Stephanie & Dan’s Interfaith Catholic-Jewish Wedding (Complete With An Officiant!)

*Stephanie, Mission Controller & Dan, Astronaut Trainer*

Last year, Stephanie submitted a post to us about her struggle searching for someone to perform a Catholic-Jewish interfaith wedding, and the challenges that come with planning an interfaith wedding when both partners are practicing in their religion. Today she follows up with a grad post that answers that letter. And it’s a damn good one. In other news, can we take a moment to acknowledge that Stephanie works as a mission controller and her husband is an astronaut trainer? Space! We have the most badass readers. That is all.


Dear Stephanie,

That wedding you want? You will have it.

That’s not to say it will be easy, of course. You had some difficulties, and they will not be the last. (There’s the time Dan will come home from work to find you sobbing on the couch, because the last rabbi in Houston has just told you she won’t be able to officiate.) But there will be good parts of your planning journey too.

You’ll meet another deacon, and this one will be wonderful and helpful, and when the day comes, he’ll stand under the chuppah and bless your marriage. Then, in a late-night internet search with only three months to go, you’ll find a rabbi to officiate.

You will wonder if you have too many traditions, like too many cooks in the kitchen. You will pour over the Jewish wedding ceremony and the Catholic wedding ceremony, and take a red pen to them both. You will choose what stays and what goes and, in the end, you will have what you were wishing for: a way to honor both traditions, to create the perfect blend.

Of your plans for a first look your best friend will say, “But you can’t see the groom before the wedding. It’s tradition.” And you’ll laugh and remind her that in the Jewish tradition the groom must see the bride before the wedding, to make sure it’s the right person. The best part of having so many traditions is that one will always back you up.

You’ll choose the Jewish processional, parents escorting their children to the altar, to represent the joining of two families. (Bonus: your dad can walk you down the aisle, but it doesn’t make you think of the patriarchy.) You’ll choose a reading from the Torah, and one from the Gospel. One quotes the other; to you they say, “What we have in common is more important than what divides us.”

You’ll say the Catholic vows, simple and true: “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” You’ll sign a ketubah (that fancy acid-free pen you bought does not write at all—luckily the deacon brought a spare!). As you kiss under the chuppah, made from prayer shawls from your father and grandfathers, the glow of a fading Shabbat sunset will be at your back.

At the reception you’ll dance the hora. Jews and non-Jews alike will lift you high in a chair and dance circles around you. And nobody will ever ask why you didn’t break a glass.

The Info—Photographer: Photography by Janine / Location: Houston, Texas / Venue: Agave Estates / Rabbi: David Gruber / Ketubah: Modern Ketubah / Stephanie’s Dress: Essence of Australia / Dan and Groomsmen’s Suits: Jos. A. Bank / Flowers and Chuppah: Floral Events

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  • Actually I’m going to ask–I’ve been floating around your website (Jewish girl engaged to a lapsed Catholic who is now an atheist, and also a big nerd so I found lots of your posts interesting and I especially enjoyed the post you wrote about the Rosh Hashana ladies nagging you about not marrying a Jewish boy, I’ve had that very same experience with strangers during Rosh Hashana lunch myself) and have been meaning to ask that over there, but I was having some issues logging in to comment. So now I can ask here.

    I know the glass-breaking is the stereotype of the Jewish wedding but I find the meaning behind it incredibly moving–a moment to remember that bad times happen, and so we must always cherish the good times, as well as a moment to acknowledge the thousands of years of history, sadness, and also triumph that brought the Jewish people to where we are today.

    So: Why didn’t you break the glass? No judgment, I am just legitimately curious as to your thoughts behind the decision.

    • That is (at least supposedly, nobody knows for sure) the meaning, but my husband and I decided that it didn’t really fit in with the theme that we were trying to stick with- unity and similarity of our two cultures. All of the traditions we chose to include had meaning to both of us, and this one didn’t fit the bill. We weren’t trying to acknowledge thousands of years of history and sadness, when they were only my people’s history, my people’s sadness… and sometimes at the hands of his people.

      The reason I worried is that my mom went to an interfaith wedding a few years ago and when she came back said “He even broke a glass!” of the non-Jewish groom. I wondered if that was the only thing that would matter to our guests in terms of how Jewish was our wedding; but nobody batted an eye.

