Category Archives: Planning

How to Find an Interfaith Wedding Officiant in the New York Area

 
You are getting married.  You have been together and have made the big decision.  You come from different backgrounds or perhaps different countries.  Your family has accepted/made peace with the decision/ empowered you both/ or is very troubled.  Pick the option that fits you or add your own. 

Finding an interfaith wedding officiant

Now  the search begins.  As you may or may not know most synagogue rabbis will not marry an interfaith couple in the synagogue itself.  As an independent rabbi in NYC, I know that reform rabbis can at their discretion perform the ceremony in an outside venue.  Ministers generally will have an easier time than Catholic priests who often have to get permission to preside  outside of the church.  These are generalizations and of course there are many New York City officiants who don’t fit into these categories    If you know friends or family who have had such a wedding you should of course ask for recommendations. This is the single best way of knowing who you will work with since the couple is happy with him or her.   If you don’t know anyone from a personal referral on to the internet.

So now armed with your iphone, ipad, laptop, etc. you start searching the net for interfaith officiants.  It is important to check out their sites carefully, finding out how long they have been officiating, where they were ordained and of course what their philosophy on marriage and ceremonies is.  Hopefully you can see pictures of them in action and testimonials.  If any of this resonates with you both you should email or call the person and have a conversation on the phone.  That will tell you a lot about the person and also whether you are comfortable with what they say.  Are they willing to do a service that is creative and personal to you?  Are they comfortable to work with a co-officiant if your fiance wants the other religion represented as well.

Next step is meeting the person.  You should have an emotional connection with the wedding ceremony officiant.  After all, it is your wedding and you want someone who relates to both of you and listens to you.  Listen to your heart.  There are many people out there so you can interview a few but go with your gut feeling.  Make sure you have a contract that itemizes date, time, fee and is signed by both parties.  That way your date is reserved during a busy summer wedding season.  You should try and meet together a few times to fashion the service and be comfortable that it is respectful to both faiths.    

The picture below is of an interfaith wedding ceremony I performed in the beautiful island of Bermuda.   

Try and give yourself as much time before the wedding to do this search.  The ceremony should be the core of your special day and you want to employ the best person for you.   All this takes time and some effort on your part but is well worth the time.  I have officiated at many interfaith weddings the last three years and have helped to make the day magical to many couples. 

Happy hunting!

 

TESTIMONIALS FOR RABBI GLORIA

Rabbi Gloria’s “How To” Manual for Co-officiating an Interfaith Wedding Ceremony

Co-officiating an Interfaith Wedding Ceremony

As an independent rabbi, I have done many interfaith wedding ceremonies over the last few years. Usually I meet with the couple a number of times, script the service, counsel and work with the respective families. It has become more and more popular to have two officiants at the service. The bride and groom each seem to want a member of their religious background present to represent them.

This has been wonderful and life affirming for me. As an independent rabbi in NYC, I welcome the opportunity to co-officiate and have become a bit of an “expert” in this field. I usually contact the other officiant first via phone or email and discuss our backgrounds and ideas for the service. Then I try and schedule a meeting of the four of us after preparing an outline. I try and be proactive and prepared before meeting so that the couple and officiants have a guide to work from. If the other officiant is in the area I host the meeting in my NYC apartment. If not, we have connected by conference calls, set up in advance.

Then, I will email a script based on the meeting to all and ask for comments. We can meet again in person or email to firm up the service. I will usually call the other officiant to make sure we are on the same page.

Chemistry between officiants is of utmost importance, as the couple and audience are looking for signs of respect and communality. So, the the two of us usually get to the wedding early and spend time one-on-one . I might take his or her arm when we walk down the aisle and try to incorporate the minister or priest in some of my rituals.

If a couple does not have an officiant of the Christian faith, I often help them find one; I have worked with many wonderful clergy over the last number of years. Most people, following such a wedding, remark to me, “The service was so warm! Did you know the other officiant for many years?” Some actually tell me that we should “Take our show on the road.” Or start a television show!

If you need a co-officiant for your interfaith wedding ceremony, it would be my pleasure to help you.

