In the 1950s, 20 percent of marriages in the U.S. were interfaith unions. By the first decade of the 21st century, the rate increased to 45 percent*. So, with so many traditions, customs, beliefs and heritages being blended like never before, it is crucial (and sometimes tricky) to honor and celebrate all that we bring to the altar without compromising the beliefs of the couple or their families.
Interfaith ceremonies are among my very favorites to create. Perhaps it is because they offer the opportunity to incorporate so many diverse and wonderful elements. And on a personal level, I truly ‘get it.’ The key is to balance those elements, as well as provide clarity. You must understand the meaning, history and use of any religious or cultural ritual, and of course, be respectful, when performing it.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts when saying “I do” in an interfaith wedding.
- Have family members from each side read a blessing, prayer or perhaps a literary work or poem from their tradition.
- Offer readings or rituals in the original language and provide translations
- Personalize religious traditions to reflect your blended family, such as creating and signing an interfaith marriage certificate.
- Perform one ritual from each religion, for example ‘Sharing the Sign of Peace,’ and ‘Breaking the Glass.’
- Create your own blessing or prayer reflecting your blended union and read it to your guests.
- Illustrate each family’s support by having both sets of parents walk their children down the aisle.
- Step on toes: respect each family’s ties to their own religious traditions and tactfully and carefully explain how rituals from both heritages will be included.
- Forget to explain the different religious rituals being used, sometimes the officiant can do this or include it in a program booklet.
- Try to satisfy everyone: remember, the wedding ceremony is ultimately a reflection of you and your spouse. Be gentle but firm when saying “no” to your families’ requests when necessary.
- Try to do too much: you can’t replicate the entire wedding ceremony of each tradition; your guests will be bored and your wedding ceremony will lose some of its intensity. Careful editing of the ceremony elements is key.
And finally, don’t give up! If you and your fiancé truly want an interfaith wedding, don’t throw in the towel because the challenge of multiple traditions and family pressures become overwhelming. You can have it both ways and start your own traditions on the first day of your new life together.
It does take some work, but you can create a wedding, and a family together, by being mindful, respectful, and finding all of the common ground our diverse traditions share.
*Til Faith Do Us Part, Naomi Schaefer Riley