While planning an interfaith wedding can be difficult, it can also be something that brings you, your future spouse, and both of your families closer together. As someone who married outside of her faith, I can tell you that it is possible to have a wedding that both you and your partner feel is totally suited to both of you.
A couple of generations back, interracial and interfaith marriages were not just uncommon they were frowned upon. And, in some places, illegal. But love doesn’t follow the rules. It doesn’t stay in the restrictive lines that separate people by race, religion, and culture. So we shouldn’t be surprised when two people from different faith backgrounds fall in love.
Hire an experienced wedding planner when planning an interfaith wedding
I would suggest to any couple (and not just interfaith couples) to hire a wedding planner. But if you’re looking for someone who can help you navigate both worlds, I highly recommend someone who has experience planning weddings from both you and your partner’s religious background. You need someone sensitive to the cultural norms, taboos, and expectations from both backgrounds to avoid causing offense and to ensure that everyone feels accommodated.
Set realistic expectations
This is true for any couple, but especially for interfaith couples. It’s important to sit down with each other and talk about what you both want out of your wedding. Maybe it’s really important to your Catholic husband that you have a priest on hand to bless the ceremony. At the same time, you really want to be married beneath a chuppa. A successful interfaith wedding doesn’t mean you take religion out of it entirely and get married at City Hall — unless that’s what you both want.
So get to know the “must-haves” that are important for you and your partner, and practice the art of compromise. Trust me, this will come in handy later on in your married life. Be respectful, be sensitive, and if you’re unsure of something, ask. Who better to ask than the person who wants to spend the rest of their life with you?
Expect that you might be at odds from time to time, but try to see the bigger picture. Remember, you both decided that you want to pledge yourself to each other forever despite your differences. Focus on that. You’ll get through any bumps in the road and get even closer along the way.
Call on the experts.
When planning an interfaith wedding, arrange a time to sit down with your wedding planner, rabbi, priest, imam, or other religious leader who will be part of your celebration. From experience, I can tell you that they will most likely be only too happy to help you plan your celebration. The priest at my Catholic Church is always excited when asked to take part in an interfaith ceremony.
It’s a chance to celebrate our similarities, not our differences, and bring people together in the name of love. That’s what it’s all about — for the married couple and for their religious leaders.
Have firm boundaries with family & friends
Whatever your in-laws and your own parents’ personalities, chances are you won’t be planning an interfaith wedding that pleases everyone in every way. But guess what? They’re all adults. And if they want to enjoy the privilege of seeing you plight your troth to your beloved, they can set aside their qualms, get over whatever makes them uncomfortable and focus on your celebration of love. And if they can’t do that, you don’t really want them at your wedding anyway.
If there’s a particular person on either side of the family that you think might cause a fuss, be honest with them and tell them what you expect. If they can’t abide by that, that’s a choice that they’re making. Don’t let them guilt-trip you. People have a tendency to show their true colors at births, weddings, and funerals. It’s my fervent hope that no one has to find out their great aunt is a closet racist during their wedding planning. But if you do, do not feel any guilt about not sending old Aunt Doris an invitation.
Have your parents meet each other before the wedding
My parents and my husband’s parents could not have been more different. Culturally, religiously and even in lifestyle choices, there were many things that could have made for an uncomfortable experience. But we made a point of getting them together over a casual meal before the rehearsal dinner. You don’t want to focus on getting people comfortable with each other and running through your wedding at the same time. And it turned out quite well.
It’s a great time to ask questions and get to know one another. And who knows? Maybe they’ll end up friends for life. But even if there is a little tension, don’t let it get to you. Like I said, they’re grown-ups, and if they want to be part of your day — and your life — they can act like it.
Include non-religious aspects to your wedding that are unique to you and your partner
Include things from both of your religions, but it’s also wonderful to infuse some personal touches to your wedding. My husband and I were both really close with our grandfathers, but both men had sadly died several years before we got married. We printed off photos of them, put them in frames, and placed them by the guest book, so we felt that they were still part of our wedding, bearing witness to our love.
We also decided to buck tradition, and instead of process out of the venue to some beautiful classical tune, we chose Hedwig’s Theme, the instantly recognizable song that plays over the opening credits of all the Harry Potter movies. Hey, we might be different religions, but at least we can revel in the fact that we’re both nerds! Finding these personal elements is something that your wedding planner can help you with, so don’t be shy in asking for help!
Remember that this is the start of something truly unique.
If your respective faiths are important to both you and your future spouse, you’re in store for a lifetime of learning, enriching experiences, and mind-opening moments. And if you go on to have children, you’ll have the joy of passing down both traditions to them and watching as they follow their own unique paths.
In a time when religious and racial divides are still causing distress on a global scale, interfaith couples can feel a sense of purpose and triumph that they’re choosing love over any obstacle. That’s something to celebrate, not just on your wedding day but every day you spend together.