 

Fabulous wedding locations and venues!

I have been very fortunate in the last few years to marry couples in wonderful venues! What a delight it is to experience the wedding venues people choose, the imagination that goes into some of their selections, and the fun that we all have!

Since your wedding day is a day you will remember for the rest of your life, choosing a place that is near and dear to your heart is vitally important. Whether it be a church, a synagogue, a garden, the beach, or a mountain top, it should reflect your personalities, your comfort level, and your dreams!

Here are just a few of the spots I have officiated or co-officiated recent weddings:

lond island jan 2014

The North Shore of Long Island.

I recently co-officiated a lovely interfaith wedding, with a minister, at a beautiful golf club, The Creek in Locust Valley on the North Shore of Long Island. Check out this hundred year old venue; it is not only gorgeous, it is very well run. We had an incredible day and the couple were thrilled!

Read the blog

 

plaza hotel

 What can say? It is The Plaza Hotel in New York City! I co-officiated an incredible wedding last year at this wondrous hotel – a true landmark in New York City. I was unprepared for just how intimidating the Plaza Hotel ballroom can be. A product of the early 1900s, it boasts soaring ceilings, beautiful woodwork, detailing and amazing balconies. The decorations for the wedding were incredible: candles everywhere, flowers overflowing and lights illuminating the gold fixtures. The chupah was located on the stage, and we rehearsed as if it were a Broadway production. Lights, audio, video. And with 275 people in attendance, I truly felt like I was beginning my theatrical career.

But I concentrated on the spiritual service at hand and felt gratitude that I had been selected to lead this service in such a historic, elegant and magnificent setting.

Read the blog

  

 

Rooftop of the Brooklyn Sheraton, New York City

 After proposing during the 6th inning of a Yankee game, a couple I recently married chose the roof of the Brooklyn Sheraton for their big event. What fun! Although the day was overcast, by evening when the ceremony took place the sun shone and we were treated to a phenomenal sunset.

Blog: Click here

           

Image result for pinterest images new york botanical garden

October in one of the most beautiful and famous gardens in the northeast… Yes, you can get married there! This past fall I had the pleasure of marrying a wonderful young couple, amidst the gorgeous setting of the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. The colors were at peak in the area and the couple was lucky that they missed the beginning of Hurricane Sandy by one day. They had lovely weather with temperatures in the 60′s for their early evening ceremony.

   Blog: Click here

 

  

Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island

 Beautiful Block Island.jpgBlock Island is a charmer off the coast of Rhode Island. Last summer I co-officiated a wedding ceremony for a lovely couple from Manhattan who loved the island and felt it was the only place on earth they wanted to get married. The island is family-friendly, and small enough to be negotiated with moped or bicycle. Ferries are the only means of transportation there which discourages people from bringing cars.

The old Victorian Bed and Breakfasts and grand hotels dot the bluffs and town streets and the Spring House Hotel, where we were, was wonderful. The beaches are pristine and beautiful and the weather hot and perfect for swimming.

How lucky I was to have been to officiate in paradise and meet some wonderful new friends . After the service one man came up to me and the minister with whom I was co-officiating and said “you should be on television, the two of you together are magical.” How much better could the praise be?

Read the blog

 

FountainBleu Inn

 

The wedding was on the grass overlooking a lake at the FountainBleu Inn, in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. It is a lovingly restored, 1815 country inn with authentic antiques and beautiful grounds.

The FountainBleu Inn really is a wonderful venue, with a Tudor banquet room which seats up to 150 guests and opens on to a spacious stone patio overlooking the lake.  It was a wonderful late spring day, and joy was in the air!

Blog Click here

   

Theatrical Synagogue Wedding in New York


 Angel Orensanz is an 1850′s German synagogue on the Lower East Side of NYC, where many celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker have held their weddings.

I recently officiated a dramatic and gorgeous wedding there. This soaring space had room for three balconies and a capacity of 800 people. When the lighting was on it transported those there into another realm.

Check out my blog for all the details of this incredible day.

