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.