Ben and Ginny completed the IFFP Couples Workshop before planning their wedding. Below they talk with IFFP about their experience as an interfaith couple planning to get married.
Who married you? Were you married by clergy from more than one tradition? What was that like?
We were were fortunate to be married by Rabbi Rain and Reverend Julia! Both were extremely open to celebrating both of our traditions, and had the knowledge to support us in creating a very customized ceremony. In the process of looking for officiants we realized how important and special it is to have caring and supportive people with open minds like Rain and Julia… they embraced both of us, and just as importantly, were very sensitive to the variety of beliefs of our family and guests.
What was planning your interfaith wedding ceremony like?
We won’t lie, it was tough – but very rewarding! We were extremely determined to balance the emphasis of both of our faiths in the ceremony and the reception, while also staying cognizant of the wide range of knowledge and beliefs of our guests. With help from Julia and Rain, we designed every element of the ceremony from the ground up, looking into the meaning of every tradition to help us decide which ones truly spoke to us as a couple and which one’s didn’t. For the ones we kept, we asked ourselves what we could tweak to make them reflect our collective outlook. It was an adventure not for the faint of heart… but neither is marriage, and we grew a better understanding of each other in the process.
Was it difficult planning your interfaith wedding?
It’s hard planning any wedding! Certainly interfaith has its own challenges (e.g., some potential additional food requirements, beliefs of guests, etc.), but the hardest part of planning was probably no different than if we were of the same faith: having everything you want while sticking to the budget!
Was Your Family Involved with your Wedding? What did They Think of it Being Interfaith?
Our family was certainly involved, but more as helpers and therapists and less as decision makers. We wanted our wedding to be deeply personal, especially due to the interfaith component, so making sure we had control over the major decisions was really important for us.
We’ve heard some horror stories about family involvement in interfaith weddings and we’re grateful that we didn’t experience anything worth making an MTV show about. All of our family members were extremely supportive and kind throughout the process.
What Religious Things did You Decide to Incorporate into Your Wedding Ceremony and Why?
We focused on ceremony elements that celebrated themes that were common across both of our religions, and steered away from any that could be alienating. A few examples of what we kept:
- Unity candle – obviously the theme is very relevant for the day!
- Sign of peace – we loved the idea of people crossing over to others they didn’t know, and acknowledging that we all come from a place of unity and wish each other well
- Prayer of St. Francis – This prayer’s themes are deeply rooted in themes of peace and love… themes that are shared across both of our faiths
- Ketubah / Marriage contract – we customized the words to me meaningful to us, focusing on the fact that we commit to being equal partners, bound by our similarities and enriched by our differences
- Circling – Instead of the bride circling the groom 7 times, we each circled the other 3 times, and did one ‘joint’ circle
- Seven blessings – We amended the blessings a bit to suit us and to focus on common themes
- Breaking of the glass – We found our own meaning in this – that it shattered the barriers between people of different cultures and backgrounds
- Yichud – What a great tradition… giving us a little time alone before it was time to spend the rest of the night greeting all of our guests!
What was Different than you Expected When Planning Your Wedding?
So many things, but all of them resulted in laughs and good humor from everyone! We had a fire truck come through, someone hit their heads on a tree when standing up, Ben said one of his parts wrong and Julia ribbed him a little for it… it was a great time and we wouldn’t change any of it. You can only control so much, and it’s the unique things that make it special.
Were you Happy with How your Interfaith Wedding Turned Out?
Yes! Going back, there’s not much we would have done differently, especially as it relates to mapping out the interfaith components.
What Advice Would you Offer to Other Interfaith Couples Looking to Plan their Weddings?
First, make sure you have the right officiant(s) behind you – especially for interfaith, this really sets the tone of the day. Second, spend the time up front to think about what is meaningful to you… then make sure every moment of both the ceremony and reception reflects that. It will make the day unforgettable, and your guests will notice how special it is.
What do you Think are the Next Steps for Recently Married Interfaith Couples?
This is a hard one, and we think it’ll depend on a lot of things, especially how quickly you want to have kids! We had already been happily together for about nine years before we got married, so for the most part, we just went back into life’s old rhythm.