Navigating Interfaith Weddings

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 either partners or their families.

According to the Pew Research Center almost four-in-ten Americans (39%) who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group. I often officiate interfaith weddings – it is one of my favorite types of ceremonies to create. When two (or more) faiths come together, the ceremony needs to blend them in an equal and respectful way.

Incorporating elements from our religion or culture is the way to honor our family’s history, and it guides us towards the future. Whether based on your sincere religious beliefs or because you want to show respect for your family – the elements should clearly represent each faith.

Readings or rituals chosen should be accessible and understandable to those not familiar with them. I always explain ritualistic acts, and never assume guests are familiar with what is being said or done.

I often create a unity ritual combining both faiths. For example –  sharing of a cup of wine using a Jewish ‘kiddush cup’ or Hebrew wine blessing as well as referencing communion and the importance of wine in Christianity.  Another option is to choose one ritual from each tradition such as a unity candle, and then breaking the glass, or Sharing the Peace and using a Chuppah.

Sharing the Wine (photo credit: Wesley Works)

Clearly these are Christian/Jewish weddings, but I have officiated for Buddhist/Christian couples and Buddhist/Jewish couples, as well as a Muslim/Christian couple, a Jain/Jewish couple, A Sikh/Christian couple, Hindu/Catholic couple, and a few others I can’t recall right now!

A Kiddush Cup (photo: Rhinehart Photography)

Here are more ideas when saying ‘I do’ in an interfaith wedding.

Have family members from each side read a blessing or prayer from their religious tradition. Be sure to provide translations and explanations of any rituals performed especially if they are in traditional languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit, etc.

Create your own blessing or prayer reflecting your blended union and read it to your guests. Or illustrate each family’s support by having both sets of parents walk their children down the aisle.

But don’t 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.

Remember, you can’t replicate the entire wedding ceremony from each tradition; your guests will be bored and your wedding ceremony will lose some of its intensity.  Careful editing is key.

Altar table from a Catholic/Buddhist wedding I performed.

And finally, don’t give up!  If you and your fiancé truly want an interfaith wedding, you can have it both ways. In fact it is a wonderful opportunity to start your own new 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 the common ground our diverse great traditions share.

 

 

 

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  • Blog Author

    Lois Heckman

    Lois Heckman is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who officiates at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies in the Poconos and beyond. She has performed hundreds of ceremonies and brings a wealth of knowledge to her work. Visit her website: ... Read Full
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