How to Throw an Interfaith Wedding

Continued (page 3 of 3)

In some cases, however, the melding of faiths and cultures can require true patience—and a fair amount of parental hand-holding. When Shakeera Ali, a Muslim Trinidadian, married Todd Bennings, a Southern Baptist from Augusta, Georgia (who comes from a family of preachers), the groom's family had a case of severe culture shock. "Prior to meeting me, I don't think his family had much interaction with anybody who was Muslim," says Shakeera. "There was a lot of fear of the unknown. His mom was definitely concerned."

But Shakeera and Todd persevered. Together they created a spiritual but faith-neutral ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina (a city they both adore), that was officiated by a mutual friend who read about love and marriage from both the Koran and the Bible. "Our goal was not to have a wedding that was very distinct one way or the other," explains Shakeera. "The goal was to have people walk away saying, 'That was one of the best weddings I have ever been to.' " At the rehearsal brunch, they had a steel-pan artist play soca music and served Trinidadian appetizers; the wedding itself featured southern favorites like shrimp and grits. Beforehand, the couple trawled the Internet for non-denominational rituals and came up with a hand-clasping rite that seemed more original to them than a unity candle or a sand ceremony. "People loved it," says Shakeera, "especially our families. Once our moms saw the ceremony, the love was no-holds-barred. If you have a soul, the emotion just overtakes you in that moment."

Benton Weinstock had a similar experience. "I think everybody came to our wedding not knowing what to expect," she says. "We were flying a hundred and fifty people in from Arkansas, and it was definitely a new experience for a lot of guests." She laughs. "I mean, it was a new experience for me! But in the end, it was just beautiful. In every way, it was beautiful."

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