by Daniel Sroka
Creating your interfaith wedding ceremony can feel like a huge challenge. Unlike couples from the same religion, you cannot just use a standard ceremony and be done with it. You need to create a new ceremony that is relevant to both of your traditions. While it can feel overwhelming, this challenge is really an opportunity to create something that truly symbolizes the unique personality of your love and marriage.
The simplest way to create an interfaith ceremony is to start with a basic wedding structure and embellish it with traditions you both hold most important. Both partners should write down everything they think should be in the wedding — every tradition that feels necessary. They should then go through their individual lists and explain the meaning of each item to each other. This is especially important for religious traditions that your partner may know little or nothing about. Try to explain why each tradition feels personally important to you, avoiding generalities like "it's always been done this way", or "I just like it". The more you can explain, the better you will both understand each other, and the better your ceremony will become.
As you describe your ideal wedding to each other, you will begin to combine ideas, finding areas of agreement and disagreement. You will begin to learn what traditions are important to you as individuals, and as a couple. When my wife and I did this, we discovered that some traditions we originally considered essential really had no meaning to us once we tried to explain them, while other little-known traditions suddenly felt very important. So be ready to talk, compromise, and learn how to balance each others needs, concerns and ideas.
Eventually, you'll begin to whittle down your long list of ideas into a workable ceremony. When my wife and I planned our wedding, we ended up combined different aspects of the Jewish and Catholic wedding traditions. We had two friends sing a modern version of the Seven Blessings. Another friend read a translation I wrote of the popular "Love is patient, love is kind" passage from Corinthians. We stood under a huppah as my cousin the priest and our rabbi both gave their blessings. I fell in love with the Jewish tradition of the ketubah, and being an artist, decided to make one for us, which the rabbi then read to our families. We lit a unity candle, then stomped a glass. Some might find this kind of ceremony a little crazy or inauthentic, but we loved it and it fit us perfectly. It wasn't a Jewish wedding or a Catholic wedding — it was our wedding.
Our crazy combined ceremony worked to bring our two families together in a beautiful and special way. Each side could relate to part of the ceremony, and also share the experience of something new. We explained the traditions throughout the ceremony, in simple terms, so that everyone could appreciate the parts they weren't familiar with. And in the end, our families loved it as much as we did. It let us honor our religions and families while defining our own newly combined values, and began to establish what it would mean to live together as an interfaith couple.