Interfaith Ceremonies: Options and Practices

Ceremony & Vows, Etiquette
Interfaith wedding ceremony etiquette

Photo: Lindsay Hite of Readyluck

You're Catholic, he's Jewish. He's an Episcopalian, you're Muslim. After crossing initial hurdles posed by different cultural backgrounds, there is one more challenge to to face when it comes to an interfaith wedding: Who will marry you — and how? If you're committed to having some sort of religious ceremony, this can be quite the dilemma. We found a few etiquette-friendly options that will make for a wedding ceremony that feels comfortable and appropriate for all.

Combine both faiths in the service
Start searching for co-officiating clergymembers early. Contact each clergymember to find out if he or she is willing to participate. If they are reluctant, seek out college chaplains, more liberal-minded clergy in your area, as well as referrals from friends or a college dean's office.

Turn to a third religion that is supportive of interfaith couples
The Unitarian Universalist Society, for example, will perform interfaith marriages for couples who do not belong to its denomination. Many Christian/Jewish couples choose this route because Unitarian Universalists encourage couples to participate in structuring a service that reflects both traditions. Societies and fellowships associated with the American Ethical Union and it's New York City affiliate, the Ethical Culture Society, perform interfaith marriages. There are twenty-five such societies nationwide in this humanist group, which is dedicated to the ethical guidance of individuals without imposing strict religious dogma.

Choose one religious ceremony over the other
This may be agreeable if one partner has stronger religious ties than the other. This doesn't mean you should exclude the religious heritage of the nonpracticing (or less observant) person. Invite the secondary cleric to offer a special prayer or blessing during the service or at the reception. Prepare family members in advance for the type of ceremony you will have — particularly if you anticipate any strong reactions to your decision.

Plan two ceremonies
When an agreement cannot be reached about combining two faiths, some couples simply marry twice. Only one date of marriage can appear on your marriage certificate, but each ceremony can satisfy the requirements of that religion. If you do not want to plan two weddings, some Protestant denominations have a "Blessing of the Marriage" service (the same day or at a later date), which has similar wording to the real wedding ceremony, although no rings are exchanged.

Plan a civil ceremony
Just because you've ruled out a church or synagogue as a ceremony site doesn't mean the only option is a quick ceremony at City Hall. A civil ceremony can be the perfect answer for a couple who prefer to marry without specific religious affiliation.

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