I was baptized in the LDS Church when I was 19. One of many sore spots between me and my family was the idea that my family and friends from the first 19 years of my life would not be able to attend my wedding ceremony. When I explained my predicament to my LDS friends, common responses ranged from, “But you can have a ring-exchange ceremony” to “Don’t let your family make you do something you don’t want to do” to “That’s the price you pay for putting God first.”
I dated several men while a student at BYU that told me they would not marry a woman who wanted to have a civil ceremony first. When I explained that a wedding is the most culturally lauded event of one’s life in my non-LDS heritage, they responded by saying that exclusion of my family from this life event was a sacrifice I would have to make. Dating was quite hard for me at BYU.
I think one of the reasons so many people at BYU looked down on civil ceremonies preceding temple ceremonies is because there is some stigma that those who have a civil ceremony are not worthy to be married in the temple. In my opinion, there are many problems with this notion. First of all, I want my family to be as accepting of my faith as they can muster. This has been hard. I come from a strong Southern evangelical background that is quite un-accepting of the LDS faith. How can I convince them that the LDS Church puts family first if I’m am excluding them from a ceremony in which two families are united? Secondly, I feel as if my commitment to my family is seen as a weakness in my faith by many of the men I have tried dating while at BYU. Because I wasn’t willing to cut my family out of my marriage, many men at BYU saw me as uncommitted to the faith, even though I was kicked out of my home when I was baptized.
Lastly, it is unfair that my LDS friends in Mexico are able to invite all their friends and family to their civil ceremony and be sealed later in the temple, but I must wait a year in the United States if I want my family to be a part of this commitment and if I want to be sealed in the temple, as well. I have been dating non-members for the past couple years, knowing that I do not have to worry about the family politics of a temple marriage.
I beseech those with the blessing to alleviate unnecessary pain for converts, non-members, and their families by allowing civil ceremonies to precede the temple ceremony. I beseech those with this blessing to not penalize brides and grooms by putting them on probation for a year before they can be sealed in the temple. Such freedom would promote much healing between my family and I, and, I suspect, between the LDS and non-LDS communities.