Celebrants and Ceremonies
Emma Margeaux Bride Online Columnist

Interfaith Marriages

In today’s multicultural and increasingly liberal society, it's becoming increasingly common for couples from different religions to get married. The faith and religious beliefs shared by the engaged couple is likely to be the biggest factor in determining what kind of wedding it will be, and of course, what kind of marriage will follow. We created a list of essential tips to help your wedding day run as smoothly as possible. 

Educate Yourself

Don't wait for your partner to initate your education of their religion or culture- dive in, get a head start, and impress them with your attitude and know how. Also, recognise and prepare yourself for continuous learning for the rest of your life. If you're going to be joining your partner's clan, it' a great idea to be able to culturally and religiously fit in as best you can, to promote a more seamless transition for you, your family, and your potential future family. 

Establish Clear Communication With Your Partner

It is important that both you and your fiancé discuss how many and what religious traditions, if any, will be incorporated in the ceremony. Be clear on what you both feel comfortable and uncomfortable with and understand that compromises will need to be made. Try, wherever possible to meet halfway.

Many couples wonder what elements are required to create a good balance between the two religions on the big day. Ultimately, this will depend on the couple's individual traditions and feelings of religious connection. If you're unsure, a great recommendation is to include the basics of both religions being represented. 

For Christian ceremonies, this will include:

- The Call to Worship

- The Opening Prayer

- Scriptural readings (from both the Old and New Testament)

- Lighting of the Unity Candle

- The Closing Prayer

For Muslim Ceremonies:

- The payment of mahr (the dowry or marriage gift)

- A written marriage contract, signed by the bride, groom, and two witnesses

- The Khutbah- tun- Nika (sermon) to bless the marriage

For Jewish Ceremonies:

- Signing the ketubah (marriage contract) by the bride, groom, and two witnesses

- Holding the actual ceremony underneath the chuppah (erected canopy)

- Blessings of Bethrothal

-Breaking the glass by the groom

For Hindu Ceremonies:

- The couple walking around the vivah- homa (sacred fire) whilst taking their marriage vows

- Puffed rice is offered as oblations to the vivah- homa 

- The groom's scarf is tied to the bride's dress, signifying the marrage knot (known as saptapadi)

- Sprinkling of water and meditiating on the sun and the pole star

- The couple making food offering to the fire, and then eachother

- Benediction by the elders

For Sikh Ceremonies:

- Ard?s (prayer made before embarking on any significant task) is recited

- A call-and-response chant, known as kirtan is recited.

- Gifts are exchanged between the families, known as sagun

For Buddhist Ceremonies:

- The couple enters the temple carrying 21 beads, representing Buddha, the couple, and their families. 

- The couple lights candles around the Buddha's image

- In many wedding ceremonies, a Buddhist monk will chant 7 sacred texts whilst the wedding ceremony is underway.

Involve Both Families in the Planning Process

It is likely that the most opinionated views and disappointments will come from family members, particular parents and older family members who may not like the idea that you are straying away from tradition. Perhaps it may be practical to use a celebrant for each faith, or even two weddings to make everyone feel included. If this is not possible,however, the most sensible way to help them understand your decision is to include and involve both families in the planning process. Be firm about what you want and don’t want, but again be willing to compromise and be flexible on the less important features of your wedding.

The Ceremony Venue

If you can, hold the wedding ceremony in a religiously neutral space. Alternatively you may choose a wedding that is not based on any religious ground. Locations like:

- A non denominational chapel

- A historical or outdoor site

- Someone's home, etc.

Setting your ceremony here will enable everyone to feel welcomed, and everyone can feel embraced by neutral imagery and atmosphere.

The Ceremony's Language

Try not use exclusive religious prayers that could alienate some of your guests. For example, Rabbi Devon Lerner reccommends emphasising prayers about and directed to God over those about and directed to Jesus. This tends to feel more inclusive for all guests, especially if the other individual's family belongs to a monotheistic faith.

Many prefer for all of their marriage ceremony to remain neutral; to include reading and music that is not religious, and for the celebrant to use language that may address God, but does not pertain to any specific religion. This is absolutely possible- your wedding's emphasis, should you decide to take this route, will be focus focus on universal themes and the marital themes of love and unity.

You can, however, have your wedding officiant address specific blessing and prayers to different deities or aspects of the monotheistic God. If you do choose to include this as part of your ceremony, we encourage you to keep this portion of the ceremony as balanced as possible. If you're mentioning the exclusive God of one person's faith, it's only polite to address the other's as well.

Go With the Flow

Although you and your partner may have planned every single last detail of this wedding, there will, ineveitably, be a couple of spanners thrown into the works. Maybe your grandmother would really appreciate you including a strictly- speaking unneccessary religious element of the wedding, which might throw your ceremony a little off balance. Try to be as flexible as you can without losing sight of your vision of your wedding. For most, after all, your wedding and choice in partner will be a rather big adjustment- so the least you can do is try to accommodate them where possible in return.

Your Wedding Program

Whilst just about every wedding will include a wedding program that will give the details of the bride, groom and their families, as well  acknowlegements and thankyous (amongst other features), interfaith and intercultural marriages are afforded a rare opportunity here. You can use these wedding programs to explain specific cultural/ religious wedding ceremonies, along with the significance and meaning behind them, as well as more general tenets of belief that you otherwise not have the opportunity to discuss. 

Finding Your Officiant

Finding an officiant that will preside over a 'mixed' wedding is notoriously hard to do. This is generally because there is a perception that if the religious official presides over the wedding, they're condoing the assimilation of one religion to another. So the solution is to begin your search early! The best way to go about this is by utilising your own religious network. Rabbi Lerner recommends that if you live in a metropolitan area, you should begin your search approximately a year before the wedding.

Enjoy Your Wedding

Life is short, and you only get to get married once (ideally). Keep in mind that all potential squabbles you have with your family, difficulties finding an officiant, or even fights between yourselves are happening for a really fantastic purpose- joining your beloved in both secular and religious law and beginning a life together. 

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