Now that you’ve found the love of your life, had a really fun engagement, and you’re ready to get married, there’s just one hitch (no pun intended) in your plan: he’s a devout Scientologist and you’re a Rastafarian. Or she’s Jewish and you’re Christian Scientist. With each of your religious backgrounds comes a host of wedding traditions. How can you have a ceremony that respects each of your faiths without slighting either one? It’s a sticky question, but here are some things to consider.
Have a secular ceremony
If each of you has a faith that’s important to you, but not so important that you won’t marry outside the faith, maybe your wedding ceremony should just be a celebration of the love you two have for each other. There’s no need to bring two or more deities into the mix if you don’t have to. Granted, some traditions are so strong, and some families of the wedding couple so adamant, that this won’t be an option. For those who can pull off a secular ceremony, though, it’s well worth considering.
Take extra time to plan
You can have a whirlwind engagement and a quick wedding, or you can have a wedding that truly respects both of your faiths. We recommend a longer engagement if you want to have the latter. Spend time with each of your families, really get to know each other as people, and discuss the traditions each family has. Find out what’s most important for all involved and why. That’ll help you start to put together the ceremony.
Get some background
Even if you’re not planning on converting to your partner’s faith, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about each other’s spiritual leanings. Talk to his rabbi or her shaman, find out the history and core beliefs of the religion. It will help plan the ceremony and it will give you more insight into your partner.
Find the right officiant, or two
Finding a rabbi who will marry a Jewish groom to an atheist bride can be tricky. So can finding a priest willing to marry a Catholic to a Wiccan. You’ll have to interview officiants to determine their comfort level with interfaith weddings. We recommend having two officiants, if you can, one of each faith. That way they can be given equal time during the ceremony.
Respect both faiths and both families
If you’re going to meld the traditions of both faiths into a single ceremony, make sure they get equal time. You can also help educate the extended family and your guests by including information about the wedding traditions of both faiths in your program. Don’t leave Aunt Petunia in the dark about the Jewish customs, and make sure his Uncle Moshe understands why you’re drinking grape juice out of a big golden cup.
Personalize the proceedings
At the end of the day, the ceremony is as much about you and your spouse as it is about your faiths. So make sure whatever traditions you choose to include, you don’t lose sight of what makes you special as a couple. Also, it’s a great idea to incorporate small things that all faiths can respect. This can be anything from using some cheap wedding sparklers at the end of the ceremony to lighting a unity candle to symbolize your new life together. The name of the game is to do things that don’t have any negative connotations to another religion and you can still have a beautiful ceremony without stepping on anyone’s toes.
Interfaith weddings can be tricky to negotiate, but when they’re done well, they can be enlightening, life-affirming events for all involved. Keep our tips in mind, and you’re sure to have a blessed union.