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Having Faith


This afternoon’s post is about an issue I know very well: the curveball of falling for someone outside your religion, and having to negotiate the fraught cultural waters of making two backgrounds mesh into one family and one wedding. And like Stephanie and Dan, David and I both came to the table as fairly religious, practicing in our own religions. There are, of course, as many compromises and solutions as there are couples. Ours involved conversion (though the real solution will take a lifetime and as many words to describe). Stephanie’s and Dan’s involves two religions. And when there are two religions and one wedding, finding an officiant is difficult (heck, when there are one religion and two families, finding the right officiant can be difficult). And of course, as with most difficult things, the learning process is a powerful one. So here is Stephanie to discuss how they’re dealing with finding a solution.

Having Faith | A Practical Wedding

Dan and I knew each other for two years as just friends. We played outfield together on a co-ed office softball team, me in left field and him in center. Two kids raised 1000 miles apart, who grew up wanting to be astronauts and came to Houston to work for the space program. We were brought together by mutual friends, the same dream job, and chance.

Two years ago I was dumped by my ex and devastated. So I went to J-date. That’s where nice Jewish girls go if they want to find a Jewish husband, or so I’ve heard. I met a few nice boys but nothing clicked. Softball season started back up again, and there he was. My friend Dan. My really cute friend Dan. My really cute, Catholic friend Dan. Whoops.

In Jewish mysticism there is a concept of soulmates. G-d takes a soul and divides it in two. Each half is sent down to earth in a separate body, and their goal is to find each other and become one complete soul. Sometimes this doesn’t happen right away and the souls have to try again. In Hebrew the concept is called beshert, both a noun meaning soulmate and an adjective describing something as meant to be. Dan and I were drawn together by the universe, by destiny, by a higher power. Our finding each other was beshert.

Dan and I are different from most interfaith couples, because both of us are fairly religious. We aren’t a cultural Jew and an occasional Catholic; we both practice, we both believe. We knew it was important, so we discussed and decided on how we would raise our children before we even knew we’d be marrying each other. Though a difficult conversation, we arrived at our decision without much conflict. Until the wedding planning started.

I already knew that my rabbi would not officiate. I attend an orthodox Jewish synagogue. Going there is like being part of the family—the two rabbis lecture lovingly, their wives always make too much food, and their kids are always underfoot, shouting and playing. They took me in immediately and make sure I always have a place to go for holidays. But they cannot and will not perform interfaith marriages. They offered congratulations on our engagement, but they do not support my decision. Although this was not a surprise, it is still upsetting to think of losing that family, not having the support of my community. But it also makes me angry that I am forced to choose between love and religion, because I can have faith and love.

When we got engaged, we picked a target date rather quickly. We didn’t want to get married during Lent; and right after Lent is the Omer, fifty days counted from the second night of Passover to the Jewish holiday Shavuot, during which Jewish weddings are forbidden. To honor both traditions, we picked early February, ten months away. We found a venue we loved after two weekends of searching. It was already booked on our first choice weekend, so we made the decision to snag it for the other weekend before anyone else could. We had exactly what we wanted: a beautiful, neutral place where we would both feel comfortable, where our Jewish guests and Christian guests and non-religious guests would all feel welcome.

Since we both believe in G-d, we didn’t want to have a civil ceremony. As Dan once said, we need divine grace even more than any other couple, since we have a harder path. We want to honor both traditions. We want a ketubah and a chuppah. We want Bible readings and a blessing from a priest.

Blessing from a priest? That sound you heard is the needle scratching off the happy record in my mind. Not because I don’t want a priest at my wedding. I’d love to have one… if we could find one. We contacted Dan’s church. The Deacon, we were told, does all the interfaith marriages at his church. As it turns out, there haven’t been that many of them and he admitted he’s never had a Jewish/Catholic wedding, or any wedding where the non-Catholic partner wasn’t Christian. He’s clearly out of his depth in dealing with us.

We were told at our first meeting that if we want to have our marriage recognized by the Church (the institution), it must take place in the church (the actual building). We explained that we already had a date and secular place selected, so he told us that we could have a secret wedding first, our official wedding for Church and state, then do whatever we wanted in front of our family and friends. I managed to hold it together until we got to the car. “I don’t want a secret wedding,” I cried. “I want to stand in front of our family and friends and marry you right then. I don’t think we should have to hide.” My wonderful fiancé agreed this was not an option. At our next meeting, we would tell the Deacon that we would not be getting married before our wedding.

I was feeling so abandoned—by my religion, and by his—that I felt like we must be entirely alone in the world. But as I searched online, I discovered we weren’t alone after all. A few additional options arose. We could get a convalidation, basically a church ceremony after the original, “unacceptable” wedding. I also started to find more information about the stipulation that we must get married in the church. Turns out there’s a separate dispensation you can get (aside from the one he must already get to be allowed to marry me) to not have it in a sacred place. The form even uses Jewish/Catholic couples as an example for when you might require this dispensation.

Armed with this new information, we went to our second meeting. Dan stood up for us and told him there would be no secret wedding. We explained what we had researched and that we thought there were other options. He said he’d have to ask the priest or bishop, before our next meeting.

So we are waiting. We don’t know if we will have a member of the Catholic Church participate in our wedding. We don’t know if or how our wedding will be validated by the Church. We don’t know who will officiate.

We’ll just have to have faith.

Photo by: Kelly Benvenuto Photography (APW Sponsor)

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  • Miriam

    Wow – thank you so much for posting. What a moving and important story. I wish all faith leaders could read this – it seems so senseless to me to make two deep believers choose between their love and their faith. I truly wish you the best in your journey, and I hope that you can give APW an update when you find the officiants who support your family wholly.

    • meg

      I do want to chime in and say that there are lots of reasons (really hard ones, but still valid reasons) why some faith leaders can’t do interfaith weddings. That doesn’t make it any less hard, says someone who’s cried herself to sleep over it. But, just because it can be awful, doesn’t mean it’s senseless. Faith is complicated, and the history of minority religions is even more complicated. So I just wanted to honor that two things can be true it once: it can be super painful to manage through, and still not senseless.

      • Theodora

        Meg, thank you for mentioning this that some religious leaders *can’t* do interfaith weddings.

        I’m Russian Orthodox. The Orthodox don’t do weddings where the non-Orthodox person isn’t a baptized Christian. Period. Non-negotiable. It has to do with the thing from the New Testament about not being unequally yoked. And if the Orthodox person gets married in a civil ceremony or in another Christian body, the Orthodox person has put themselves outside the Church and can’t receive sacraments, be a godparent, etc. An Orthodox wedding has to be in an Orthodox parish, as well. No garden or beach weddings.

        It can be hard at times, because if you’re serious about your faith being Orthodox, you *have* to ask when you begin dating someone if they’re a baptized Christian. It’s both hard *and* easier this way, because then you don’t have to wrestle with the heartache later on of deciding between your faith and the person you love. I’ve seen several people struggle with this, and it ain’t pretty to watch.

    • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

      Original Poster here…
      Being Jewish in today’s world is very hard. Hard for me and people like me who work and live in the secular world (including, often enough, working on Saturday) but try to capture some religious identity. And it is hard also for people like my rabbis who have given up many comforts and conveniences to follow the path they believe G-d has asked them to follow. Faith is never easy, and it would be just as wrong for them to not let me retain my Jewish identity as it would for me (or society) to demand that they officiate in my wedding.

      Though I wrote that I feel abandoned by my religion, and I do, it is not because I don’t respect them and their beliefs. Everyone has the right the practice their religion exactly as they interpret it. They follow Judaism in an extremely pure form and preserve many traditions that would otherwise be lost. I need them, the Jewish world needs them, to safeguard us from the wolves at the door. Even if, sometimes, I seem like the wolf.

      • meg

        Yes, this EXACTLY. And this from someone who converted, so has a whole other set of conflicting emotions and feelings about the subject. I’ve felt very very angry about this subject, but then five seconds later felt like while we disagreed on some level, I thought the Rabbi’s were doing the right thing. Faith is complicated, and religious identity is even more so.

        • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

          I think the problem is that matters of faith are never black and white. We think if things are not how we want them to be, it must be because someone else is doing it wrong. But there’s nobody to blame, there’s no bad guy.
          We can both be good, moral people and do exactly what we feel is right and still not come to the same conclusion.

          Meg, I want to thank you so much for starting this dialogue because it is important and that’s why this is so hard for me and you and many others in this situation. My rabbi is not wrong, and I am not wrong… but how can that be?

          • Miriam

            Thanks for the replies! You all have given me food for thought. And “senseless” was a careless and poor choice of words on my part – that’s what happens when you dash off a comment too quickly on the way to work :)

            Part of my reaction is informed by watching my interfaith parents’ experience. My dad was raised Jewish and my mother Baptist, and she received a lot of pressure (from both families, actually) to convert to Judaism so that they could have a Jewish wedding and a single-faith household. She went through conversion classes and raised me and my brother Jewish, but she has always been and will always be a Christian in her heart.

            My mom has never felt entirely comfortable as a member of the congregation in which I was raised. I have several anecdotal stories about this congregation’s rabbis giving the impression that being a part of this particular Jewish community was less about belief, community, and solidarity, and more about clearing certain technical hurdles. It didn’t change my cultural identification with Judaism, but it did make me wonder whether my religious community was alienating members of my and other families in the service of preserving traditions, which are in any case in a constant and inevitable state of flux (even if Jews only ever marry other Jews). It felt in some ways like decisions were being motivated by insecurity and fear of loss, not by a desire to define community.

            It’s possible I’m being a little too “kumbayah” about all this. After all, it’s hard to really assert that you belong to any particular religious tradition if those traditions are not at least somewhat exclusionary – I can’t call myself a Christian if I don’t believe in Christ as the savior, for example. But I can’t help but think that religious leaders would be wise to recognize the increasingly pluralistic nature of our society – recognize especially that fighting it is a losing battle – and find a way to sustain identification with the faith without needing to place restrictions on who you can welcome into your family. Thinking about interfaith families less as dilution and more like expansion of tradition and faith seems to me like a more sustainable strategy, but I also recognize that this is a hard row to hoe for many, especially when one belief is mutually exclusive of the other.

            It’s a hard problem without an easy solution, fraught with deep and legitimate emotions, which is why it’s so important to bring up here. I certainly don’t have the solution – I just wish it was easier :)

    • Katy

      Religions generally have good reasons for the ways in which they conduct marriages, and these reasons are not “senseless” to people who believe in them.

      • meg

        My point is, they are not senseless to those of us not benefiting from the decisions but within the faith community either, though sometimes they are upsetting. I think, as someone who’s well versed in both Judaism and Mainline Protestant Christianity, the piece that’s missing for non-Jews looking at this issue from the outside, is that this issues as much about identity and assimilation as it is about religion. Also, very interestingly “belief” is a word that’s heavily used in Christianity, but not in Judaism. With Judaism you’re talking about issues of tradition and commandment (which, by the way, are almost always up for debate in the variety of Jewish practice and community). So here, the Jewish community is looking at the commandment, tradition, and identity elements around weddings, not really issues of belief.

        Just a whole bunch of nuanced religious notes here, from a religion that’s all about nuance…

        • Poeticplatypus

          I know in my community the Older men of the congregation would never preform an interfaith marriage ceremony because the issue of loyalty comes up. For me I respect this stand that they take because it is extremly important for everyone to have loyal love to God first before man and for them to bend would bring to question of their showing a sterling example of trusting in God’s guide lines.

        • http://meditatingontherain.wordpress.com Aine

          Also, I feel like I should point out its not just the Jewish side that’s difficult- Catholicism is, among many other things, very, very bureaucratic, and has a weird range of liberal-to-conservative priests, deacons, bishops, etc who all have varying levels of authority to make decisions. (One example of this is that I seem to recall from my own wedding planning that the dispensation for the “not in church” wedding has to come from the bishop; your priest has NO authority of his own to make a judgement call on that.)

          It just looks like everybody is jumping on the rabbis for not performing interfaith weddings, but its like pulling teeth to make that happen with Catholic clergy as well so its not fair to think “Oh, how could they?!” about one group when the other is likely to behave the same way.

          • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

            This is true, we are experiencing trouble on both sides. In a way it’s good that the rabbi’s answer is so absolute. On the Catholic side we are in a limbo of sorts, waiting to see what they will let us do and whether the dispensations will be allowed. Again, though, they are not doing it to torture me… even if it feels that way sometimes.

    • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

      If you are looking for a religious person who can do an interfaith wedding, you can look to either the UCC or the Unitarian church. The UCC folks are Christians who believe that we each have our own faith path we follow, and all the UCC ministers I know will do interfaith weddings. Unitarians are similar but not Christian.

      • Parsley

        As a Unitarian Universalist minister myself, I would second this while realizing that for couples like this one that is probably a second, third, fourth… choice, given that it sounds like both of the people in this post are deeply grounded in very orthodox communities, and the Unitarian Universalist movement is very, very un-orthodox in various ways. That said, I have worked with interfaith couples of various kinds myself, and I would always approach such a wedding by doing my best to respect and honor the traditions of both communities, as led by the couple, and by doing as much prep work as I felt I needed to do that in a meaningful way. So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, it might be worth looking in to.

  • http://www.jandrfoods.com Rachel

    Stephanie, I wish you and Dan all the best in your journey together. Interfaith is so much harder then anyone can imagine and as someone in a Jewish/Catholic marriage myself my heart goes out to you.

