Tag Archives: nontraditional wedding officiant

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!



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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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




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.

Down on the Farm with an Interfaith Wedding

 Feb 11 2015 blog 3

A Boston-based couple called me to officiate their interfaith wedding. They decided to take over a ten-acre farm and hold the ceremony and reception in a restored barn. The cottages on the acres had been remodeled and were exquisite as was the main farm house. The barn was huge and beautifully beamed.

I happen to have a brother who lives near Boston so in visiting him I met with the couple twice in their loft apartment. Then they came down to New York to visit relatives, so we had opportunities to establish a good relationship. They were both tech managers: brilliant, hard working and on an intensive traveling schedule. They had been together for a number of years and their ease together was apparent. They were tremendous foodies as well and I loved hearing about their latest culinary adventures.

Feb 11 2015 blog 2The farm was close to Lenox Massachusetts, which is a beautiful village in the Berkshires. I came up the night before the ceremony and met both families at a local bar.  Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. We had written the service to include a reading by the bride’s aunt from Mark Twain on marriage. The groom’s uncle did a John Lennon reading of the song Love.

After the ceremony there was an 8-piece band rocking the night away. I danced and celebrated with them and the barn atmosphere made it feel “down home” and comfortable. They had it catered and of course, the Bar B Q, Mac and Cheese and salads were to die for. Their food expertise showed.

Feb 11 2015 blog 1It was one of the most warm and loving weddings. Walking the beautiful grounds, having the ceremony in a rustic elegant farm and eating and drinking first class made it all very special. The couple’s infectious warmth and friendship made it most memorable indeed.



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.


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.

The beautiful grandmother and her new love





Central Park Wedding in Bloom: Rabbi Gloria Officiates An Interfaith Marriage

central park wedding april 2013      A couple contacted me from Miami to do a wedding at the Central Park Conservatory Garden in April this year.  They had met 11 years before and their paths had gone in separate directions.  After reconnecting it didn’t take long for the groom to say  “This is the woman I want to marry.”  

    They got engaged in Central Park and decided they also wanted to get married there so they could return and relive the moment.  It was an interfaith marriage ceremony and the groom’s father wanted to read from Corinthians which we put in as part of the service.

     The prior day was cold and rainy and the day of their wedding was cloudy in the morning but by the time the ceremony was due to start the sun started peeking out of the clouds.  The Conservatory Garden at 105th and 5th Ave is a public space  that the couple rented.  In full bloom, the cherry trees and flowers were exquisite in their pinks and whites.  

     The small group of people assembled was relaxed and warm; there was a laid back, relaxed feeling to the event.  Because it was a public space we had as many onlookers as guests at the ceremony.  I felt as though I  had performed a wedding for many more people than the ones invited.  There is nothing more gorgeous than a Central Park wedding in bloom; it was a truly beautiful day! 

     An appreciative bride and groom made my job a delight and  I can’t wait to visit Miami and catch up with them.

central park wedding april 2013  two

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

A Plaza Hotel Wedding: co-officiating a beautiful interfaith wedding!

       I was on the ferry from Montauk,  New York to Block Island, Rhode Island two months ago when a call came into my cell.  A pleasant male voice asked if I was Rabbi Gloria and then proceeded to tell me his interfaith wedding ceremony, planned for just a few short weeks away, was “rabbi-less.”  There was a problem with the rabbi they had formally chosen and they were in need a of substitute to co-officiate. Being free on the date of their marriage, I asked the venue. “The Plaza Hotel in New York City,” he replied, “With about 275 people coming in attendance.”     
      Fast forward a week: I met with the couple and their friend Wesley who was a Universalist Minister and was to co-officiate. The four of us created a beautiful service and both the bride and Wesley, who were from Taiwan, expressed interest in learning more about Judaism.
    plaza pic redone
I was unprepared for just how intimidating the Plaza Hotel ballroom, where I was to officiate, can be.  It was a product of the early part of the 1900s, with 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; I truly felt like I was beginning my theatrical career.
     But then the moment came: the bride and groom were in front of me – a drop-dead gorgeous woman and her handsome groom.  Their warmth and love for one another was so apparent.  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.

A Jewish Interfaith Wedding with a South American Feel

A New Jersey couple from different corners of the world met in a restaurant five years ago and it completely changed their lives.  He was originally from Jersey, on track to a legal career, following in the footsteps of his father.  Living in Washington D.C. to gain experience prior to law school, he started working in a restaurant to earn some extra money.  He found he loved it and returned back to Jersey to begin a career in the hospitality business.
The woman was born and raised in Lima, Peru where as long as she can remember, she felt a burning desire to come to America.  She struck out on her own, made it to the states, ended up working at the restaurant where the groom worked.  The rest is history, as they say.
highlawn nj front
The venue they chose, pictured above,  was in Montclair, called “The Highlawn, and was set high in the hills with a view of NYC.  It was actually used by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War as a look-out point.  I created an interfaith service for them and it was truly magical to witness the participation by her friends and family who were able to come from Peru for the event.  The ceremony had a wonderful South American feel. Her grandfather was from a remote town in the mountains of Peru where they still ride donkeys and horses, while here,  she is on track to a teaching career in our 21st century world of technology.
nyc skyline
It was truly a privilege to officiate at this Jewish interfaith wedding. It was a union of two very diverse cultures. What a great moment it was! After he broke the glass Mazel Tov and Te Feliciato’s was shouted out by all!