Tag Archives: interfaith rabbi

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

A Special Fall Foliage Wedding at the New York Botanical Gardens

     One of the co-officiants I worked with a year ago recommended me to a couple who planned their interfaith wedding ceremony to take place this past October. They had decided to make it a gorgeous, special wedding at 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.

     The bride was an English teacher working on her doctorate  in English.  She worked with the other officiant and me choosing readings and music.  Being a former English teacher myself I was delighted to see a reading from e.e. cummings and a second poem of Shakespeare’s.  She even had an excerpt from the Book of Ruth set to music.  She had sung the very same lines herself at her cousin’s wedding.

     The night before at the TriBeCa Grill restaurant (owned by Robert de Niro) I met both sides of the family.  The bride’s family hailed from Charleston, South Carolina and it seemed as though every member from a few month old girl to an 80-year-old was present.  The groom’s family was scattered over the states and people from Michigan, and a number of other states made the trip.  The priest had been a long time family friend of the bride’s mother and so it was a family affair.

     The procession and recession were down a beautiful walkway of fall flowers.  The trees around the wedding site were shimmering gold and there was even an usual  fuzzy moon hanging low in the sky.  Picture perfect fall evening for this lovely couple who chose the venue due to their deep appreciation  of nature.

 

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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.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Salsa/Jewish Interfaith wedding in New York

 

gloria march 5 2014 ninth

A good friend of mine, Harvey Averne, enjoyed a wonderful career as a multi-talented vibraphonist, band leader, producer and record label owner.  His best friend was Larry Harlow, who is a renowned salsa-music performing composer and producer. His mother was an opera singer and father a band leader at the Latin Quarter nightclub in NYC. Falling in love with the Spanish sound, Larry left to attend school in Cuba. He went on to produce over 260 albums for Fania Records.
latin grammy

Among his contributions to music was his insistence on creation of a Latin Grammy award.  In 2008 he was presented with a Latin Grammy Lifetime Award.

gloria march 5 fourth

Larry planned to marry a lovely woman who had first started coming to his concerts in Cuba when she was just 15.  She had been a runner there and has a striking face and athletic dancer’s body.  I was delighted to officiate the interfaith wedding for them.

We held the wedding ceremony in his apartment in New York City with a few close friends. I lent them my husband’s tallit to use as the chuppah. The bride was not Jewish (as Larry is) but wanted a Jewish wedding ceremony. They did the circling to all of us singing a Yiddish wedding song, recited the Kiddish Prayer and Shehechyanu and I did the benediction at the end. It was a very emotional experience for the people present; tears of happiness streamed down the couple and friends’ cheeks. We broke out a bottle of champagne and toasted l’chaim.

The moral of the story: It is never too late to find love in your older years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

An Intimate and Spectacular NYC Wedding Ceremony

dec 9 2014  FIVE

I recently had the good fortune to officiate an intimate, but spectacular interfaith wedding ceremony at one of the premier event spaces in New York City: Gotham at Broadway and 36th st.  It was, in its former life, Greenwich Savings Bank, built in 1922. It occupies an entire city block, boasting a spectacular domed stain glass window and dozens of Star of Davids on the ceiling, added by the Jewish builder.  It is the kind of place you see in the movies; set up with flowers, candles and decorated tables, it looked amazing.

The couple getting married came from different worlds.  The bride was a Jewish NYC woman brought up by sophisticated parents. She attended private school and grew up in an urban lifestyle.  The groom, on the other hand, hailed from a small town of 15,000 people, in Northern England,  where sheep were as common as the pigeons are in NYC.  They met in the airport on the way to an event in Cabo, in Mexico.  Working in Public Relations, she was covering the event for a magazine, and he was playing in a rock band at the same venue.  Their friendship began and seven years later they decided to make it official.

dec 9 2014I enjoyed getting to know them.  They invited me to their apartment and we had an easy time over wine and cheese as I got to know their cat.  Then, we went on to my apartment for more drinks and cheese, and wrote the service. The bride’s parents happened to live a few blocks from my apartment and invited me to dinner with them.  We fell into conversation as though we had known each other many years.  His parents came to NY a few days prior to the wedding and I met with them as well.  His stepfather was a Vicar in England and they had asked him to read from Corinthians during the service.  He had never met a woman rabbi just as I had never met a vicar.  All these meetings brought a personal feeling and intimacy to the service,  even though it was a large space with 250 people attending.

dec 9 2014  TWO

 The capper was a Yiddish wedding song, “Tumbalalaika,” which the groom’s best friend (a  band member)  sang while they circled each other during the service.  I worked with his friend who was singing with the string trio.  Even though he was an accomplished singer, he welcomed my input. The result was moving and beautiful.

They invited me to stay for the star-studded reception and while I danced the night away, I thought how lucky I was to have such a personal glimpse into their lives and to welcome them into my life as well.

 

dec 9 2014  THREE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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http://www.gurneysinn.com/