    “In Hebrew the concept is called beshert, both a noun meaning soulmate and an adjective describing something as meant to be. Dan and I were drawn together by the universe, by destiny, by a higher power. Our finding each other was beshert”

    This made me chuckle. In the first year of our relationship I was trying to reconnect with Judaism and went to a local Shabbat dinner. The rabbi there was talking about beshert and I couldn’t help but ask if one’s beshert could be non-Jewish (imagine a hush tone falling over the room as I asked this). The rabbi scowled at me and said absolutely not, it was ridiculous to even think that. A week later Jon moved in and I knew immediately come hell or high water he was my beshert. Done and done.

    Let me know if you ever need to vent.

    • Caroline

      I know, right? Justin is definitly beshert, but not Jewish. We talk about this a lot. Interfaith relationships are so tough. I am sometimes so frustrated with the religious authorities (such as the conservative movement’s rabbinic assembly) which won’t allow my rabbi to even attend our wedding as a guest unless he converts, and sometimes I totally get it. I feel like I get even more befuddled because I am a convert who was raised in a secular interfaith household, who converted long after entering a serious relationship with Justin. It was right for me but makes things a wee bit complicated (btw, the rabbi who can’t marry us was fine working with me towards conversion knowing I would eventually marry a non-Jew.)

  • Katherine

    I’m a practicing Catholic who used to work for the church, my husband is a practicing Jew with an almost rabbinic level of study completed. We had a priest and a rabbi (who we had to import from several towns over, but with whom my husband continues to study) who are phenomenal and supportive. They do exist.

    We also married in February to avoid marrying during Lent, and we married on a Saturday evening after sundown to avoid shabbat but to also avoid a Sunday wedding, which is a Catholic oddity. We, too, decided on the religious upbringing of our children before we even became engaged.

    It’s all been worth it, undoubetedly. There was much idiocy in the part of many people, but three years into our marriage, it has been unquestionably worth it. The journey, while blessed itself, has also steeled us to handle other issues as a couple.

    Best of luck!

    • http://peachyringsaredead.blogspot.com Ceej

      Practicing Catholic who married a sometimes-practicing Jew here! We went through several heartbreaking and frustrating months working with the priest we wanted (the one who’d heard my confession in my darkest times, and who had celebrated the masses we attended as newly-dating-people). But…he was just incredibly uncooperative. And as was mentioned above, that’s his version of The Faith, and his prerogative. That didn’t help us to feel any less discouraged though.

      We wound up going to my parents’ priest, and he was amazing. Everything the original priest didn’t want to do, he was totally excited about. He even hassled the bishop to try and help us get a dispensation (didn’t work, but very cool that he pissed off people in the bureaucracy to try and help bring our vision to life). He was very encouraging about us including whatever Jewish traditions we wanted, and was actually pretty let down when we didn’t include a rabbi in the ceremony. (Though one option we thought of was a Catholic ceremony in the church, followed by a Jewish rite outside…but I wanted a full mass and that would’ve been crazy long.)

      On the Jewish side of things, we asked around about rabbis, but none were down with the interfaith service. The hardest part on my husband’s side has been the disappointment of family members. His extended family maintains ALL the traditions, and were expecting him to follow through as well. We scheduled it for the Sunday of a 3-day weekend, and included traditions where they felt appropriate, but there were a lot of under-the-breath comments in the year leading up to our wedding. But also now all our relatives know if they try to give either of us sh*t for OUR choices we’re just going to roll our eyes and talk to someone else. So. Handy.

  • bea

    Thank you for your post! I am glad to read material like this on APW. My fiance, who grew up in a non-religious family, was baptized yesterday, and I feel so blessed to have him in my life. Although we could have married in the church without him being baptized (only one member of a couple has to be Christian to marry in our church), he decided to be baptized after attending church with me for a year.

    Even though we have support in our marriage from our families and our church family, I have some Christian friends outside of our church who did not approve of our engagement. I have been questioned as to whether I am setting an appropriate example for Christian women by choosing to marry a man who grew up outside of the church. I think that it is a shame that such healthy and loving relationships can be deemed “poor examples” of living faith just because the faiths are different, or because one person’s faith is newer.

    I never pressured my fiance to be baptized– I only asked that he be supportive of my own faith. It fills me with joy that he has joined the Christian family. I celebrate those of us who are living in relationships of faith, of differing faiths, of developing faiths and pray that we can (and will!) set a good example for those around us and that others will be open to seeing this example.

    • http://blog.jayleephotography.net/?p=1928 Josh+Ali

      “I have been questioned as to whether I am setting an appropriate example for Christian women by choosing to marry a man who grew up outside of the church”

      I can’t even comprehend that logic. Christianity is all about redemption and salvation from our past selves/lives, so why would someone who has been redeemed “recently” be less suitable a spouse than someone redeemed in their infancy/childhood/youth (which, really, tends to be more about parental pressures than actual consent). If marrying someone who shared your beliefs is something that matters to you, I figure someone who made that decision as an adult wouldn’t be a bad move at all.

    • HH

      I’m not currently a practicing member of any church, so maybe this isn’t my call… but I would think that your Christian friends outside your church would be THRILLED that your fiance has been baptized as an adult. It shows a different kind of commitment than having been born into a church, in my opinion. Not better or worse, just different. I might even go out on a limb and say “more informed”, since he’s choosing this path as an adult. I would think that should be celebrated!

      Oy. People astound me. Revel in your joy, Bea! I’m sure you and your partner are setting a wonderful example for those around you.

    • MDBethann

      Bea, I get the reluctance of Christians to date non-Christians and your friends wariness of your relationship, at least at first. But if he joined the Christian church, they should be overjoyed – we should be all about making our Christian family bigger. The only thing that would have worried me would be if he pulled you away from the church, but you brought him to it, and that is not an easy feat in this day and age. Best wishes to you both as you begin your faith and marital journeys together!

  • Vmed

    Oh I hear you on the difficulties of coordinating beliefs. We were going to request the catholic dispensation to have the wedding in a UCC building to bridge the gap, but for many reasons ended up throwing our hands in the air and eloping, consequences be damned.

    We had to have our civil marriage convalidated by the Catholic church. For us, it gave our parents a chance to witness a part of our wedding that eloping had denied them, on top of making things right with the Church.

    The limbo you find yourself in is so hard (waiting for dispensation, questioning canon law, asking for exceptions). But it turns out that once you are married in the eyes of the state, the Church would rather retrieve her members to grace- which is nice, because then convalidations can be expedited. Just be aware that for your husband to be (and his Catholic family), the time between wedding and convalidation might be stressful because to some of them that short blessing will be the Real Wedding.

  • Beth

    I just want to echo Katherine’s comment that there are Priests and Rabbis out there who will work with you and help you prepare for an interfaith wedding. This video from Busted Halo (an outreach ministry of the Paulist priests) was very helpful in planning my own wedding, and they talk specifically about Jewish/Catholic weddings: http://bustedhalo.com/features/pppw7-can-we-have-an-interfaith-wedding

    Best of luck, Stephanie!