      • Thanks for your response. I know that I personally wouldn’t feel right if my wedding didn’t end with the glass (I’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof one too many times, I have this dream that my sister will rally her musical theater friends to do a performance of the “Bottle Dance” at the wedding because that would be the best) but I understand the reasoning behind your decision.

        I also noted that the men were not wearing kipot–why was this decision made? Additionally, you said you did your wedding at sundown on Shabbos–did you have to wait for the three stars to appear, or did the Rabbi you found have a little wiggle room? My wedding will most likely be on a Sunday so as to avoid any collision with Shabbat. It seems like you put a lot of thought into everything so, more questions!

        • A lot of the Jewish traditions I cut out, I did so because they seemed hypocritical to me.
          I don’t observe Shabbat, nor do I (or the men in my family) cover their heads. So it seemed like an empty gesture to enforce those rules on one day only, especially where they would make life more difficult.
          We chose Saturday because it would be easier for our many many traveling guests; that seemed more important to us.
          Luckily the rabbi we worked with was willing to let us do what we wanted to do. We set the ceremony for 6pm, Shabbat (the three stars) ended at 6:36 so our ceremony was just drawing to a close as Shabbat officially ended.
          As for kipppot, my husband feels a bit uncomfortable wearing one when we go to synagogue (he does out of respect to the tradition) and I didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable on his wedding day! My dad actually had a pocketful of kippot from my bat mitzvah in case anyone wanted one, but I don’t think anyone noticed.

  • Shiri

    And… crying at my desk. My interfaith married/family chuppah loving/eternally grateful for others who tread the same path so beautifully and thoughtfully heart thanks you.

  • fermi

    I would love to know which readings you chose?

    • Genesis 2:18-24 (where God creates woman from Adam’s side) and Mark 10:6-9 (where Jesus quotes the Genesis section and says “What God has joined, no human being must separate)

      • Slade

        That’s beautiful.

  • Lan

    Thank you. I needed this today.

  • Katherine

    “The best part of having so many traditions is that one will always back you up.” LOVE THIS. Congrats on creating a wedding celebration that reflected both you and your husband’s histories, and the future you will share together!

  • My wedding is Jewish-Secular. This post made my heart sing so much. You look so happy. We are doing the glass-breaking because it is important to me, but because we do not have non-folding chairs, we are not going the hora. I have visions of pinched fingers and chairs eating the bride and groom.

    • Please elaborate more on Jewish-Secular. My manfriend is fine with the Jewish traditions, but less fine on any language with God in it (and honestly I’m sort of with him there, I’m more agnostic than hardcore regarding my belief in a higher power but I keep the Jewish holidays, read Torah and leader services regularly, and feel pretty intensely about my Jewish heritage so it is important to me to have a Jewish wedding). What are you doing for the ceremony? How are you working around the deity-language? Very curious.

      You can still do the hora, just don’t do the chair part! I never even thought about the folding chair issue, I’ll need to make sure to have some not folding chairs on hand because I want a damn chair-lift in my hora. I did not do a chair-lift at my Bat Mitzvah, because it is really only supposed to happen at your wedding and my father and I felt pretty strongly against it, so I totally want my moment in the chair for the at my wedding. Seriously, though you could just say that you don’t want anyone to get hurt (or that you or your future spouse don’t like heights) and do a chair-less hora, stranger things have happened.

      • Brenda

        Our Jewish-Secular ceremony (light on Jewish, heavy on secular) will feature; us walking in with both parents (him) and my mother (because my father is dead), a ketubah signed during the ceremony (I know you’re supposed to do it beforehand but we’re using it in place of the register that we would normally sign during a UK civil ceremony, since we’ve already done that), and my Israeli friend reading a wedding prayer in Hebrew. We are atheists by belief but my Jewish family and traditions are important to me, more than his Catholic ones are to him, so we want to incorporate them without it being a full Jewish ceremony. We’re getting around the God issue by only having it said in Hebrew, which no one except my family will understand and which is more tied up in the traditions of my childhood than any actual belief in God for me.

        We’re not having a chuppah or breaking the glass because we didn’t want a full on Jewish ceremony, we wanted secular to be the main theme, so I chose the things that resonated most with me (ketubah, both parents, a very little bit of Hebrew).

