If you’ve been hanging around the Mormon online community a while, you know that non-member family members at an LDS wedding is a sore spot. To date, I must have heard half a dozen accounts of people who regretted not having non-LDS parents present at the marriage ceremony. In the worst cases, relations with the in-laws were sometimes even damaged by the slight.
But what do you do about it? No temple recommend – no admittance. The end, right?
There are a variety of coping solutions for the prospective newlyweds that I’ve heard of. One is to pick the default option, and leave the non-members in the care of some temple staff who can explain the temple and maybe find them something to do.
I dislike this option. For one, I’ve been to several temples and, unless it happens to be Temple Square, Salt Lake City, there frankly isn’t a lot to do – except maybe watch a cheesy Church video and stroll the grounds.
Another option I’ve heard in the online community is to simply hold a marriage ceremony somewhere else first, and then go to the temple. This has it’s advantages. For one, the non-members are much less likely to feel like they missed the “main event” and will have an opportunity to have a moment of solidarity with all the other well-wishers. Then when you have the temple sealing, there will be a little less of a sting to it for the non-member parents.
The problem this runs up against, is possibly Church policy. Someone more knowledgeable than me will have to chime in here. But I think that having an actual civil wedding prior to the Sealing ceremony in the temple means you have to wait a while before you can have the temple ceremony. Handbook gurus feel free to fill in the details here. Some may also get disapproving mutters from Mormon relatives – if you care about that sort of thing.
Another option is to elope. Ditch the entire family, and seal the deal yourselves. An option fraught with it’s own set of troubles – depending on your family.
I’d like to propose an alternate route – make the sealing ceremony private. Just the bride and groom and temple sealer. Then have a ring exchanging ceremony later – somewhere else. You could have a Bishop, or preferred pastor, or even a close friend or family member “officiate” over the ceremony. You could hold it in a backyard, a church, or any venue you want. Make it as simple or elaborate as you want, as formal or informal as you want. All family are present and none of them feel like they are being excluded from something everyone else is “in” on.
The disadvantage is that it takes some of the “family” aspect out of the sealing ceremony. We are a family Church, and our theology is about binding not only husbands and wives, but children and grandchildren with parents and grandparents. That aspect is lost here, and family is pushed out of yet another ritual in some small way. It’s not like our modern society needs another move toward individuality at the expense of community.
Another disadvantage is that it possibly denies the Mormon parents the opportunity to emotionally “say goodbye” to their son or daughter.
Honestly, I think you could get around this if traditions and expectations could bend appropriately. Hold a send-off party or something at the venue. Then the family waits until the newlyweds return – then you have the ring ceremony, kiss the bride, and all that. It could be rather nice, depending on how you handled it.
Of course, this isn’t going to appease mom if she’s been plotting and scheming the wedding, and how it will be, for years now… Yeesh…
But anyway – it is fair to everyone.
At present, of course, I’m just throwing this out there as a private solution that a couple may consider to meet individualized family problems.
But in the interest of general discussion, I’m going to pose this as a general question that everyone can sound off on:
Could the LDS Church, as a matter of policy, make the actual temple sealing ceremony a private matter between bride, groom, and the sealer (who in Priesthood capacity – represents God in some sense)? Could what I’m talking about be encouraged on a Church-wide level? How would it be if President Eyring or someone appropriately authoritative made the announcement that as of five years from this date, the policy will be to make the temple sealing ceremony closed to all but the bride and groom?