  • KatieBeth

    I just had to share – we have a Christian pastor who has been married to his rabbi wife for 20 years. I figure that if they can have a harmonious, faith-filled household, anybody can.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      I’d love to hear more. Maybe they would want to right a post about navigating an interfaith marriage with their long-tern perspective?

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      I’d love to hear more. Maybe they would want to write a post about navigating an interfaith marriage from their long-tern perspective?

    • Caroline

      Ok, as a Jew who is/would be seriously considering becoming a Rabbi if it weren’t damn close to impossible to do with marrying my non-Jewish partner as far as I can tell, I have to hear more! Please ask them to write a post? Or if they won’t, would you ask if you can put me in touch with them to ask questions? ctaymor at gmail dot com

      • KatieBeth

        We’re actually meeting with him to start the premarital process in a couple weeks, I can definitely ask if he/they would be interested in sharing the interfaith relationship perspective.

  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com/ Amanda

    Funny, the concept of beshert is similar to the greek concept explained by Plato in the Symposium:
    “…referencing how the Greek God Zeus cut the souls of humankind in half . Man’s original body having been cut in two, each half yearned for the half that had been severed…..Love is simply the name of for the desire and pursuit of the whole”.

    I love finding about this “coincidences” among different cultures / philosophies / religions, that is why I love Jung’s theories (but I digress).

    All the best wishes in navigating this… we are also an interfaith marriage (catholic, protestant) and my best friend as well (catholic-jewish), so it is possible and you will find your way.

    • Lizzie

      I remember flipping out in a college course I took on the Hebrew bible when we discussed how some interpretations of the story of Eden translate as God taking Adam’s SIDE rather than his rib to create Eve. It made me think of the Aristophenes part of the Symposium AND it was much awesomer to think of male and female being derived from a divided whole rather than women springing from a random, gender-neutral part of the male form.

      And for a contemporary cult classic take on the story, see Hedwig and the Angry Itch.

      • Carla

        Woo! Hedwig! :)

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

      Also very reminiscent of some Eastern traditions. I’d have to dust off some old textbooks to find the specific tradition I’m thinking of, but in my philosophy courses we learned about the idea of being “half a soul” until a transcendence into a new plane of existence where you exist literally as one with what is considered in this life to be a soul mate.

      I always love the places where different religions and philosophies have unexpected similarities.

  • Alison

    I really heard this post and took it to heart, so thank you for writing. My fiance (non-Jewish, raised Lutheran/Catholic, not practicing, but huge familial pressure present) and I (convert to Judiasm, but was really Jewish all along, in my heart) relied heavily on InterfaithFamily.com to help us find our rabbi and read about integrated ceremonies and such. Our situation is different than yours, as my fiance was a non-practicing Catholic/Christian, but the difficulties remain. Luckily, we’ve decided how we’re raising our potential children (Jewish), and both of our immediate families are extremely supportive of our marriage.

    Good luck navigating these rough waters; I’ll be praying for you. :)

    • MDBethann

      Alison, the good news for you is, if you want a Lutheran presence in your wedding to reflect at least that part of your husband’s background it is very doable, at least if you have ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) Lutheran pastors in your area (there are other branches of Lutherans in the US, but they are more conservative and I don’t know their stances on interfaith marriages). I was born, raised, and still am a practicing ELCA Lutheran (also the daughter of an ELCA Lutheran pastor) and they will do interfaith ceremonies – heck, my father once did a ceremony for a member who married a Muslim (long story) and their Lutheran ceremony was one of 3 marriage services that they had. I’ve also been in a Lutheran-Jewish wedding (the friend that introduced me to APW is a reformed Jew who married a Lutheran). They picked a secular location and found a reformed rabbi who would perform the ceremony along with the groom’s family pastor. Best wishes to you (and the original poster) as you navigate these waters.

  • http://adriatopia.etsy.com adria

    My husband and I refer to one another as our “Sherbet” instead of beshert…because the lines might have gotten a little confused when God was match-making up in heaven (my husband is Jewish and I was raised Catholic).

    We found a sort of… solace…when we decided that the people who believe in us, in God, in our relationships with God, and in our relationship with each other might have more of a presence at our wedding than a Priest or Rabbi. I wanted someone to truly stand up for us in front of family and friends and mean what they were saying when they said things like we were a match made in heaven, and we were going to live long lives with one another – whether they were a Rabbi, a Cantor, or a Justice of the Peace.

    Eventually, my husband removed the thought of a Rabbi officiating and welcomed the Cantor we found (from a Reform Synagogue who was so HUGE in all of our wedding planning/pre-marital counseling/discussions) to fulfill the duty. We then had some friends and family members who have close relationships with either the Church or the Synagogue, and close relationships with God, to play a role in our ceremony. It was difficult to forge the path toward our wedding ceremony, but the things we learned about each other, about our respective faiths, about our family and friends and religious leaders/beliefs was ginormous and incredible. It lead to a ceremony that was intentional and personal.

    And it was amazing.

    I wish you much luck in finding your balance and a plan that works for both of you.

    • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

      Ok Sherbet is the cutest thing I have EVER heard.

      Thanks for sharing your story, too. Deep down I know we can do it,and that plenty of others have, but in the midst of a setback, it is hard to feel confident all the time. I appreciate hearing all the stories in the comments that tell me it is possible… in case I forget for a moment.

    • Laura Mc

      Seriously. I love it! Especially for my Catholic fiance who has trouble keeping up with all of the Hebrew/Yiddish words sometimes!

      I just want to say that I am so glad APW is discussing this as I am one month out from my wedding (he’s Catholic I’m Jewish). We are getting married by a rabbi (and trying to figure out the whole dispensation thing, but will likely renew our vows in a Catholic ceremony for our 5 year anniversary). But I think the bigger struggle is our future family and household traditions. It’s comforting to know that others are wrestling with the same issues. Keep the conversation going!

      • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

        It is hard. And it’s hard, I think, for any inter-faith couple. And it’s hard in a way that only interfaith couples can really understand.

        We had many pre-wedding conversations which ended with “Regular couples do NOT discuss this before they are married. Why do we have to have it all figured out?” And you know what? You don’t have to have it all figured out, but the big things (like religion and potential child rearing, or naming customs, family traditions, the needs of each of you – not the wants, but the real, true needs) should be hashed out before the vows, I think. They are the parts of you that you aught to bare to one another on a gritty and true level. If the love prevails, it was meant to be.

        But it is SO worth it. Because the other side, the married side, is F*ing awesome.

        • MDBethann

          But maybe “regular couples” SHOULD have those discussions before marriage. A part of pre-marital counseling, which Meg recommends in the book and most churches require before they will marry a couple, is talking about faith, family/kids, etc. BEFORE the wedding so you develop a strong foundation for the marriage and, hopefully, avoid nasty surprises like “wait, what do you mean you want our kids to be baptized in X faith?”

