Actually you can get someone ordained by the Universal Life Church for free. They have no creed so an atheist would not encounter any problems, and they've withstood several court challenges on both state and federal levels concerning their right to perform marriages.
I got married in the county courthouse. It was far from lame. But it you will be having 200 of your family and friends there, a courthouse probably won't do.
On the other hand, you could have a quiet wedding and a big reception, with various people participating in honoring you as a couple.
There's Unitarians. They are pretty flexible about stuff like that. Instead of having a dude in weird robes, some Unitarian ministers are women in weird robes. I suspect the local Unitarian minister would be happy to marry you in a fully secular ceremony, with no mention of gods and goddesses, if you were specific in not wanting such talk.
We have 'marriage commissioners' in Canada as an alternative, & the fees vary some but aren't unreasonable.
I've been to a lovely wedding that took place in an English Pub's garden in Victoria BC, with a luncheon to follow in side the pub. The marriage commissioner's performance was lovely.
Allow Ebenezer Scrooge (me) to weigh in. Unless you're planning on having children, why get married in the first place? Marriage is a recognition, by the government, and usually approved by a church, of a legal sexual relationship to produce offspring. Now, the government, bowing to public pressure (of which I count myself among), are recognizing the rights of LGBTs to enter the same legal relationship.
Promise each other you'll be faithful and love each other. Why is it necessary to have some stranger approve what you already feel for each other? Get you friends together. The two of you embrace each other, and announce your love for each other. What else do you need?
If there is a car accident and one partner is in a coma, how does an unmarried partner convince the hospital system they speak for their partner? Or other situation where one is unable to speak for themselves?
If one loses their job, will the health insurance company recognize their partnership and extend coverage to the other, without a marriage license?
If, dog forbid, one dies, is an unmarried partner recognized for inheritance / joint ownership issues?
What about tax filing benefits?
Then there is the community, close and extended celebration of their relationship, which for some is the point of the wedding. To me, marriage is the legal contract, wedding is the social and community event. I could be wrong, but it looks like Matt is talking more about the wedding, than the marriage.
Anyway, at the end of the story, didn't Ebenezer Scrooge come around to the soft hearted side and bring a big stuffed goose to the Cratchet's house?
C'mon, Pat, you know the reasons as well as I do, probably better, since I can only name two:
These are two rights which have been denied gay and Lesbian couples for ages. Though legal paperwork can in some cases be drafted to ameliorate such situations, marriage (at least in theory) covers them all in one swell foop ... or something like that.
Loren and Daniel, you're both correct - in your own way. But, there are ways to counter most of what you are objecting to. Powers of Attorney for both property and health care. If a hospital denies access to a loved one with one of those in hand, their ass is in for a major lawsuit, and they know it. And, if a loved one is incapacitated, a power of attorney for property does the same thing. Bankers get nervous, same as hospital administrators.
As to property ownership, regarding real estate, do a deed with joint tenancy. Whoever passes away first, the other one on the deed automatically owns the real estate - without the necessity of probate. Same as to bank and financial accounts - POD (pay on death). And, as to other property, execute a Last Will and Testament. Without one, the same nightmares with family vultures exist for those who are, and those who are not, married. Good idea for everyone.
I'll grant you that tax considerations, Social Security, and pension benefits are currently a problem in this country. Hopefully, as marriage equality becomes accepted - and I believe the tide is irreversible - those issues will be solved.
As to children, that one's pretty easy. Both the mother and father acknowledge parentage on the birth certificate, and each are responsible for the child. Same as a married couple.
Bottom line for me is I still don't know why two people who are committed to each other need a stranger - judge, priest, rabbi, government bureaucrat, or witch doctor - to validate their lives for them.
You a Joni Mitchell fan, Pat?
We don't need no piece of paper
From the city hall,
Keeping us tied and true.
My old man, keeping away my blues.
-- Joni Mitchell, "My Old Man"
That was written in a much more naive time, of course. Still, it gives expression to your take on it, Pat, so I thought I'd throw this into the mix.
Actually, never was much of a Joni Mitchell fan.
I was still a theist (but skeptical) when the wife and I got married 9 years ago, so we were married in a church. Look around you however, and you may find someone. I worked in a factory and ran across a couple who did not want to go the church route or the JP, and they found out that a fellow worker was ordained. The "minister guy" didn't go to church any longer, generally kept his ordination a secret, but he ended up being the one that married that couple. Everything worked out fine.
Ask around to see if anyone knows an ordained minister who is no longer a practicing minister. He will do the wedding your way. If all else fails in your search go to our administrator, Richard Haynes, and ask Brother Richard about it. He may have information for your area.
Excellent idea! Br. Richard is in Georgia, and is a minister.