A Most Heartfelt Interfaith Wedding Ceremony

hosp weddg prayer shwal blessingA couple phoned me two weeks before Christmas this year who were friends of a couple I married three years ago in Cooperstown, NY.  The bride and groom were living in LA presently but had grown up on the East Coast. 

Their interfaith wedding ceremony was scheduled for June 2014 but the bride’s father, who had been living with Parkinson’s for five years, took a turn for the worst and had been hospitalized most of the last five months.   The bride wanted to move up the ceremony to the end of December to make sure he was well enough to participate.

hosp weddg glor offic paper chuppah
I worked with them remotely by phone and email for the next two weeks.  We scripted an interfaith wedding service, but I left much to do pending seeing them in Boston, where the girl’s family lived and the father was hospitalized.  I went to the hospital that Saturday morning and met with the bride, groom , mother and sister first.  They filled me in about his illness, his past as a celebrated psychologist, and their lives together.  I had already learned much about the bride and groom on our lengthy telephone calls. 

The bride’s sister, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases, had flown in from Africa to witness this ceremony and she added a great deal, as well. 

Then on to meet the father in the conference room of his hospital floor.  He was present with us and I explained who I was and a little about the service.  I went back to my hotel after the time with them and the service flowed out.

Sunday morning was the wedding, in a beautiful wood paneled conference room at the hospital which had a lovely view.  The father was wheeled into the room in a wheelchair with a sign on the back of it  “Father of the Bride.”  The aides on the floor had made it for him.   The Christian mother of the groom constructed her first chupah and did an amazing job.  

The sister of the bride had a two-and-a-half year old son who was the ring bearer, dressed in an adorable suit.  Immediate family were present, including the groom’s brother, who had just come from his own hospital bed with an emergency appendectomy. 

The father was able to walk his daughter down the aisle and the service began.  I described what love and warmth I felt and how lucky he was to have such a wonderful family behind him.  When we said the Sheckyanu prayer of thanksgiving we had to give out tissues for all.  The bride and groom wrote little speeches about each other, and when reading them, they teared up.  When I did the benediction blessing I wrapped a tallit or prayer shawl around bride, groom and father and offered a blessing of health for him.

Following the service the father gave a beautiful toast to the couple and the hospital nurses remarked how much he had improved in the last few days.  His doctor came to offer congratulations.

For me, as an independent Rabbi in New York City, after several years of officiating interfaith weddings, it was among the most meaningful and satisfying ceremony I have ever performed. 

      ~     ~     ~

And many thanks to Sarah and Owen for their lovely note to me which I received when they returned from their honeymoon:

“Owen and I are so glad that you were able to marry us.   We feel so fortunate to have been introduced to you and to have had the chance to work with you.  Under difficult circumstances it was so nice to have you jump in and put everyone at ease.  I especially liked how you got to bless Owen, my father and I, all wrapped in his tallit.  What a special day.”    ~ Sarah and Owen

 

 

 

Interfaith Officiants in New York Work Together to Fashion a Wonderful Wedding Ceremony

Co-officiating an interfaith wedding

In the last year or two it has become common for interfaith marriages to involve two officiants working together to create a wonderful wedding.  The bride and the groom each wants to feel that his or her religion is represented and respected.

 I have worked with a number of priests over the last few years and always can call on one of them if the couple needs a Christian clergyman.  I make a point if getting to know them as people so our relationship is open and easy.

I usually take responsibility for organizing meetings with the couple and the officiant using my Manhattan apartment as a meeting place. When co-officiating an interfaith wedding, these meetings are key.  We discuss elements of each religion’s service and script the wedding ceremony.  We try and find commonality between the religions and make sure every concern is met.

As a rabbi, co-officiating with a priest is a magical experience.  During the marriage ceremony we support one another and even do the pronouncement and benediction together.

One example this team spirit is an upcoming wedding I will co-officiate with a priest this fall at the New York Athletic Club. This is an amazing coming together of interfaith officiants in New York for a magical wedding.  The couple, groom Jewish and bride Catholic, contacted me with the Catholic officiant already in place.  He was the priest at the church in the town her parents live and she knew him from that connection.  He also was active in the New York City community training priests as he had been trained.  