  • http://livingroomwindow.wordpress.com Lauren

    Good luck with the next steps! I am marrying an atheist in a year, which gives me all kinds of heebie-jeebies. I’m fine with his lack of faith, he’s cool with my religion, but it seems that other people have a harder time just letting it go than we do. We’re having a ceremony in the church – somewhat religious, but I don’t want to beat him over the head with the cross or anything. It’s a tough road, and though he’s pretty open about his non-faith even as he attends church with me, I don’t know what my pastor will have to say. Here’s hoping (and praying, in my case).

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      Lauren, I wish you all the best in your process. I’m a Christian and my husband is agnostic (but is fine with coming to church with me), and the pre-wedding process was very difficult for me because I had a lot of feedback from people in my church community who were “concerned” and made their views known, sometimes repeatedly. The various ways this played out during those months impacted what I perceived as my relationship to the church community. It was really hurtful, and I think I am only now recovering….close to three years later.

      It made for a lot of tears (and shocked my husband that some people saw things the way they did), but I came out of it with much more strength than I had had before…strength to make choices that don’t please other people.

      In the end, my husband and I focused on everyone who was supportive of us. And when it came down to the actual wedding, we felt surrounded by those who love and support us. We had two officiants (a civil one for the legal part of the ceremony; my husband’s brother, in fact) and a female pastor friend of mine for the rest of the service, which was religious. (This was not the pastor of the church I was attending at the time, who was not really supportive.) We were very careful about all the words of the religious parts, and we worked with pastor on all of the text beforehand. This was key to my husband (and I) being comfortable, plus my husband got to okay everything in the service (and suggest changes of words/phrases he was not comfortable with). That was important to us, and it did not spoil any of the experience of the ceremony either. In fact, I think it helped me absorb it much deeper than I might have, if it had been the very first time I had heard it. And we ended up getting positive feedback on the religious tone of the ceremony from my husband’s mostly non-religious community, which was a pleasant surprise.

      Anyhow, all that to say…you are not alone. And I wish you both the best.

    • Brefiks

      I’m a practicing progressive Catholic who married my atheist 12 days ago : ) We wrote our own ceremony and had it officiated by a friend who was ordained online and has officiated a number of weddings before. I’m so sorry you’re getting grief from your community. I was surprised at the lack of static we got from both our families (both Catholic) but I think it helped that I had advanced degrees in theology and they probably didn’t want to argue with me : )

      My fiance would have been OK with marrying in the Catholic church if it was what I wanted, but my main objection was that according to official Church teaching, a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic is not a sacrament (a sign of God’s love) and even the marriage ceremonies are different. I do believe our marriage is a sacrament and I wasn’t cool with acquiescing to that. But, writing your own ceremony and finding your own officiant can present a lot of difficulties too. It’s a great growth process to figure out how you want the process of your actually becoming married to feel, what will validate it (God? what community?) and how to make it happen, but it’s not at all easy.

      • sarah

        Hi,
        I just wanted to say that a marriage of a Catholic and non-Catholic can indeed be a Sacrament . . . it is a marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptised individual that is not Sacramental. (Though now separated, I fell under the second category, so my marriage will have to be annulled, whereas a friend’s husband was never baptised and so she was told that though valid, is it not a Sacarament.) I am a devout and practising RC and we had a full Mass, though my husband was baptised Lutheran. Semantics, but still a little different. :)
        be well – s

  • Diana

    Thank you for sharing your experience and starting this conversation.

    As the product of a mixed religion family (Jewish/Christian) marrying a devout Catholic, religion has been something that we have all been struggling with. My parents raised me in two faiths, and figured I would follow my heart and choose to practice whatever felt right to me. I appreciated that exposure to the two religions, but now that I am at a time in my life when religion dictates how I should celebrate this rite, I am conflicted. My cousin is an amazing artist and offered to make me a ketubah. Can I sign that? On the other side of the family, I have been offered to borrow my grandmother’s beautiful cross necklace. Can I wear that?

    Then we have my fiance’s family. They assume that because I do not actively practice a religion, I should just convert to Catholicism. I already feel so mixed about changing my name, changing my religious identity would be too much. Plus, the more pressured I feel, the more connected to my interfaith background I become.

    Our “solution”: My fiance and I have always been respectful of the others faith, and are having a friend officiate. There will be all sorts of readings.

  • Umpteenth Sarah

    I can’t use the editz button, but in the header material, Stephanie’s husband is referred to as David, when in the actual post his name is Dan. Just a head’s up!

    • Maddie

      Ack, thank you for pointing that out! Fixed!

      (And sorry, Stephanie. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many people you have look over a post, the most obvious things can still pass through the filter).

      • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

        Dan actually pointed it out to me… but I thought “Eh, nobody is perfect,” and declined to comment. I’m just so thrilled to be posted! :-)

  • http://blog.jayleephotography.net/?p=1928 Josh+Ali

    I (Josh) was lifestyle southern baptist (spent more time at church than home+school combined) and Ali was raised fairly casually Lutheran. I was blessed(?) enough to have a massive fission with my lifelong church about a year and a half before we met, so my intensely spiritual background didn’t have much influence on our wedding planning. My dad (a minister) officiated the ceremony but was incredibly respectful and open to us minimizing the specifically religious aspects he prefers to perform, and instead made the entire wedding a celebration of Love from the eyes of God, family, friends, poets, philosophers, etc etc. It was so dynamic and amazing and we would have had it absolutely no other way.

    That said, the thing I’ve always been surprised about is when faith families (like Stephanie’s) draw hard lines on what they “approve of”. While I will NEVER invalidate one’s faith or beliefs, I really struggle with the idea of claiming to be a loving, almost family unit one day, and then the next you can be shunned for following your heart instead of traditional expectations. It seems so conditional. I believe that God in all His cultural forms has always been about Love. I wish all His people could see it that way too.

    • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

      I do need to stand up for my “faith family” (love this term, btw) and say that they have never really rejected me. I even went to the rabbi’s house for Passover, after getting engaged. Dan has been with me to services before and they have always welcomed him kindly, explained what was going on, and never pressured him in any way. Even before that, I don’t keep Shabbat, I don’t keep kosher… they have never pressured me to be more Jewish than I am, just welcomed me to do what worked for me.
      I know we will slip away from them and will probably go to a less Orthodox synagogue where interfaith families are not so rare (and where men and women sit together rather than separate). This is as much my doing as theirs. They would never make me leave.

      • Rachel

        We did this too in our own way. I ended up finding a reconstructionist temple that we felt extremely comfortable in that welcomed everyone (interfaith, LGBTQ, people having problems with Judaism) and we both like it, in fact the rabbi there ended up marrying us since my uncle who is a rabbi refused too because my fiance wasn’t Jewish. That hurt too.

