Tag Archives: Parkinson’s

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 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