My Personal Cantor

Planning your Interfaith Wedding ceremony

I just stumbled on a great site – www.shebrew.com, and there I found an article by Leslie Hershman, a Reform Jewish bride, marrying a non practicing Catholic.

It was so great to read her post, because this is exactly what I do in my practice when planning an Interfaith wedding. I’m much more concerned about the joy and celebration of the union, than being slave to outdated traditions that really don’t apply anymore. The philosophy here is to make everyone comfortable – to focus on the joy of coming together, and the honor of each person’s faith and traditions. In this article, Leslie chose those rites which were important to her, enabling her to incorporate special mementos of her Jewish travels, yet making her husband to be and his family feel richly satisfied.

The article is posted below. Leslie – all the best in your wedding! I hope it’s everything you hope for it to be!

Planning an Interfaith Wedding- The Ceremony

By Lesly Hershman

Getting engaged to a non-Jew poses the following question: How do I take a traditional Jewish ceremony and modify it to suit all the people involved?

First there’s me, a practicing Reform Jew. Secondly, there’s my fiancé, a non-religious man who grew up Catholic. Third, there’s everyone attending the wedding, a mix of religious backgrounds. We want everyone to feel connected to the ceremony, but we don’t want to lose the essence of Judaism that lies within the traditional ceremony.

Before shaping the actual ceremony, I realized I had a lot to learn about the Jewish wedding ceremony itself. I’d seen many Jewish weddings, but I needed to know what it all meant. I bought a copy of the book The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant to gain some perspective on the Jewish traditions. My friends cover to cover—and took notes! Understanding why each component of the Jewish ceremony existed was important to me, because I needed to explain it to my fiancé. I knew he would ask questions and look to me for the answers and I wanted to give him complete and correct information.

I learned that there are two main tenets of a Jewish wedding. The first is joy — because all of your friends and family come together to celebrate the union of two people. Everyone is there to relax, party, and have fun. It’s this essential part of a Jewish wedding that appealed to both my non-Jewish fiancé and me.

The second is unity; technically, the rabbi performing the ceremony isn’t even the one marrying the couple. The couple marries themselves through their vows. That is a pretty modern take for a ceremony with such longstanding history and tradition.

However, joy and unity weren’t always the focal points of a Jewish wedding. Not all of the aspects of the Jewish ceremony today started off with such a modern twist. Historically, the wedding was about the groom acquiring a wife, the notion of kinyan. Today, according to Diamant, most couples chose to make their wedding a, “sacred covenant between equal partners” or a brit.

Joy, personalization, and equality will be the key elements of our wedding ceremony. All three are rooted in Judaism, and yet can be easily explained to those with different religious backgrounds. From planning this phase, my fiancé and I moved onto planning the actual events of the ceremony.

We decided to remove references to Moses, since he’s only a key figure in my religion; we also decided against me encircling him seven times because the tradition felt very groom-centric. We’re planning on reciting the Sheva B’rachot or Seven Blessings as they were originally written in Hebrew, alongside an updated translation into English. The text we selected for our Ketubah (marriage contract) focuses on sharing a life together and building a home of mutual respect and appreciation rather the more traditional contract of vowing making a Jewish home and raise children Jewishly. We’ve even decided to add a brief Havdallah (ending of the Sabbath) service at the beginning of the ceremony because it’s my favorite time of the week; I’ve been saving a candle from Israel that we can use in it.

Personalizing our Jewish wedding will allow me to stay close to my traditions without excluding my fiancé. We’ll have a one-of-a-kind wedding ceremony because it will be about us, yet the same prayers that my great-grandparents uttered will be heard. It will be a perfect mix of something old and something new –now I just need to borrow something blue and I’ll be ready to walk down the aisle.

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