  • eva

    My father is Jewish and my mother is Christian (Baptist, specifically) and they did the two-wedding thing (convalidation? they had a big secular party and then a very small church wedding) and speak fondly of it many years later. More wedding the better, in as many kinds of celebration as you want to have.

  • Pingback: mpk042 sent a factual edit. | Editz

  • amigacara

    This post totally resonantes with me. We ended up having two officiants, a pastor and an imam, for our interfaith Christian/Muslim wedding. It was REALLY tough to find officiants and I cried over this process more than anything else in the wedding planning. People kept telling us to do two separate ceremonies, but like for you, our faith is very personal and important to us and we *really* wanted to find a way to bring both together in one ceremony. It worked out well in the end, but it was definitely pretty nerve-wracking up until then.

    • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

      I know it works for some people, and I don’t think its a bad idea to do two if that’s what you want. But I want just the one. We are lucky to have the support of our family and friends and it’s so exciting to me to think of them all together, dancing and celebrating… and experiencing the best of each others religion, too.

      Even if in the end we have to get a convalidation, there will still be one wedding with everyone there, and it will still recognize both traditions.

  • feeling this

    Dealt with this all year….a friend will officiate. Life will go on after the wedding…and hopefully the rivers of tears I cried sifting through my own religious and cultural identity in the process will help the seed of our new married life grow and blossom. I think it will.

    • http://bigweddingsmallbudget.wordpress.com Barbra

      I’m in the exact same place, with the same solution, hoping for the same growth…

  • Christy

    This was a big part of our planning struggle too. I am a practicing Catholic, while my husband did not practice any religion. My husband’s parents are Jewish and Christian and their wedding created a huge rift in their families, so they chose to not raise their children in any particular faith. I would have loved to get married in the church, but was incredibly disappointed in how difficult it was to even get answers on what was or was not possible. After many tears and with the support of my family we chose an officiant who was ordained in another Christian denomination. She was wonderful to work with and helped us craft a ceremony that we were both comfortable with, but that also had a strong spiritual element. We couldn’t have been happier and even my uncle, an ordained minister, commented on what a great ceremony it was. (I also thought it was pretty cool to be married by not only a woman, but also someone who is married herself — which certainly wouldn’t have been a possibility if we had been married in the church.) My advice: whatever choice you make focus on the positive aspects of your decision and find an officiant who speaks to you on some level.

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

    Stephanie, thank you for writing this, and Meg, thank you for running it.

    Stephanie, hang in there. This stuff is tough. Beyond difficult. I look forward to hearing how you navigate it together.

  • Sarah E

    Everyone’s comments have been so thoughtful. It’s a joy and a comfort to read about so many smart couples navigating difficult spiritual paths. Thank you Meg, Stephanie, and the whole team for this discussion!

    I was raised Catholic, though I was always closest to my mom’s side of the family, who are all Lutheran (to varying degrees of practice). Since college, I’ve not practiced my faith. Though I still think faith is important, and definitely something I will be figuring for a long time, it is really the community of a parish or congregation that make me feel the Lord’s presence above all else. When communities are exclusionary, for faith or bureaucratic reasons, I’m disillusioned with them. Kudos to everyone here who has found a way to make their relationship, and the community present at their wedding, to be full of love and faith no matter what.

  • Claire

    Wow. What a fantastic read. Thank you for writing. I was raised an atheist and so was my fiance. I’m glad we agree on this and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for you. However, the fact that you and your fiance can work with your different faiths is an astounding story and it’s truly the only thing that matters. I hope your respective religions can both recognise your marriage in one form or another, and that you find peace if it’s not perfect. Good luck!

  • Elaine

    As someone in an interfaith marriage (somewhat lapsed Jew married to a Catholic-turned-proud-Atheist), this post really resonated with me. Even though I’m not terribly religious at this juncture in my life, the issue of who would officiate our wedding caused me a lot of pain. As both religious and practicing individuals, I can’t imagine what the original poster and her fiance must be experiencing.

    We ended up being married by a non-denominational minister. It ended up fine, there was no mention of anything remotely non-secular in the ceremony other than a generic “God” thrown in there once (much to my husband’s dismay), and my dad gave a toast at the reception that included some Hebrew. In a way, my heart ached that we never got to sign a ketubah or stomp on a glass, but it just didn’t end up being the right compromise for us.

    I’d love to see more on APW in the future about navigating interfaith weddings, but interfaith/ intercultural marriages. My cultural identity as a Jew living in a city with a tiny Jewish population continues to be very important to me, as does the practice of certain traditions. While we have agreed to raise our future kids with a sense of Jewish cultural identity but without any particular religious affiliation, as we discuss our plans for a baby in the not-too-distant future, it’s becoming abundantly clear that this will be easier said than done. It’s a constant dialogue, and we’re getting better and more open with each other as time progresses, but it’s still probably the hardest thing in our marriage.

  • Katie

    Wow, as a devout Catholic recently married to a practicing Buddhist, I am really saddened and surprised to hear what a hard time your Catholic deacon gave you! (I mention the Catholic side specifically only because I didn’t have any experience with a rabbi.) The dispensation for getting married outside a church building is used quite commonly! When we were going through this process last year, our priest barely blinked an eye about my fiancé being Buddhist (meaning he doesn’t even BELIEVE in God, btw), and he bent over backward to make it as easy as possible for us to have an interfaith wedding in a church that wasn’t my current home parish (what we chose to do) and get married by a priest not affiliated with that parish (someone we were both close with from college). There was a lot of paperwork, but what can you expect from such a huge institution? Maybe we were just lucky b/c we live in one of the most liberal zip codes in the country, so there are TONS of interfaith weddings all the time. I’m so sorry your experience was so difficult!

    If this deacon doesn’t help you get the dispensation and/or refuses to preside/be present to give a blessing at your wedding, I encourage you to go to someone else within the church (if that is what you really want and he won’t help). You and your fiancé have right on your side, and hopefully someone should recognize that you are trying to do something that is not only allowed, but specifically prescribed for just this situation. Good luck!

  • http://www.laughterinthelou.com Emma

    “But it also makes me angry that I am forced to choose between love and religion, because I can have faith and love.”

    Really well articulated.

  • Rachel

    Can I point you towards interfaithfamily.org? They have a listing of rabbis who will perform interfaith marriages, and I imagine that many of those rabbis have priests and ministers that they can point you towards, with whom they have officiated weddings before.

    Like your rabbi, I also don’t perform interfaith weddings, but please reach out if I can be helpful finding you someone who does. RabbiRachelSilverman@gmail.com.

