Well apparently my situation is sooo fascinating that now Frum Satire has a post about it too. And it's not even a satirical post!
I tried to respond to some of the posts there, but his website keeps eating my responses. So I'm posting them here instead.
"Why does the person have a wedding ceremony in the first place? If you are a true atheist (in the sense of the 70ies anti-establishment movement), you do not believe in marriage, so why celebrate it…? … and why insist that certain persons (close friends, parents, family) should attend it…"
I actually have thought about this quite a bit. I consider myself a feminist, and fairly non-traditional, so why get married at all? Why not just live together? (Which we already do). And this is the answer I have come to: while I don't believe in marriage in the sense of a marriage with traditional gender roles, I do believe in marriage in several other senses.
The first is legal. As I teach in my sociology of the family class, marriage carries over 1000 federal rights, and additional state rights (which vary by state). Me and B have several practical/legal reasons for getting married. Well, maybe not several, but at least three.
The first is that B doesn't have health insurance, and I do. By marrying B, I can add him to my health insurance, so he can get fun things like asthma inhalers, and stop wheezing all the time. And also all those other fun things that you get with health insurance, like the ability to not hesitate over going to the doctor when things go wrong.
The second is next of kin rights. I do not want my parents to be able to make medical decisions on my behalf, and I think B would make better decisions, and is more likely to know what I want. Since my parents don't like B, it is particularly important to me that if anything goes wrong, B will be at my side, and my parents will not be able to legally keep him away.
The third is not exactly legal...but I'm going on the job market in a little over a year from now. In my field (academia) people can frequently negotiate a job for their spouse when accepting a new job. It is a lot harder to negotiate a job for a 'cohabiting partner' than it is for a 'husband.'
So those are the practical reasons. But then why not have a wedding at city hall and just get it over with?
Well to be honest, we considered going the city-hall route. But after thinking about it for a while, we came to the conclusion that we want to take our vows in front of our friends and (some) family. Why?
Well, we're not just getting married for practical reasons. We love each other, and plan to be together until one of us dies. And we want to make the commitment to stay together no matter what happens in the future.
See, when religious people get married, they vow before their god to love and protect each other, etc (ok I know jewish ceremonies aren't exactly like that). But we don't believe in god. So whats the point in even vowing anything?
Well, what we want to do is vow in front of the people we love and who love us (including friends and whatever family decides to come) that no matter what happens in the future, we will honor the love we have for each other at that moment by always trying our best to work things out between us, no matter what that takes. I mean, of course there are some unforgivable things we might do...if B suddenly starts beating me (unlikely) i'm not going to be like "oh but we're married I must stay here and get beaten!" But barring that...
It is precisely because we don't believe in god that it is so important to me to exchange vows in front of the people I love. Cause otherwise what are you doing, just exchanging vows in front of some judge you'll never see again? In my opinion, exchanging vows in front of all the people you truly care about is a lot more meaningful. And that's why we want to do it. To make a public declaration of our love for each other, and our intention to be with each other no matter what comes our way. With the exception of beating.
As to what some other people have been saying in that thread...I understand why my parents are sad and angry about my decision. But that doesn't negate my right to be sad or angry at their decisions. Now that I've had a few more days to cool off, it doesn't bother me so much that my parents aren't coming to our wedding. I mean, if they came it would be a very meaningful gesture to me- it would show me that they truly love and care for me despite our religious differences. But I never expected them to come, and I never expected them to make such a gesture. Even apart from any religious issues (or maybe stemming from those issues) me and my parents have never had the greatest of relationships. And that's not necessarily a bad thing either...my desire to be out of my parents house and financially independent of them was a major impetus for me applying to graduate school.
My biggest problem right now is that even though me and B are planning on getting married, and despite my many efforts to set up a meeting with B and my parents, my parents still refuse to meet B. Of course that is upsetting to me in general, but I also don't see how I can continue to have a relationship with them now...I don't want to just leave B at home and go visit them (as I said, even the last time I was home, after I had moved in with B, I felt like I was betraying him somehow by being there). And if my parents continue to refuse to meet B, how can I have any relationship with them at all? I really can't think of any practical way that that could happen.