Tag Archives: co-officiation

A Greek Orthodox – Jewish Wedding Ceremony


The mother of a groom contacted me over a year ago from outside of Baltimore.  She was Greek Orthodox, and was experiencing considerable trouble
 finding a Greek Orthodox officiant to work with a Rabbi.  The bride’s family was Jewish and open to having both faiths represented.  The groom’s mother, having read my blog from a few years back about combining these two faiths into one ceremony, believed I would be the right officiant for the couple.

So, we started the “get-to-know-you” process.  The bride and her sister took a bus into NY in the dead of winter and we began to draft the service. Then, this spring, I traveled down by train to Baltimore to sit down with the families. We had many telephone conversations, all the while developing a warm and close relationship. 

Mothers of the bride and the groom

The Greek woman, a religious person, sent me links to Greek Orthodox wedding customs;  I read 50 pages of texts and, thanks to her, learned a great deal about their customs.  I was amazed to see the similarities to Judaism: in circling, wine drinking and treating the bride and groom as king and queen for the day.

I drove down to the wedding this Memorial Day weekend and felt like I had known these people for a long time.  The best man, or “kumbaro”  in Greek, did the exchange of crowns for the couple.  The crowns are joined by a ribbon which symbolizes the unity of the couple as royalty for the day.

I recited the Kiddish Scheckyanu and Seven Wedding Blessings and we said the benediction in both Hebrew and Greek.  It felt like a seamless ceremony and as the groom broke the glass the audience yelled Mazel Tov and Syncharintiria,  the Greek equivalent.  How wonderful to be able to be present in this moment in time for two special families who will be my friends going forward!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Country Club Co-Officiation; a Warm and Loving Interfaith Wedding!

     I was asked almost a year ago to co-officiate and interfaith wedding with a minister on the North Shore of Long Island.  A beautiful golf club, The Creek in Locust Valley, was the venue which had been founded over a hundred years ago.   The bride’s parents and grandparents were members and it was a place that had many wonderful memories for the family.  The minister was a family friend of the bride’s parents and was most anxious to work with me to create a loving seamless service.

     We met at the club, the groom’s parents apartment in the city and again the night before the wedding .   We were determined that all present (many of whom had never been to a Jewish service) would feel comfortable.  The minister suggested  reading from the Book of Ruth which had as its theme loyalty and inclusivity between Jewish and non-Jewish people.

     When it came time for the Hebrew Kiddish prayer over wine the minister handed the couple the wine goblet, read the English prayer and I did the Hebrew.  We complete the service with a benediction called Aaron’s Prayer- our hands were over the bride and groom crisscrossed so that we were a tight group.  It was truly inspiring.

     As I took the arm of the officiant for the recessional I felt the commonality of religions and people.  We truly had worked hard to make the service warm and respectful to both faiths.  The response from both Jewish and Christian people afterwards confirmed my feelings.  Nothing but smiling faces and loving wishes.

An Interfaith Wedding in the Hamptons

  I was contacted by a distraught bride almost a year ago.  She is Jewish and her husband-to-be (at the time) is Christian.  She wanted a rabbi and minister to officiate and all the officiants in the synagogues of the area turned her down because she would not commit to raising her children Jewish.  She said to me later, “I’m 41 and don’t know if I will have children but I didn’t feel I had to commit to that to get married.”

      They set up a date to meet me in East Hampton and insisted on taking me out to eat in a local restaurant.  That was a first in a couple’s generosity for me.  The groom is a personal chef and the owner of Michael’s Restaurant where everyone knew him well.  We got royal treatment, even a very special bottle of wine.  I sat for a few hours with them and felt a warmth and camaraderie.  We just clicked and that made preparing the service effortless. What helped as well is that the bride is a librarian in the local school system and did her homework.  She searched the net and bookstores for information on interfaith weddings and taught me a thing or two.

      They were having a good friend of the groom’s co-officiate- a lovely Hispanic man.  We all sat together one spring day on the couple’s deck with her parents in attendance.  We ate the chef’s chocolate chip cookies and planned the service together. 

      The venue was Gurney’s Inn in Montauk one of the most beautiful waterfront sites on the east end.  They did a barefoot beachfront wedding.  The weather was amazing-late afternoon with sun not too hot and a delightful breeze.  They did their procession to “Somewhere Beyond the Sea.”   We even did a sand ceremony with the two mothers bringing sand from their respective homes pouring two vessels into one.  The symbolism is two cultures and religions into one.

     Their incredible band made dancing a total joy- I was called the “Bopping Rabbi.” 

     I wish them much sun and joy for the future in their lives.

 

~      ~      ~

 

http://www.gurneysinn.com/

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.

An Interfaith Wedding Destination: A Magical Island!

 

      A couple, one from the Catholic faith and the other Jewish had vacationed together on Block Island for years.  They met in high school, dated throughout college and decided after taking “time outs” along the way that they were right for each other.  I met with them a number of times at their apartment and mine in Manhattan.  We constructed the service, talked about marriage and religion for their children.  They wanted  a Christian co-officiant and  I was successful in reaching out to a Pastor on the island.