  • http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/02/wedding-graduate-cara-indie-brooklyn/ Cara

    I just want to echo what many others have said – this will work out, you will find the right fit for you!
    Priests are people, too, and like people, all priests are different. Some are comfortable with other faith traditions, some are not. My Jewish husband and my Catholic self found a wonderful priest who presided over a mixed ceremony with Jewish traditions in a Catholic church (he was happy to do the ceremony outdoors with a huppah if we had wanted since the huppah comes from the same place as the theological reason to have a wedding inside a Church).
    Just remember that interfaith weddings ARE allowed and you CAN have it in another place and you CAN have other traditions including a rabbi if you want and all of that IS perfectly valid in the Catholic Church. You’re not trying to break any rules, you just have to find a priest/bishop who will work with you and who is sympathetic to your not-really-that-unusual situation.

  • ElfPuddle

    Waiting is so hard. You have my empathy and biggest hugs.
    We’re both practicing Catholics. As this will be his second wedding, we’re waiting on his annulment to be finalized before we can set a date.
    Being just over 2000 years old, the Church has a different sense of time than I do, being a mere child of forty.
    I hope that your wait is much shorter than ours has been, and that you and Dan are blessed with all the love that the two faiths have to share….which is twice as much as God Himself.

  • A. M. T.

    I’m not sure if this has been suggested, or if you and your husband-to-be would be comfortable with this idea, but I would imagine that perhaps you might have better luck enlisting the help of an Anglican or Episcopal priest, since I know many members of these churches who were originally Roman Catholic and left because they did not ‘feel right’ where they were spiritually. Often, they had one or more issues on which they found they could not agree with official RC positions. I hope you will be able to celebrate your love in the holy manner the two of you so purely desire. While there are obvious differences between the RC Church and Churches in the Anglican Communion (and some of our branches are perhaps a bit too liberal in some matters), some of them may be able to help you to avoid a secular wedding. I wish I could be more helpful with information on how to enlist a Rabbi, as well, but a good deal of what I know about Judaism (aside from the ways in which it pertains to my own faith) I learned in my survey of major religions class in college, as embarrassing as that is to admit. I hope and pray that you and your future husband will be shown the way to have the spiritually-based ceremony you both want, and will have a lifetime of happiness together, growing closer to each other and G-d each day. (see, I did at least know something! although, again, I didn’t learn that, or why it’s important, until college.)

  • Jane

    Dispensations to get married, to love…Oy! (if I may).

    We (also a jewish / non-jewish couple) looked into using a chaplain from the nearby university. Especially at smaller schools, chaplains are exceptionally well-trained in speaking to people of different faiths and still making things sound like they appeal to all. So might be worth a shot.

  • Anon

    This applies to both sides of my life: I am in Catholic/Christian but non-Catholic relationship AND I’m also an ordained minister. On top of that, he works for the RC church. Things can get a bit complicated, to say the least! Neither one of us want the other one to violate personal/professional conscience, so conversion is not an option. Fortunately, we both have a good sense of humor and a willingness to tackle the hard stuff. If we get married, our ceremony will either be protestant or RC. It will be moving and what it needs to be. It will also be bittersweet because the reality is that our churches are not in full communion with each other. As someone who has officiated many weddings, I offer the following perspective:

    1. I am hesitant to perform non-member weddings (or weddings where I don’t have a tangental relationship to one of the couple). Not because I want to be a gatekeeper, but because of the time involved. It’s more than just a matter of showing up at the appointed hour, presiding over a ceremony, saying a few nice words, and leaving. There are at least 3 pre-marital counseling sessions, ceremony planning, homily prep, phone calls, emails, the rehearsal (which I come early and leave late), sometimes dinner, the wedding day (come early and leave late), and more. While I really enjoy working with couples, it means that there is something else that doesn’t get done. Believe it or not, I don’t sit at home all day reading scripture, praying, and getting ready for Sunday. Bi-location hasn’t been invented yet, and there are still only 24 hours in a day! For me, being invited into a couple’s life takes so much time because of the way I value faith, the gift of community, and the public proclamation of covenant. Other clergy feel differently, and that’s ok.

    2. Before you start looking for a more accommodating officiant, ask yourselves the hard questions. Why is this so important to us? What about getting married at the courthouse or inviting a judge/magistrate/JP to officiate? Are you doing this ceremony because of a childhood dream, the space looks so pretty, the WIC/media “should,” family pressure, or a belief that marriages in a holy place or with a holy person ‘stick’ better? Don’t be afraid–be honest!

    3. If a cleric says “no.” please don’t take it personally. Having us marry you is not a guaranteed right. As others have pointed out, there might be bigger issues at play. Personally, I would have loved to have done a wedding for one couple, but it would have set a precedent down the line. For the sake of the future, I couldn’t.

    Good luck in all your searches!

  • Denzi

    I never expected to have an interfaith wedding–I grew up Catholic, my husband grew up Catholic. But by the time Tom and I met, I had been chewed up and spit out by a conservative protestant church, and then ended up in the Lutheran church, and it was still really, really hard.

    Getting kicked out of pre-Cana at the Catholic Church because we were “just playing with religion” because we were pretty sure we wanted to raise our kids in the Episcopal Church and yet we were trying to have a Lutheran/Catholic wedding. Being told that it might just be better to lie about how we wanted to raise our kids.

    Tom having a screaming fight with his dad to defend my right not to return to the Catholic Church. His family not taking communion at our wedding, after we had worked for months and months to find a compromise that would let Catholics and non-Catholics take communion. Me having a really, really hard time going to Christmas Eve Mass with his family. His dad still praying regularly that I’ll “convert.”

    It’s still worth it, though. We love our families and in-law families and our church traditions, and we’re really happy with our Episcopal church. And the number of still-practicing Catholics who reminded us that this is not what the Church is always like and that God loves us was a huge outpouring of grace.

    But yeah. It was (and sometimes still is) hard, and this is “just” with the “technicalities” of different denominational backgrounds within the same religion. It’s sometimes hard to remember that the “no”s of people’s ways of practicing and officiating their religion are not “we hate you”s or big angry “NO”s from God.

    • Anon

      Denzi,
      As the Anon. poster above, I am so sorry that you were treated that way–it sucks lemons. Some of us church types can be doo-doo heads. Here I am telling people to not be afraid–be honest, and look where it can land you. Kicked out of the very classes meant to STRENGTHEN your marriage. I’m glad that you didn’t let your experience deter y’all from growing in a faith that works for your family.

  • Seraphine

    I’m in a Mormon-Methodist interfaith couple. Luckily, our actual ceremony wasn’t tricky. Traditional Mormon weddings happen in temples, and you can’t go in a temple if you’re not Mormon, so that option wasn’t open to us (and I had already made peace with the fact that I wasn’t going to have this kind of wedding). And his father is a Methodist minister, so it was meaningful to both of us to have him officiate. And we edited the ceremony (to cut out language that just felt strange to me) and added in some Mormon scripture, so that I felt like the ceremony at least spoke to my own tradition.

    I do know that we’ll face trickier issues down the road, though.