I contacted him and we enjoyed a lively and helpful telephone conversation.  Then I suggested the couple spend time with him to work out the aspects of the Catholic service they wanted to include in our ceremony.

When the time came for the meeting of the four of us, I hosted in my Manhattan apartment.  The priest was due to arrive before the couple; it is important that the two officiants develop this chemistry and commonality of viewpoint before meeting with the couple. In walked a tall, dark and handsome man in his 40s with a twinkle in his eye, and the co-officiation of priest and rabbi had officially begun!  We spent some time discussing the aspects of the religious service we would be comfortable with.

The couple arrived about 40 minutes later and we proceeded to script the service. Since the bride is a practicing Catholic she had fairly definite ideas of what she wanted included. We had to work with the language a bit since “Let us Pray,” as an opening of the service, would be foreign to any Jewish person.  We also decided to eliminate breaking the glass at the closing, as that would so obviously be a Jewish custom. We chose readings that would bring the two religions together and decided the priest and I would bless the couple together at the end of the service.

After about an hour of discussion we all felt that a respectful service to both religions was achieved.  We will meet again closer to the wedding to finalize details. That amount of work and dedication is vital to produce a personal and dual interfaith service. But there is no easy way to achieve it, and I am grateful for the couple’s openness and the priest’s hard work with me.  

It is so rewarding and so thrilling to experience this respectful blending of faiths. I can’t wait for the wedding ceremony, and the moment I walk down the aisle arm and arm with the priest.

A Rabbi and a Priest Co-officiate in Basking Ridge, N.J.

      It was such a pleasure to co-officiate a wonderful interfaith wedding at the Dolce Hotel, in Basking Ridge N.J.   The couple, bride Russian Jewish and the Groom Catholic with some Russian blood came to me many months ago and asked if I would co- officiate with the groom’s father’s priest.  The father of the groom had attended this church for many years and it was important to have Father Joe present at the ceremony.  I agreed and right there in my apartment the four of us set out to create the service. We were able to weave together the unity candle and the Baal Shem Tov’s (father of Hasidism) concept of light.  And when it came time for the Sign of Peace I spoke about the concept of Shalom which of course means peace in Hebrew but also involves a spiritual wholeness and peace of mind.

      We combined  “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” from the Song of Songs King Solomon from the Jewish tradition with the standard vows, “Do you take…..”  .  Even the Lord’s Prayer was said in the context of the prayers of all people for peace and well being.  Father Joe spoke of this sacred prayer to Christianity in the context of the Jewish religion.  Indeed he was a lively and warm person who was so easy to work with.  The audience and couple responded to our camaraderie and respect for one another.   We were relaxed, comfortable with one another and respected each other’s part of the service

     The result a comprehensive and beautiful service that presented the best of both faiths in a loving way.  So many guests stopped us both after the ceremony to say how moved and delighted they were in weaving it together.  It takes, work, enthusiasm and  care, but  it will be the prototype for more that I will do.

 

Check out DolceBaskingRidgeCatering.com for wonderful service and attention day of that makes it look easy

You’re engaged! What now? Here’s Rabbi Gloria’s interfaith wedding guide.

Congratulations! You have made the big decision; you are getting married! You come from different backgrounds or perhaps different countries. Your family has accepted/made peace with the decision/ empowered you both/ or is very troubled. Pick the option that fits you or add your own. 

Cake, Tasty, Wedding

Interfaith Wedding Guide

Now the search begins. You need an interfaith wedding guide! How do you find an interfaith wedding officiant? As you may or may not know most synagogue rabbis will not marry an interfaith couple in the synagogue itself. As an independent rabbi in New York City, I know that reform rabbis can, at their discretion, perform the ceremony in an outside venue. Ministers generally will have an easier time than Catholic priests who often have to obtain permission to preside outside of the church. These are generalizations and of course there are many New York City officiants that don’t fit into these categories.