      We crafted the service for this interfaith wedding with the pastor on a four-way conference call and I knew it would be special.  He was a Princeton graduate who had been raised by missionary parents doing their work in Japan.  His spirituality was in his blood.  He even let me practice my classical piano for a recital on the baby grand piano in his church.

      Block Island is a charmer off the coast of Rhode Island.  It 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. 

    

The service exceeded my expectations.  The Pastor and I locked arms and walked down the aisle together setting a communal tone.  He started off talking about religious freedom in Rhode Island and of the oldest synagogue in America located in Newport.  I wove in the Jewish prayers, including circling and the Seven Blessings.  He spoke about the Book of Ruth- an intermarriage that led to her descendant, the famous King David.  I read some pieces the bride and groom had written about each other and tears and laughter filled the audience.  This all took place in a gorgeous historic inn on the grass overlooking the water.

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 said “you should be on television, the two of you together are magical.”  How much better could the praise be?

Check out the wonderful catering deparment and Danielle an enthusiastic and organized wedding planner at the hotel.   I can highly recommend her.  You can reach her at www.Danielle@SpringHouseHotel.com

 

 

A Priest and a Rabbi Co-Officiate a Wedding Ceremony in Puerto Rico

This spring I flew down to Puerto Rico to co-officate the wedding ceremony of a woman who met her man at Duke University 9 years ago.  She was from a small town in Puerto Rico, raised Catholic and ended up being a brililant geneticist with a PhD.  She met her husband to be at graduate school at Duke where he was going to law school.  He was from a conservative Jewish home with a father who was raised Orthodox.  During those 9 years they were apart a good amount as he was working in South America,  and he learned Spanish as well as Portugese.  They decided to marry and do the destination wedding so that her family could all attend.

 

 

The priest that they selected was originally born in the Bronx and came to Puerto Rico when he was seven years old.  He was warm and welcoming and his first words to the congregation unsolicited by me were “Shabbat Shalom”   And then he proceeded to explain the meaning of the word Shalom to those in the audience that were not familiar with it.  With the couple’s help he put together a program of the service in Spanish, English and then i added the Hebrew.  So we were officiating in three languages. 

 

When it came time for the Kiddish prayer he handed me the kiddish cup without my asking him and made it seem as natural as if he was conducting mass.  I said a few words about him and his congregation and we worked together on the blessings and the readings.  At the end of the service we embraced the couple and each other and i stayed a while to speak to him about his parrish and his work.  It was wonderful how seamless the service was and how whatever rituals and prayers we did from both religions flowed naturally. 

Blessings and peace,

Rabbi Gloria Milner 

The Wonderful Baseball Wedding in New York

A Baseball Wedding!       

A Jersey guy and a girl from Florida met at a bar in Atlantic City that he was managing at the time.  The Yankees were usually not on the TBS network, but were that night in the bar. She stayed to watch because they were being shown.  The rest as they say is baseball history.  

They went to a game on their first date and continued their romance via bus from NYC to Atlantic City on the Greyhound.

 He proposed during the 6th inning of a Yankee game and they and their friends all went out afterwards to celebrate.  

This wonderful baseball wedding was held on a beautiful rooftop of the Brooklyn Sheraton.  While the day was overcast, by evening, when the ceremony took place, the sun shone and we were treated to a phenomenal sunset.

     In keeping with the baseball tradition his good friend carried his own child who carried a baseball mitt in one hand. In the mitt were – you guessed it – the rings!  The child was the ring bearer.  

At the end we all yelled “Play Ball.”  A very happy ending to this “game ” of love.

 

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An Independence Day Interfaith Wedding

aug 27 statue liberty july 4 brdie grm G
A magical interfaith wedding at which I officiated took place this July 4th in Red Hook, Brooklyn.  The Liberty Warehouse where it was held juts out into the water and faces the Statue of Liberty.  July 4th was the day the statue was reopened this year to the public, having been closed since Hurricane Sandy.

The couple’s backgrounds made the statue an integral part of the ceremony.  Present at the wedding ceremony was the bride’s 90-year-old grandmother, who had survived the Holocaust by posing as a Catholic Polish girl. She was put to work during the War in a munitions factory, and of course came to this country through Ellis Island.  She stayed here in America with relatives in America who took her in after the war.  On the other hand, the groom’s U.S descendants dated back to 1684.  A relative on his mother’s side was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The two powerful threads of Freedom and Independence embodied both of these families.

aug 27 statue liberty july 4 weddingI met with the couple several times to prepare the service.  The bride gave me a DVD that her grandmother made from the Shoah Foundation; this was a fascinating account of her grandmother’s life in a verbal history.  It was so inspiring to watch!  I learned that both the bride and groom were tremendous athletes and shared many common interests.  They had met in the laundry room of their lower east side building.  She was even teaching him Yiddish.

Performing the interfaith ceremony while the sun set on the Statue of Liberty I thought how blessed and fortunate I was to be a part of this incredible July 4th celebration of marriage and of life.

 

Watch a short video of Sarah & Bobby from Kiss The Bride Films.

 

independce day wedding

 

 

Also, check out the lovely wedding website on Carats and Cake.com

 

 

 

And here is the website of the brilliant event planner, “Ang Weddings and Events,”  a boutique event planning company founded by Tzo Ai Ang and based in New York City.  Ang Weddings and Events

 

 

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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