us are attracted to the idea of marriage and yet feel a bit uncomfortable with some of the rituals that are traditionally associated with the big day. Perhaps the old ceremonies place too much emphasis on theology or else seem out of step with some of the complex realities of contemporary relationships.

In response to this dilemma, the School of Life has rethought exactly what the ideal wedding day would consist of and redesigned the entire process from scratch for the use of modern couples.

The book begins by proposing new ways of getting prepared for a wedding at a psychological level, suggesting how couples should ready themselves for the often tricky journey ahead and how to think through some of the thorniest issues that beset love. The book then presents an entirely practical and thoughtfully redesigned wedding ceremony, from picking out a suitable venue to suggested vows and readings. Finally, the book offers some ideas for how to approach the start of married life.

What follows is a bold rethinking of one of humankind’s most important and popular rituals.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781999747114
Publisher: The School of Life
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Pages: 132
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

The School of Life is a global organization helping people lead more fulfilled lives. Through our range of books, gifts and stationery we aim to prompt more thoughtful natures and help everyone to find fulfillment. The School of Life is a resource for exploring self-knowledge, relationships, work, socializing, finding calm, and enjoying culture through content, community, and conversation. You can find us online, in stores and in welcoming spaces around the world offering classes, events, and one-to-one therapy sessions.

The School of Life is a rapidly growing global brand, with over 5 million YouTube subscribers, 343,000 Facebook followers, 183,000 Instagram followers and 160,000 Twitter followers.

The School of Life Press brings together the thinking and ideas of the School of Life creative team under the direction of series editor, Alain de Botton. Their books share a coherent, curated message that speaks with one voice: calm, reassuring, and sane.

Read an Excerpt

3. The Ceremony

In the past, invoking God was the most impressive and powerful way of signalling the importance of anything: a battle, the collection of the harvest, the start of work on a new building.

Weddings were also emphatically religious events. A couple weren't just promising things to one another; they were making a promise in front of a divine being who, on their death, would judge the worth of their efforts. Religions helped us properly recognise the gravity and strangeness of the act of marriage.

Today, we probably don't see marriage in explicitly religious terms, and this presents us with a conundrum. If we are interested in marriage ceremonies, we have little choice but to use a set of rituals drawn from religion - although their original meanings are liable to leave us cold. We may want to capture the noumenal meaning of getting married, but the only people offering us this possibility wrap it up in a lot of deeply implausible theological speculation.

Our conundrum is the result of a historical process that we might call 'bad secularisation'. Traditionally, religions did two distinctive things. On the one hand, they preached ideas about life after death and the creation of the cosmos. On the other hand, they provided potent rituals for marking the great events of our lives. They continually invited us into noumenal time: in baptism, in marriage, at funerals, on certain special holy days. They commissioned art and architecture specifically designed to take us out of the present moment and to give us a perspective on our existence as a whole.

Secularism proceeded by disputing the big theological claims. But at the same time - and without thinking about it very much - secularism also stripped away the psychologically helpful rituals that happened to have become embedded in the faiths. When secularism threw away the bathwater of theology it threw away the baby of ceremony. It supposed that because religions had been the guardians of ceremony, we couldn't any longer need or legitimately want profound and elevated rituals to help us at the great moments of our lives. But at its heart, ceremony isn't essentially tied to religious faith; noumenal time - in which we see our lives as a whole - doesn't have to rely on convictions about God speaking to Moses or the soul surviving the death of the body.

The task of good secularisation is to steal from the ceremonial techniques of religions while disregarding their explicit theological content. Religions have intermittently been the holders of many genuinely helpful, creative, interesting and wise ideas that shouldn't be left only to those who happen to believe in the surrounding theology. The priority is to rescue what is still inspiring and relevant from all that is no longer easy to believe.

In this book, we will describe in detail a wedding ceremony that uses unusual language, special actions and peculiar rituals to place it outside phenomenal time, in order to help us enter the noumenal space of a life-changing event. Crucially, it contains no theology. The ceremony seeks to learn the underlying insight of religion without leaning on its superstitions. We believe that a wedding should use unfamiliar words; it should (ideally) be in a building that speaks of eternity; the celebrant should be a little imposing; we should wear clothes distinct from our normal attire; we should admit our failings and grasp the failings of the other (and yet still both be willing to share a life). We should, in short, be reminded that we are doing something out of the ordinary, which is at once potentially very good for us, for society and for future generations, yet genuinely terrifying and grave as well.

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The Marriage Service


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