Navigating the complexities of interfaith weddings

I perform quite a few interfaith wedding ceremonies. Finding someone versed in this can be difficult and I’m proud to say I think I do a great job. But what exactly does this even mean?

Many people think of an interfaith wedding as a Jewish/Christian one. But it can be almost any combination. I have performed Buddhist/Catholic, Jewish/Hindu, Muslim/Christian, and countless other combinations of faith traditions. It’s not surprising since there are more Muslims in the United States today than there are Jews, that we are seeing more and more Muslim/Christian marriages. It is also worth noting that I have officiated for people within different Christian denominations who considered theirs to be interfaith.  Is a Protestant/Catholic wedding interfaith? It is, if you think it is.

An older photo of me officiating a Catholic/Buddhist wedding

Many pastors, rabbis and imams will not even consider performing these marriages. And I respect that. Those who do, tend to focus more on their own faith, probably without realizing it, and thus forfeit the balance that is required for such a ceremony.

Along with finding someone to perform their marriage, the couple may face many other obstacles. They may experience ostracism from their family, or group, while other do find acceptance, especially if their partner is within the Judeo-Christian tradition, or the Abrahamic religions. When Jews, Christians or Muslims marry into Buddhist, Sikhs, Jain, or Hindu traditions it is often not the religion itself that causes conflicts, but the ethnicity of their partner, combined with the lack of knowledge of these religions.

Most couples marrying outside their faith are not very religious to begin with, otherwise they probably would not be doing so. But their families may be more religious than them and need to be honored and respected.

Signing the Katubah

I am currently working with a couple with one partner who grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, and no longer practices.  Because of the strict dogma of this sect, his mother will not attend his wedding. That is very sad to me. This can happen with any interfaith relationship.

Clearly there are many negatives that couples experience, when trying to figure out how to have their wedding, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Finding the beauty from both traditions, by including quotes, passages or rituals from each, creates a fascinating and meaningful experience. Respecting and honoring the families of both partners is another key to a successful ceremony. For example, sharing of wine is a strong symbol in both Judaism and Christianity, but would not be at all acceptable for a Muslim. You may use an interfaith Katubah, the Jewish marriage contract that is often also a work of art.

Married under a 'Chuppah"

Inclusive language is important. A Muslim cannot agree to pray in the name of Jesus or even to ‘God the Father,’ nor can a Jew, but all can call upon God. This needs very careful navigation. There are many words for God, such as: Spirit, Almighty, Creator, Lord, and the Divine. Or perhaps the ‘Universe,’ or ‘Universal Life Force’ is a better fit.  And some people simply prefer not to name it at all.

Another option is to have no mention of religion at all. A secular or civil ceremony can still be full of meaning and content. There are other ways to imbue it with a sense of spirituality and awe. But in the end, we are celebrating the couple and their love and commitment, and what can be better than that?


THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for all the gorgeous photos. Lisa was chosen as one of the top 50 wedding photographers world-wide. 


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