If you know friends or family who have enjoyed a successful interfaith wedding, you should of course ask for recommendations. This is the single best way of knowing who you will work with since the couple is happy with him or her. But if you don’t know anyone from a personal referral, head to the internet.

Armed with your iphone, ipad, laptop, etc. you start searching the net for interfaith officiants.  It is important to check out their sites carefully, finding out how long they have been officiating, where they were ordained and of course what their philosophy on marriage and ceremonies is. Hopefully you can see pictures of them in action and testimonials. If any of this resonates with you both you should email or call the person and have a conversation on the phone. That will tell you a lot about the person and also whether you are comfortable with what they say. Are they willing to do a service that is creative and personal to you? Are they comfortable to work with a co-officiant if your fiance wants the other religion represented as well.

Here are additional questions to keep in mind:

  • Availability? Spring and summer weddings can be a busy time!
  • Do you sense warmth, kindness, connection, spirituality?
  • Experience: how many years has the person performed weddings, and are there good testimonials or references on their site?
  • Does the officiant accurately reflect and support your spiritual ideals and that of your fiancé? Does he or she have experience working with officiants of other faiths?
  • Will he or she meet with you and your fiancé before the wedding day?
  • Will the officiant be flexible with regard to the actual ceremony and focus on creating the ceremony that suits you both perfectly?
  • Is the wedding officiant warm and helpful during your interaction, whether on the phone or by email?
  • Is he or she willing to travel to your wedding location?
  • Is the price in your budget?  Remember you get what you pay for, and this is one of the most important days of your life. You want to be sure you select someone who is a leader; he or she must be warm, kind, helpful, and able to soothe your nerves and support you.

Next step is meeting the person. You should have an emotional connection with the officiant. After all it is your wedding and you want someone who relates to both of you and listens to you. Listen to your heart. There are many people out there so you can interview a few but go with your gut feeling. Make sure you have a contract that itemizes date, time, fee and is signed by both parties. That way your date is reserved during a busy summer wedding season. You should try and meet together a few times to fashion the service and be comfortable that it is respectful to both faiths.

Maldives, Sunset, Wedding, Bride, Tropical, Island

The right interfaith wedding officiant realizes that couples choose interfaith ceremonies for their spiritually inclusive approach. It is a way of rejoicing in our differences and celebrating our communality in an atmosphere of love and respect.  All should come away feeling honored and respected, with his or her uniqueness celebrated.

Try and give yourself as much time before the wedding to do this search. The interfaith ceremony should be the core of your special day and you want to employ the best person for you. All this takes time and some effort on your part but is well worth the time. I have officiated at interfaith weddings the last three years and have helped to make the day magical to many couples.

Happy hunting! And many blessings and great joy to you in your wedded life!

 

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A Poetic, Interfaith Wedding on the Chelsea Pier

     A couple came to me for their interfaith wedding, who had researched and rejected many rabbis they interviewed.  They had known each other many years and were living in Manhattan.  She had grown up in Israel and he was from the States raised in the Christian faith.  They had definite ideas about the ceremony and service and we set about fashioning the service in my apartment during  a number of meetings. They had decided to marry on the Chelsea Pier in New York.

     It struck me after the second or third meeting that aside from the structure of the Jewish wedding ceremony that had certain prayers and rituals that they were going to teach me some things about poetry and vows that I hadn’t known.  Sure enough they came up with three different English translations of the Seven Wedding Blessings (Sheva Brachot) and went with the most poetic and beautiful one

     They had a number of friends who were participating in the service and read poems by Denise Levertov, a modern poet and one by Ann Bradstreet who went back to the colonial days.  The most creative reading was by A.A. Milne “Us Two”  which of course involved Pooh.  The last few lines of this were beautiful and relevant to the wedding and the two people getting married.  They were   “It isn’t much fun for One, but Two Can stick together,” says Pooh,  says he.  That’s how it is,” says Pooh. 

     I admired the ease at which this couple related to one another.  They supported each other and had a kindness and compassion that I rarely find.  It is as if the words of this poem and their joy  in being together were one.