Today’s post is written by the wonderful Sara Gibbs of Darling Lovely Life, the vintage-inspired lifestyle blog (and one of my favourite daily reads).Today she shares her personal story of marrying out. Or as she puts it, “her husband marrying in”.
Growing up, I always assumed I would meet a nice Jewish boy (maybe a doctor) and spend the rest of my life kvetching at him. OK, so I didn’t really see myself as such an awful stereotype, but growing up in a Jewish / Israeli household that was relatively observant (in a reform kind of way) and going on to be president of my JSoc at university, it was a natural assumption that my future life partner would be Jewish.
So imagine my great surprise when the love of my life showed up when I was just twenty two — and he wasn’t Jewish at all. Not only was he not Jewish, but he’d grown up all over the Middle East (gasp) and not my neck of the woods either (double gasp) because of his dad’s job and while my views on the conflict are hardly controversial or right wing, we actually first got to know each other because of our amusingly divergent views on the obvious.
We worked together in my first job. We became adversaries, then friends, then more. The job was a short-term contract and didn’t last, but I took a souvenir home with me and no, it wasn’t the stapler.
It didn’t take long for John to embrace Jewish culture. The first time I took him home to meet my parents was Rosh Hashanah, throwing him right in the deep end. After three months together, I went to work in Israel for a month and he visited me out there.
He returned home, proudly telling everyone who’d listen how he’d been searched five times by El Al security and even had his wine gift wrapped by the security officer. I flew home and moved in — he was hooked and starting to look and sound more Jewish than I am.
Then, just six months into our relationship, on a freezing cold Brighton beach, John proposed. I said yes, and we started planning our interfaith wedding. I was lucky. My family, already in love with John, took no exception to my “marrying out”. They saw it the way John did. I wasn’t marrying out, he was marrying in.
Converting seemed irrelevant. I wasn’t religious, so I didn’t expect John to be. Judaism is so many things to so many people and to me it’s culture — it’s home. John was happy to have a Jewish home and I was happy to build it with him.
Living in England, interfaith marriages are easy enough. Finding someone to perform a Jewish-style ceremony for an interfaith couple? Not so easy. We went through a sparse list of rabbis who would do it, and again with the awful stereotypes but it seems that you pay a dear price for marrying out. Literally. I mean no disrespect when I say that some even had the chutzpah to charge per blessing.
We approached a dear friend who had been the Jewish chaplain at my university and was the president of my old shul there. While he isn’t a rabbi, he leads services and it wouldn’t be a legally binding ceremony. He knew both John and I incredibly well and we couldn’t think of anyone more perfect to send us off into married life.
As it wasn’t an official, legally binding ceremony (we had a legal ceremony minutes before), we took some liberties that probably had some of the older generations scratching their heads and wondering if they missed something. For a start, I made a Cath Kidston-style chuppah out of table legs, lace tablecloth and floral fabric, we wrote and designed our own Ketubah and I didn’t wear my veil but we did use it during the blessings as it had belonged to my great grandmother.
At the end of the day, though, we married under a chuppah, I circled my groom seven times (because I loved the symbolism), we said blessings, we drank Palwins (awful as ever) and he smashed the glass. My secular groom was about as Jewish as you can get without actually being Jewish.
A year and a half on and we are very happily married. We have a Jewish household, we celebrate the holidays, John is insistent on being observant even when I’m being lazy, he’s attempting to learn Hebrew, there is a mezuzah at our door.
People assume when they see John’s interest in Judaism that there was some kind of pressure for him to conform to my family’s beliefs but that couldn’t be further from the truth. John is an extremely bright and inquisitive person, he loves to learn. He also loves to belong. All of his study and interest is of his own volition; because Judaism is such a big part of my life he has made it a part of his.
And what have I learned from all of this? Being born into something is easy, but John has adopted the same meaning from Jewish life as I have. Judaism is not a religion to him — it’s now his culture and his home, and that’s something we can share forever.
Have you married out, or are you considering it? What’s your experience? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts in the comments section below. And if you want to read all about Sara and John’s actual Jew-ish wedding day, head over here to read Sara’s account and view lots more pictures.
> View some fabulous real interfaith Jew-ish weddings
Michelle & Richard | Jewish/Celtic Winter Wedding at Babington House, Somerset
Crystall & Ryan | Jewish/Greek Wedding at Brooklyn Botanical Garden, New York, USA
Daphna & Godwin | Tuscan Castle Jewish Wedding, Italy
> Other posts you may like
5 ways to ‘incorporate Jewish’ into your non-Jewish or Interfaith wedding
What happens when a Rabbi and a Priest officiate as a duo for a Jew-ish wedding ceremony? Something very special…
Thinking of converting to Judaism? 5 questions to ask yourself before making the decision
All imagery: Satureyes