        • We did ours during the ceremony.
          It wasn’t awkward except for that part where I tried to sign it upright on the easel and the pen didn’t work. I assumed that was gravity so we took it down off the easel and it still didn’t work. Cue intense awkwardness (for like 3/4 of a second) before the Deacon offered up his pen. Whew.

          So, you know, really really test the pen. More than once. And have a backup.

          • Brenda

            The bit about the pen did make me note that I must test the pens!

            I love the photos of you both coming in with both your parents. This, more than anything else, is the picture of a Jewish wedding for me. I’m getting a bit choked up thinking how I won’t be able to have the full picture because my father’s not here.

          • People told me… 3, 4 times. With everything else going on, I just flat out forgot. Don’t repeat my mistake! (Make your own!)

      • Shiri

        My (non-Jewish, super atheist) husband felt the same way about God language. We ended up compromising, because the benediction was really sentimental and important to me. The compromise was that God-language was ok in Hebrew but not in English. Our rabbi wrote her own sheva brachot, which helped and which were amazing!

        • Hebrew does not translate exactly into English. There are many ways to interpret and reframe the English in a blessing to make it relevant to you. Over the years, we’ve translated the blessings in a number of different ways to fit with the couple’s beliefs.

  • Elizabeth


  • C

    What a beautiful story! I especially loved your comment about there being so many traditions that eventually one will be on your side. I feel that way about walking down the aisle escorted by my fiance instead of my dad/parents. The minister performing our wedding cautioned us to “think about what that means and what that will say to everyone.” My fiance and I were kind of stunned by the implication that it could mean anything negative. But then I did some research and found out that it’s a Catholic tradition for the bride and groom to enter together. Bingo! Not Catholic, not getting married by a Catholic, but oh well — someone says it’s okay, so it’s okay to me.

    Also, last summer I went to a wedding where neither the bride or groom was Jewish, but one of our friends was, and there was hora to be had. Seriously, that should just be standard at every wedding ever, because FUN.

    Congrats on your marriage.

    • samantha

      Yes, it is one of the options for Catholic processions and that is what my fiance and I are going to do. We chose it because what it represents is two people coming together in a partnership. Both individuals willingly entering this marriage and committing to one another. That is everything I want to say about my marriage.

      • I’ve heard it’s an Irish tradition as well, which I may use if we decide to do this (I’m of partly Irish descent).

    • jess

      Do you know what, exactly, he was insinuating it would mean?

      • I can’t even imagine! It’s a beautiful tradition, my husband’s brother did it at their wedding, the first Catholic wedding I’d ever attended.

        I considered doing it for ours, but my husband wanted to watch me walk down the aisle.

      • Sarah

        Probably that it meant there was discord between the bride and her father, that being the only reason she wouldn’t choose the “traditional” procession.

        For the record I’ve never seen a Catholic wedding where the couple comes in together but it doesn’t mean people shouldn’t. It certainly represents unity and might mean more to you than having one parent take one person up the aisle. Certainly your guests would understand.

        • Theodora

          In Orthodox Christian (Greek, Russian, etc.) ceremonies, it is standard procedure for the bride and groom to come in together. It’s only been more recently, in some Orthodox parishes, in concession to American custom, that there has begun to be a short distance where the bride’s father escorts her.

    • Many cultures have community folk dances for the wedding celebration. This is a great opportunity to get everyone on the dance floor to celebrate.

  • “What we have in common is more important than what divides us.” Your post touched my heart, especially this simple, lovely line. Congratulations!

  • Caroline

    Love this. Definitely planning an interfaith wedding is hard. (Although there won’t be any catholicism in ours, much to his Catholic mother’s dismay. He is an agnostic/atheist/not religious and not interested in Catholic traditions from a secual standpoint fellow and I’m a religious Jew.)
    It looks like you navigated the challenges well and came out with a wedding that was meaningful to the both of you. Kol hakavod.

    • My mom and his mom were both very, “Are you sure you don’t want a pastor? You won’t mention Jesus at all?” which was difficult to deal with, at times. I’m Jewish (was raised Lutheran, but my dad is Jewish and I converted in 09) and my husband was raised Catholic-ish but has been agnostic/non-religious forever. I wish you luck in navigating the muddy waters, and wish you all the blessings in the world!

