Blending traditions, cultures and religions into wedding planning when the couple are from different backgrounds takes more time than a traditional wedding where there is just one faith or culture. Taking some time at the very beginning before you start booking venues and vendors can be a huge time, stress and money saver for everyone. PLUS in the end you end up with a unique wedding experience that really speaks to you as individuals, a couple and two families.
In my 15 plus years planning mixed faith and culture weddings, I’ve identified five things to avoid problems and misunderstandings , and tips on how to get off to a fabulous start for a successful joyful wedding day!
1. Ignoring your new families’ heritage.
Tradition Matters. They represent a critical piece of our culture. They help form the structure and foundation of our families and our society. They remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become. Once we ignore the meaning of our traditions, we’re in danger of damaging the underpinning of our identity. At your wedding, family traditions can be an anchor for where you both came from and a vision of where you will go forward together.
Cultural and religious traditions during your wedding are part of what makes you unique. It is a perfect way to add personality and meaning to your event. Sharing parts of your heritage during your special day serves as an avenue for creating lasting memories for your families and friends.
Being insensitive to the needs and desires of each family’s wedding customs can lead to a less than positive beginning to the relationship. Since marriage is a merging of two families into one larger family, interfaith weddings are about blending together two cultures’, beliefs, and customs into one cohesive whole. Be open to this, and it can only heighten the meaning of the entire event, as well as the actual ceremony. To make the wedding more personal, choose a neutral site like a public garden or a hotel rather than the church or synagogue.
2. Waiting until the last minute to plan your ceremony
Over the years, many of the couples we work with put off planning their ceremonies until the last minute, even when it’s not an interfaith wedding. When one partner is Jewish and the other is not, the ceremony can seem even more daunting. It just takes more planning than you think and a few major decisions to make involving what traditions you plan to have, who is going to officiate and the best place to hold your ceremony, just to name a few. There a major issues to discuss prior to marriage and the couples who take the time planning the ceremony and making some basic decisions on how they plan to live their lives together have it much easier.
Start early and plan ahead. If your goal is to create a personalized ceremony where everyone leaves feeling enriched and included you want to take time to research, talk it over between your selves and your families and friends. Many couples put off planning their ceremonies because of the issues involved. It works a lot easier if you address the issues early on and find solutions that work with some compromise and compassion.
3. Short engagements don’t allow extra time for celebrating and planning.
It’s a good idea to plan a little longer engagement so you can explore each others lifestyle, culture and family traditions. During this time, both the couple and the families can celebrate your traditions and customs together. This will give family and friends time to reflect on sensitive issues to build a solid framework for your married life together.
There can be lots of emotions surrounding engagements, especially when it comes to parents. Some parents have difficulty separating from their child. Their reaction can be greatly eased if there is a “weaning” process. It will also give you time to get to know each other and develop a bond between each other. Talk openly with your partner and parents. Let them express their views and opinions. Flexibility and open communication is key to a successful event.
4. Don’t try to convince a Rabbi or Minister to marry you
It used to be very difficult to find clergy to marry couples of different faiths, culture and race. But in today’s world you have many more choices than even just 10 years ago. If your childhood rabbi or minister is unwilling to work with you because you are an interfaith couple, then it’s time to find a new one. There are many officiants available who will perform your ceremony and make you feel really good about your choice of partner. Many couples are choosing to have a friend or family member perform the ceremony. Check with local state laws and make sure it’s legal before you decide, this can be a good alternative too. Just make sure you pick someone trustworthy and reliable. You don’t want find out last minute your officiant can’t perform your wedding. If you do go this route, check with Yehudit Steinberg, I’ve got your back and can help you with a beautiful ceremony on short notice.
5. Unintentionally excluding your family and guests
The last thing you want to do is make your family and guests feel uncomfortable. Make sure to have your officiant explain each ritual they perform. This can be done with a short description. Follow up with a personalized program that includes explanations and the order of your ceremony. Your guests can read about the rituals, while waiting for the ceremony to begin. Include your family in the planning of the ceremony. Take time to learn about each other’s backgrounds. Acknowledge similarities and celebrate your diversity. Successful interfaith weddings require compromise, flexibility and open-mindedness.