Religion & Beliefs

Tips for Planning an Interfaith Wedding

Inspired by the comments of a certain anonymous poster, I thought I’d give some advice today…. on things to consider when (successfully) planning an Interfaith Wedding. 1. What Really Matters? Pick Your Battles! A Jew planning an interfaith wedding sometimes … Read More

By / April 20, 2007

Inspired by the comments of a certain anonymous poster, I thought I’d give some advice today…. on things to consider when (successfully) planning an Interfaith Wedding.

1. What Really Matters? Pick Your Battles!

A Jew planning an interfaith wedding sometimes bristles at every little detail, because they’ve been prepped for this experience to be so hard.  They go in expecting to do battle (and end up with some scars).  So the most important thing to remember is CALM DOWN!  If you can be gracious on the less religious aspects of the wedding, your partner (and his/her mom) may be surprisingly accommodating about the religious details you can’t bring yourself to concede on .  Before you begin to plan together, make a list for yourself of the things you really NEED to have, and then be ready to cave on all the other stuff.  Food and music and colors and flowers and tuxedos and cake flavors feel important when you’re fighting with your future Mother-in-law, but they might be worth swapping out for your childhood rabbi and a Hebrew benediction. If you spend some time figuring out your deal breakers in advance, and centering yourself for a smooth conversation, you’ll be less likely to end up feeling screwed.

2. Trust Me, You'll Get Your Chuppah

That said, remember that there are more Jewish cultural “extras” than there are non-Jewish ones.  So you’ll end up getting more than you think.  Once you’ve hammered out the colors and flowers and so on, you can “add in” the Chuppah and the Ketubah and the stepping-on-glass and the spinning chairs if you want.  Don’t begin by introducing these particularities of your culture. Begin with the things you BOTH think of as “wedding decisions” and then introduce the specifically Jewish details later on. Bear in mind that there are very few Christian cultural wedding traditions (tiny sandwiches, sherbet punch, and unity candles are about it unless your partner is Greek or Italian or something) so you should be gracious with those… DON'T assume that Jesus is everywhere.  If Jesus is hanging around, you'll usually know it.

3. Introduce Jewish Culture Slowly (and only after you’ve been generous)

Then, once you’ve given in on the non-religious stuff, and hammered out the decisions you need to make together, you need to teach your partner about how FUN a Jewish wedding is.  Ideally, you should get yourself invited to a good wedding, so your betrothed can see the good times up close.  But if you aren’t up for that, try renting some movies with fun Jewish wedding scenes in them (like, Wedding Crashers, not Yentl!).

4. Readings: Judaism IS the lowest common denominator

Once you’ve dealt with the secular stuff, and talked your sweetie into a Chuppah, it’s time for thinking about readings and clergy. This is the one time when the supersession of Judaism works to your advantage.  Because Song of Songs (or whatever you choose for your readings) is IN your partner’s bible. So you shouldn’t be immediately scared of using religious texts in your wedding (some people avoid it altogether). You might be surprised to discover that you get no struggle at all with your choices, especially if you pick Jewish text that’s a common part of Christian liturgy.  

5. Can You Give Up Hebrew?

It’s very very important to remember that a Jewish prayer in ENGLISH is way less intimidating for non-Jews.  If you grew up Reform, an English service might not be so hard for you to accept, but if you grew up Conservative or Orthodox, you might trouble accepting this concession. Even so, it’s worth thinking about.  Remember that your partner is giving up a lot too, and that English may be what makes an all-Jewish service palatable.

6. Find the RIGHT Rabbi

I will say now that you do NOT want to talk a rabbi into marrying you.  I’ve seen this happen over and over, and it causes a lot of tears. You want a rabbi who is happy to be marrying you. If, when you approach a rabbi, there’s tension, walk away.  You do NOT need extra stress right now.

7. This is Only the Tip of the Iceberg

The most important thing to remember, in all of this, is that your wedding is only the first big decision you’ll make with your partner (and his/her family).  Religious education for the kids, circumcision, attending a house of worship, burial plots—these are all ahead of you. So use your wedding as a proving ground for your ability to hold your own, and also to dialogue.  You  may find you are unable to give in on anything, and you may find you’re a doormat. If  this process is really really hard, you might want to see a marriage counselor before the big day.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have these conversations now, no matter how hard they may be.  These wedding details are all going to resurface later as more important milestones and symbols.  Better to know now if your deal breakers are incompatible!  You don't want to end up sending little Moishe to the "Baptized Believers in Christ" Sunday School.

Or getting divorced.