About 37% of marriages today are between individuals of different religions.* 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 bride or groom.
Traditions are an essential way for us to recognize and remember our family’s history and guide us for the future. When different faiths come together in a wedding, the ceremony is a perfect way to celebrate and honor each heritage, recognizing the importance of both.
Here are my recommendations for do’s and don’ts when saying “I Do” in an interfaith wedding.
- Have family members from each side read a blessing or prayer from their religious tradition.
- Provide translations of any rituals performed in traditional languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit, etc.
- Personalize religious traditions to reflect your blended family, such as creating and signing an interfaith marriage certificate.
- Conduct a “unity” ritual from both faiths, such as the sharing of a cup of wine (Judaism), lighting a unity candle (Christianity), wearing crowns connected by ribbons (Greek Orthodox) or hand fasting (Celtic).
- 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 your guests: explain the rituals in your program and provide translations when needed.
- Try to satisfy everyone: remember, the wedding ceremony is ultimately a reflection of you and your partner. Be gentle but firm when saying “no” to your families’ requests.
- Try to do too much: you can’t replicate the entire wedding ceremonies for 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 and elope because the challenge of multiple traditions and family pressures. You can have it both ways and start your own traditions on the first day of your new life together.
The Buddhist tradition teaches that to say the words ‘love’ and ‘compassion’ are easy, but to accept that love and compassion are built upon patience and perseverance is not easy. It does take some work, but you can create a wedding, and a family together, but being mindful, respectful, and finding all of the great common ground our diverse great traditions share.
*The American Religious Identification Survey 2006