People often ask if I do interfaith weddings. I certainly do, and every interfaith wedding is unique.
An interfaith wedding is a wedding for a couple where one party is Jewish and the other is not. Oftentimes, what they want me to do is a traditional Jewish wedding. They want to see a wedding that takes place under a chuppah (a canopy of cloth or flowers). They also want their wedding to include breaking a glass, and the text (read in Hebrew and or English) to follow Jewish tradition.
Frequently, the non-Jewish partner is OK with a traditional Jewish wedding, and the couple has a second wedding in the other tradition that takes place at another time.
For example, John and Lam had a wedding which followed the usual Jewish format. While John was Jewish, Lam was Buddhist.
However, her Buddhist family not only wanted to see the Vietnamese wedding tradition followed, but they also felt very strongly that the Buddhist ritual had to occur at the precise time that they had determined to be auspicious. They both dressed appropriately for that wedding, but then changed into western clothes for the Jewish wedding and moved to a different location.
In another case, the bride was Jewish and the groom was Hindu from India. He had a big Hindu family living in New Jersey. The couple took part in a Hindu ceremony on the east coast which went on for several days. It honored his tradition and provided the ceremony that was needed to meet the expectations of the groom’s family. Sometime later, I officiated at a Jewish wedding in Laguna Beach.
Sometimes, one party is Catholic and it is important to their family that the wedding is recognized by the Catholic church. They have been able to find a path through the church’s process that requires counseling and then records the wedding on the church’s books. My role was limited to the public wedding ceremony, which follows the Jewish tradition.
When a Jew and a non-Jew marry, it is important to think about what each individual wants, and what their parents, family and friends expect. The goal of any wedding is to unify two families, not to create strong disagreement and hostility. We want to start a successful family not, make life difficult for the couple.
What the soon-to-be newlyweds want in their wedding and how we reconcile these with each other is the first topic of discussion when I start to create a wedding ceremony for an interfaith couple.
In my next blog, I will talk about when an interfaith couple really wants a single ceremony—reflecting both of their faiths.