    • Em_perk

      I’m in a Mormon-Southern Baptist interfaith couple, and like you, I didn’t expect to have a temple wedding either. We asked the pastor of the non-denominational Christian church (with a baptist background) that my husband had worked at for five years to be our officiant and he agreed before he knew I was Mormon. A couple who we thought were friends informed the pastor’s wife in a very un-Christian-like manner that I was Mormon before we had a chance to discuss it with the pastor ourselves and he backed out of the wedding less than two months before the date. He said he supported us but preached against interfaith marriages and as a public figure he couldn’t afford to make exceptions. We understood but the way everything happened was pretty hurtful.

      My husband’s cousin, a Southern Baptist pastor, agreed to marry us even though we expected him to say no as well. Even though my husband’s family has always been kind to me, they are pretty anti-Mormon and expressed severe displeasure to my husband early in our relationship. Luckily there weren’t too many specific religious wedding traditions for us so we agreed to keep our ceremony to only things we both agreed to and believed in. We wrote the whole ceremony ourselves, basically as a non-denominational Christian ceremony with some secular readings (because I wasn’t too keen on the whole submission thing). My husband’s cousin was great about the whole thing and it worked out for the best for everyone involved. (that is, until there was “rock music” and alcohol at the reception and my husband’s entire family left within thirty minutes, but that’s another story for another day…)

      What I’ve taken away from those experiences, most of all, is that people are who they are regardless of religion. People who behave poorly in the name of religion would use any excuse to behave poorly, and not everyone who could use those excuses chooses too. you just have to do what is best for you as a couple and hopefully find some people who are supportive along the way.

  • Meri

    Wow, this is really helpful read. I’m marrying my beshert next year and planning the ceremony is really difficult. I was raised Jewish by my Jewish father/lapsed-Catholic parents (who were married by a rabbi under a chuppa) and, though I may not practice as well or as much as I would like, I feel in my heart that I am Jewish. My fiance was raised Catholic, was an altar boy, and while his family is incredibly religious, he is not. We had planned on having a civil ceremony or having a Unitarian minister marry us, but fiance’s mother just told him that if we don’t get a dispensation from the church for the wedding to be outside of it, and don’t have a priest or deacon marry us, then neither of my fiance’s parents, his grandmother or his sister will attend our wedding.
    Thanks for sharing your story because sometimes I feel so alone in this.

    • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

      Oh Meri, my heart breaks for you. It’s been no picnic, but we are tremendously lucky that neither of our families have made any kind of threats or demands of us with regard to the ceremony.
      You have some tough waters to navigate. I wish you the very best of luck and happiness.

  • Laura

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am sort of in a similar situation right now, although my fiancé and I aren’t interfaith. I was raised Catholic and had all the sacraments, but my fiancé was only baptized when he was a baby and didn’t grow up in the Church at all. Now the priests are telling us that if we want to be married in the Church (which I really, really do) he has to get confirmed. Yes, he’s technically Catholic, but he doesn’t identify as such and he has no interest in getting confirmed. I don’t think he should have to, either, since we plan to raise the kids Catholic and attend church regularly. He shouldn’t have to fake his way through a confirmation when his heart’s not in it. Since I really want to be married in the church I’m finding it difficult.

    • sarah

      Hi Laura,
      Please check into this again, perhaps at another Parish? It may be a priest misappropriating information, or something got lost in translation, but I know for a fact that your fiance does NOT have to be confirmed to be married in our Church. He doesn’t even have to be baptised as a Christian.
      My husband (now separated) was baptised Lutheran and I am a devout and practising RC, and we had a full wedding Mass. And it was a Sacrament, since he was baptised (which means annulment coming up for me…).
      On the other hand, a friend married a non-baptised guy, and they had a Catholic wedding – not Mass, but still very valid indeed. The only difference was that it was not Sacramental (if they were in our boat, they would not have to worry about annulling, for example).
      Your fiance, being baptised, may fall into the category of my ex-husband, but even if he didn’t, it is still very doable.
      Pax et caritas (please say a prayer for me!).
      sarah

  • Rachel

    Thank you for this post. My fiancee and I are planning an interfaith wedding right now – she’s a practicing Episcopalian, and I’m an observant (Reconstructionist/Conservative) Jew. As your post illustrates, this becomes very complicated, especially with families involved. Would you be willing to share the ceremony you’re putting together, and discuss how you formulated / are formulating it?

  • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

    Hey this is the original poster checking back in. For anyone who happens upon this page in the future, you should know that we did get the wedding we wanted.

    Our wedding was co-officiated by the deacon of my husband’s church and a rabbi we found online who specializes in interfaith weddings, outside, under a chuppah, surrounded by all our family and friends and it rocked. It ended up that we were talking to the wrong deacon at the church, and the other was much more understanding and supportive. He helped us through pre-Cana and getting all the dispensations filed. Finding the rabbi was not easy, but he too was very helpful and supportive.

    In retrospect, what I would tell the “me” who wrote this post and other interfaith couples is: You can have exactly the wedding you want, you just have to keep talking to people until someone says yes. That includes the rabbi, the deacon, the dispensation, the chuppah under the sunset. Everything. Don’t lose hope!

    • Liz

      Thank you so much Stephanie for your post and everyone who contributed. As a practicing Lutheran engaged to a practicing Jew, this has definitely been an issue with our wedding planning. While our home is very much interfaith and focused on the love of each other and the divine, we’ve faced a lot of opposition from some family, some people in our faith communities and some friends. With our wedding happening this June, we’re looking forward to a joyous event that fully integrates our traditions in a way that represents our relationship. So much of what I read here has happened to us. I was nodding my head at the stories of rabbis not willing to officiate, suggestions of two separate ceremonies, concerns about leading other people of faith ‘astray,’ and raising confused children. But we have also had people who have affirmed our relationship, expressed their respect for our interfaithness, and even ministers and rabbis who (though not allowed because of their religious duties) have given us many resources and words of encouragement. To have the support of people who don’t even really know you is really moving when at times you feel alone. Anyway, I can’t wait to see how all of this crazy wedding ceremony/reception planning goes as I know it’s going to be memorable and meaningful no matter what. Who knows, maybe I’ll be submitting my own ‘wedding graduate’ story come July :D

      • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

        Hey Liz, one unsolicited recommendation if you are having trouble finding a rabbi: We used Rabbi Gruber of http://www.interfaithweddingrabbi.net/
        He is based in Dallas but travels all over the world (pretty pricey, fair warning) so wherever you are, he would come to you if he’s available. And he’ll co-officiate with an officiant of another religion, during shabbat or holidays, and is even willing to do it in a church.
        I gave up on finding a rabbi before I stumbled onto his site while searching for inspiration to write my own wedding ceremony for a non-denominational minister to perform. Our wedding ceremony was awesome- perfect mix of Jewish and Catholic, exactly what he wanted, just the right sprinkling of Hebrew (which a non-denominational christian minister would never have been able to provide).