5 Tips for Planning
an Interfaith Wedding

Real Weddings
Indian wedding henna tattoo

Photo: Averyhouse

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Guest blogger Anna Maltby shares the ins and outs of narrowing down your bridal style, snagging your dream wedding location, taking the perfect engagement photo, and more.

A Pew Research Center report earlier this year found that 1 in 12 married couples in the U.S. are now interracial—and even more are interfaith (some reports suggest that nearly 40 percent of married couples in the U.S. are of different religious backgrounds). My fiancé and I fall into both of those categories: His family is Indian and Hindu, mine is white and Christian. Figuring out how to balance and incorporate both cultures seemed daunting at first, but it's actually turned out to be one of the most meaningful and fun parts of the process. Here's how we did it:

Do field research. We've been to a lot—a lot—of weddings over the last few years. And many of them have involved two different cultures coming together. We've been able to discuss what we love, what doesn't totally float our boat, and what we think just might be crazy enough to work for us, too. Our model has definitely become the beautiful wedding of our friends Neil and Sarah: We were amazed and moved by how they seamlessly combined their traditions into one incredibly meaningful ceremony. They had two great co-officiants leading the way and aligned aspects from both traditions, highlighting the similarities and bringing tons more significance into each one in doing so. (Guys, sorry if our wedding is sort of a scene-for-scene ripoff of yours. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?)

Get your parents involved—no really! One of the most helpful parts of our process was discussing with each of our families exactly what's important to them to include in the ceremony, what slightly less-than-traditional elements they'd be comfortable with, and so forth. (It's something you should probably be doing even if you aren't putting together an interfaith ceremony!) We were surprised by some constraints that didn't turn out to be priorities, and got incredibly useful parameters that gave us a direction in planning. For example, it was important to Akshay's parents that we include a traditional small fire in the ceremony, which is why we were so pleased when our venue, the Bronx Zoo, agreed to let us do that. (It's not easy to find a place in New York City that will let you set a fire!)

Consider a costume change. To me, my wedding wouldn't feel like my wedding if I weren't wearing a white gown at some point. But it's also super important to me to honor my future husband's family's culture and traditions. So we're compromising—I'm wearing a gorgeous sari to the ceremony and changing into that perfect white dress for the reception. He'll also have a costume change from a traditional sherwani into a suit.

Enlist the experts. Honestly, I don't think either of us knows enough about our families' respective religions to design a proper Christian or Hindu ceremony, much less to combine the two. We turned to the pros and asked my parents' pastor from their church in Saint Louis, as well as a Hindu pundit we met through Akshay's family, to collaborate and create our fusion ceremony for us.

Keep it true to you. All that being said, if we were focusing our ceremony plans exclusively on trying to perfectly encapsulate our families' traditions and cultures, it really might not turn out to be all that personal. It also could be kind of, well, exhausting. So we're staying true to ourselves, too, by selecting readings that resonate with us as a couple, personalizing the music, and, uh, having it all happen at the zoo.

Browse wedding style inspiration here.

—Anna Maltby

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