Tag Archives: Jewish wedding ceremony

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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The Wedding that Dodged the Hurricane

hurricane-wedding-1I met with a couple this summer who came from very different worlds but were determined to start a new life together. He is a PhD Virologist that was married and the father of three children. Now divorced, he met a lovely and smart lawyer whose family hailed from Israel and of course she was fluent in Hebrew. We met in the city and then I visited them in Sunnyside Queens where they were living, temporarily, before moving into a house on Long Island. His children visited them there, and I was impressed with the closeness she had with them and what an amazing father he is.

The wedding was set at his parents’ house in Point Lookout, Long Island, on September 4th.  All the preparations were made, including creating a chuppah on the deck and the backyard set up with tables for 50 guests. The living room of the house was used as a buffet station. It was a beautiful house that his mother had redone with her decorating skills.

hurricane-wedding-3All was set, except for the forecast which was calling for a tropical storm/hurricane, supposed to hit that day and the Long Island shore was potentially vulnerable. We were speaking about Plan B a day or two before, as this storm or hurricane was widely reported on the news and the beaches were closed. I even had to plan for a railroad trip out there instead of driving so I could make sure to show up.

Fortunately, the storm did not take the path that all were sure it would and the day turned out to be a picture-perfect sunny and low humidity winner. All went as planned and the best part was  that his two-year-old daughter, standing under the chuppah held by her grandmother, stole the show!

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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 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. 

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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

 

 

 

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.

My Most Famous Pet Friendly Wedding

dog wedding
A couple who had been living together for 12 years decided to get married on 11/11/11. The groom hailed from Dominican Republic and was a tall, good looking, sweet man who loved animals and was working at a Pet Spa. His wife-to-be organized a non-profit shelter for dogs and was passionate about adoption of these animals. Between the couple and the bride’s parents they owned 7 dogs.

 

Pet Friendly Wedding

I arrived at a lovely penthouse apartment on the west side of New York City the day of the marriage to find all the dogs in attendance. They were properly dressed in pearls and bow ties and ready for the wedding to begin.

A few friends were in attendance but for the most part it was family. I used my husband’s tallit that he brought from Israel as the Chuppah and both sets of parents and some dogs were under it. The bride used a simple gold band that her father gave her mother 40 years before that he bought for $15 as they had no money at that time.

The largely Jewish service included blessings from the parents and barks from the dogs. At the end the groom broke the glass and we all had some snacks (not doggy ones) on a beautifully set table.

Rabbi Gloria officiates a baby-naming ceremony at home in Connecticut

Last year I officiated an interfaith wedding in Montauk at Gurney’s Inn on the ocean.  The bride and groom chose me and a minister to preside and it was a beautiful and spiritual ceremony.  In the audience was the bride’s first cousin who was living in Brooklyn expecting a baby in several months.

august women and babies for blog 2013

This summer I received a call from this new mother, who was moving to Connecticut where her now one-year-old twin boys could experience the outdoors and enjoy proximity to the water.   She asked if I would create a baby-naming ceremony for little Everett and Sam.

I visited her and the boys in Brooklyn and learned a great deal about the family and the twins’ different personalities.  I traveled by train up to New Haven a few weeks ago and was picked up and whisked off to their new home, under renovation. We set up the service on the front lawn.  

The first cousin I married in Montauk was present as were her parents.  I felt like a part of the family and we all participated in the Shecheyanu and Kiddish prayer. Then I asked for blessings which were spontaneously given by the 12 people in attendance. After the service, we all ate together and watched the kids play.

How lucky am I to be a part of such wonderful occasions with people with whom I share a history?

 

 

 

An Interfaith Wedding on Shelter Island – Two Sailing Companions in Love!

shelter island pic

A rabbinic colleague of mine recommended a couple to me, who were planning their interfaith wedding ceremony for the end of June this year. They were currently living in Michigan, but had met in college in the East, on the first day of sailing tryouts their freshman year.  Both had boats and sailing filled a great deal of their pasts. 

Starting off as very good friends, it soon developed into love, and they moved out to Michigan where he had grown up, and where his family still lived.

A Shelter Island Wedding

The bride’s grandmother owned a house in Shelter Island where she spent summers sailing so it was a natural and wonderful idea to hold the wedding there.  The couple used an amazing house and grounds belonging to one of the grandmother’s friends.  Perched high on a hill overlooking the water, the house was nestled in many acres of grassy lawn with beautiful trees surrounding it.  The ceremony and chuppah faced the water; this wedding was simply one of the most picturesque I have ever been fortunate enough to officiate.  A tent was set up for the reception and a wonderful band entertained.

The bride’s and groom’s mothers had become best friends through their years of courtship, even vacationing together.  When I spoke of the two traditions and families blending together I offered this actual proof  as it was embodied in their relationships. This warm and generous family extended their hospitality to me, inviting me to both the rehearsal dinner and the reception.

chupah

The picture I feature here, below,  is of the grandmother and her boyfriend shows up her prior model features and her striking beauty.  She and her new boyfriend had both lost spouses of 50 years and clearly were in love.  This combination of older and young love made this a particularly magical and touching wedding.

grandparents
The beautiful grandmother and her new love