interfaith wedding ceremony in New York
Congratulations! You have made the big decision; you are getting married! 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.
Interfaith Wedding Guide
Now the search begins. You need an interfaith wedding guide! How do you find an interfaith wedding officiant? 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 New York City, 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 obtain permission to preside outside of the church. These are generalizations and of course there are many New York City officiants that don’t fit into these categories.
If you know friends or family who have enjoyed a successful interfaith 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. But if you don’t know anyone from a personal referral, head to the internet.
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.
Here are additional questions to keep in mind:
- Availability? Spring and summer weddings can be a busy time!
- Do you sense warmth, kindness, connection, spirituality?
- Experience: how many years has the person performed weddings, and are there good testimonials or references on their site?
- Does the officiant accurately reflect and support your spiritual ideals and that of your fiancé? Does he or she have experience working with officiants of other faiths?
- Will he or she meet with you and your fiancé before the wedding day?
- Will the officiant be flexible with regard to the actual ceremony and focus on creating the ceremony that suits you both perfectly?
- Is the wedding officiant warm and helpful during your interaction, whether on the phone or by email?
- Is he or she willing to travel to your wedding location?
- Is the price in your budget? Remember you get what you pay for, and this is one of the most important days of your life. You want to be sure you select someone who is a leader; he or she must be warm, kind, helpful, and able to soothe your nerves and support you.
Next step is meeting the person. You should have an emotional connection with the 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 right interfaith wedding officiant realizes that couples choose interfaith ceremonies for their spiritually inclusive approach. It is a way of rejoicing in our differences and celebrating our communality in an atmosphere of love and respect. All should come away feeling honored and respected, with his or her uniqueness celebrated.
Try and give yourself as much time before the wedding to do this search. The interfaith 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 interfaith weddings the last three years and have helped to make the day magical to many couples.
Happy hunting! And many blessings and great joy to you in your wedded life!
A bride contacted me a few months ago about officiating a small interfaith wedding ceremony in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Labor Day weekend. The couple had been together 10 years, engaged one year. All their family and friends were asking “so what is taking you so long?” The time was right and I met with them in my apartment to plan the service. The groom was Jamaican and the bride Russian Jewish. The groom was open to an almost entirely Jewish wedding ceremony.
They lived and played in Brooklyn and loved the park. I went there a few weeks ago before the wedding to look at the site in the park they had picked. A small clearing overlooking the lake. Private and quiet. The rules of the park were you could have no more than 25 people in attendance and so it was an intimate group.
The hand-held chupah and doing it open air were throwbacks to the traditional Jewish weddings in Europe many centuries ago. The groom’s sister read the Sheckyanu prayer transliterated and it was wonderful to see this slight black woman repeating the Hebrew. All their friends representing many nations and races participated in the Sheva Brachot. The feeling at that service was one of warmth, inclusiveness and joy for the couple. Life in this twenty first century should only be this wonderful.
Afterward at the reception in a Williamsburg restaurant overlooking the Manhattan skyline I spent time getting to know their friends and family: a former correction officer at Rikers Island now working as an extra in the movies, a Burmese woman who is a resident in internal medicine at a hospital in Brooklyn, and the photographer, a lively black woman Michelle Etwaroo was talented and user friendly to the couple and me. And she was funny! Instead of saying cheese for the posing she said Mazel Tov! Check out her website, www.MichelleEtwaroo.com when you get a chance.
A couple came to me for their interfaith wedding, who had researched and rejected many rabbis they interviewed. They had known each other many years and were living in Manhattan. She had grown up in Israel and he was from the States raised in the Christian faith. They had definite ideas about the ceremony and service and we set about fashioning the service in my apartment during a number of meetings. They had decided to marry on the Chelsea Pier in New York.
It struck me after the second or third meeting that aside from the structure of the Jewish wedding ceremony that had certain prayers and rituals that they were going to teach me some things about poetry and vows that I hadn’t known. Sure enough they came up with three different English translations of the Seven Wedding Blessings (Sheva Brachot) and went with the most poetic and beautiful one
They had a number of friends who were participating in the service and read poems by Denise Levertov, a modern poet and one by Ann Bradstreet who went back to the colonial days. The most creative reading was by A.A. Milne “Us Two” which of course involved Pooh. The last few lines of this were beautiful and relevant to the wedding and the two people getting married. They were “It isn’t much fun for One, but Two Can stick together,” says Pooh, says he. That’s how it is,” says Pooh.
I admired the ease at which this couple related to one another. They supported each other and had a kindness and compassion that I rarely find. It is as if the words of this poem and their joy in being together were one.