This is a guest post by Lisa Johnson :: Above image taken from Jess & Alex’s Jewish-Catholic wedding
So, here we are in 2016 and mixed faith ceremonies are far from unusual or controversial, yet there still seems to be a lack of knowledge around the processes and variety of options that are possible.
As a wedding planner, as well as a celebrant, Karen asked me to put a guest post together with lots of ideas on how to blend two different religions into one beautiful ceremony for those of you fusing two different faiths into your wedding day. I’ve covered lots of ground, but if you have anything to add, or you have any burning questions, feel free to pop them in the comments box at the end of the post, and either me or Karen will do our best to answer them
Many couples decide to use two separate officiants — one for each religion; this could mean having a Rabbi and an independent celebrant conduct the ceremony. There are many Rabbis out there who are happy to conduct an interfaith ceremony and they will also have suggestions on how to incorporate your religion into a mixed faith ceremony.
Some religious ceremony traditions are much easier to incorporate into an interfaith ceremony and traditions unique to just one faith can be blended perfectly to make a balanced, beautiful ceremony.
For instance, if one of you is Catholic and one is Jewish, there are large parts of a Catholic mass that would work really well including certain readings and even the ‘peace be with you handshake’. This is when you engage in the sign of peace by shaking the hands of the people around you and saying, “Peace be with you.” Each handshake preferably includes a smile and at least one full second of eye contact.
Francesca & Andrew’s Jewish-Irish Catholic wedding. Click here to read their wedding story
In addition, many Catholic-Jewish couples choose to celebrate the beloved Christian tradition of the lighting of the unity candle with the celebrant reciting this exquisite saying from the Ba’al Shem Tov :
“From every human being, there rises a light, that reaches straight to heaven, and when two souls, destined to be together, find each other, their streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being.”
Jewish – Muslim weddings are more complicated to arrange, but by no means impossible. The important thing is to remember to consult with your families along the way. This gives you and your family members time to process and address any concerns and prevents any surprise reactions on your big day and don’t forget to take family halal or kosher dietary needs into account for the reception.
So what about using a Rabbi and an Imam in your ceremony? It can be done — assess what prayers and traditions are typical for a Jewish wedding and Muslim wedding. Then, meet together with both to figure out the best options. The ultimate would be to have a beautiful ceremony, intertwining blessings from both religions and incorporating Hebrew, Arabic, and English.
Sarah & Ben’s Jewish-Muslim wedding. Click here to read their wedding story
Maybe include breaking the glass and have a kiddush cup filled with grape juice instead of wine because drinking alcohol can be viewed as haram (against the religion) in Islam. What about having kippot (yarmulkes) available for whoever wants to wear one for the ceremony? If the logistics are too intimidating, then you can always have two wedding ceremonies back to back that include all the traditions that matter to you but still have one glorious moment at the end when you can walk out together as husband and wife.
You can still keep some Jewish traditions mixed with any other faith such as having your parents walk you down the aisle, and getting married under a chuppah structure. Maybe include the Hora — this works extremely well as it actually has no religious significance at all and is just a really fun way to get everyone on the dance floor. It’s one of those traditions that even the non-Jewish guests at the wedding will probably have seen before as it’s so popular in films and always makes you want to have a go… who doesn’t want to be lifted up on a chair in a crowd of partying friends?
A wedding program is also a great idea, as it allows everyone of your guests to understand the pieces and parts of the ceremony and celebration as a whole. Karen’s written a post here about writing and creating a wedding program if the idea appeals.
Yana & Archita’s Jewish-Hindu wedding. Click here to read their wedding story
I recommend reading a fabulous book by Rabbi Devon A. Lerner called Celebrating Interfaith Marriages: Creating Your Jewish/Christian Ceremony. It really discusses some of the challenges couples planning a mixed faith wedding have, and puts forward some great solutions. I’ve used some of the wonderful advice in this book myself when planning interfaith ceremonies.
Ultimately, whether you enjoy a sake ceremony in your Japanese tradition under a Chuppah for your Jewish groom or exchange the Greek stephana (wedding crowns) and recite the Jewish seven blessings , the underlying premise is respect. Respect is the foundation of interfaith, intercultural marriages. Love is the bridge.
I hope this helps to remind you that anything is possible — it’s your ceremony and you are absolutely entitled to have an individual and meaningful ceremony that incorporates both of your faiths.
Crystall & Ryan’s Jewish-Greek wedding. Click here to read their wedding story
About the author
Lisa Johnson is one half of Carmela Weddings, a wedding planning company she runs with her husband, creating stylish, unique weddings for fashion-forward couples in London and the South East. She is also an independent celebrant writing and conducting wedding ceremonies and vow renewals throughout the UK and abroad and is a member of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners as well as the UK Society of Celebrants. When not immersed in the world of weddings, you’ll find her travelling the globe or running around after her 4 year old twin sons.