  • This is gorgeous and it made me tear up at my desk. I loved the blending of traditions, and you both look so joyful and beautiful. We had a mostly-Jewish wedding, but like you, chose to eschew the traditions that didn’t mean something particular to us. I converted to Judaism (my husband is not Jewish, I just decided to convert after careful evaluation and family history) a few years ago and one of the most meaningful things I learned from my Rabbi is that worship and what traditions you follow shouldn’t be done “simply for the sake of doing them”. If it doesn’t mean something to you, then what is the point? I love this post, thank you, Mazel tov, and God bless. XOXOX

    • Alison, Exactly! We say this to the couples we work with all the time. A ceremony is your rite of passage.
      Make it meaningful to you!

  • Martha

    I love the words accompanying this post. Wonderful :-) And, killer dress!

  • Beautiful! ;)

  • Marina

    What a thoughtful post about blending different cultural and religious backgrounds for an interfaith wedding. It looks like you struck a happy balance on what was meaningful for you and your partner.

    I’d love to see more posts about negotiating interfaith marriages AFTER the wedding though (Hint hint). I’m getting the feeling that that is the trickier part.

    • Give me another year or two, maybe I’ll write you another post :-)

  • This was really beautiful. We had some interesting issues with religion and our ceremony, not because my wife and I believe differently (we don’t) but because our families do. It all worked out in the end, though, as it seemed it did for you. Congratulations, and thank you for such a lovely post!

    • (Also, mission controller and astronaut trainer?!?!?)

      • Yeah. Several people told us how excited they were to come to a “NASA wedding.” Unfortunately for them, we pretty much had a regular wedding.

  • Oh, HEY, fellow Houstonians! Your wedding looks AWESOME! And I love what you have to say about traditions backing us up. :)

  • Rabbi Gruber! He officiated my wedding, and it’s so great to see him on APW! I know people are always looking for inter-faith rabbis (and he’s willing to travel!). Rabbi Gruber was fantastic before, during, and after our wedding. (He still wishes me a happy birthday on Facebook every year, and our wedding was in 2009.)

  • Emily

    Thanks for this! I’ve been struggling with how to think through a Jewish-secular (of Christian background), and 2 months away mostly have it figured out. It’s comforting to hear that others have found success with this too! And fun to share how you’ve all figured it out. No rabbi who’ll do an interfaith service where we’re getting married, so a Justice of the Peace it is.

    Stephanie (and others), do you mind sharing what you had in your ketubah? I agonized over this for a while, and finally decided that the traditional Aramaic wasn’t for me/us, so we’re doing an egalitarian Hebrew version + very loose English interpretation.

    Mazel tov!

    • Brenda

      I got mine from here: We used the Interfaith version, with some minor changes (“rich in wisdom and laughter” rather than “wisdom and reverence” and removal of “I will respect you and the divine image within you”). I liked that it was quite traditional sounding and included the quote from the song of solomon (“set me as a seal upon your heart….”) and the “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine”, but we managed to make it pretty God-free.

      I have an Israeli friend who translated it for me so it matched exactly the English text. Starting to think she should set up as a freelance ketubah translator!

    • Ours was from Modern Ketubah as linked above. We used one of the Interfaith texts, all in English.
      The only hebrew was a quote from the book of Ruth “Wherever you go, I will go.”

      I wrote a post about it and why we chose it, with some close up pictures, if you are interested:

  • Katherine


  • Beautiful wedding! :D

  • Teresa

    I want to chime in as an attendee!

    My husband works with Stephanie and neither of us know very much about Jewish wedding traditions. We do, however, know a lot about Catholic weddings. For our own wedding we opted for short and casual with very little tradition, but we have witnessed a lot of really long weddings full of Catholic tradition among our families and friends.

    We didn’t really know what to expect for Stephanie and Dan’s wedding, but it was absolutely amazing. It was wonderful and almost more intimate to witness which parts of both of their religious traditions they found most important to share with everyone in attendance. To be completely honest, I probably paid most attention to their union, throughout the ceremony and the reception, than I have at any other wedding! It was so precious and we were so honored to be there.

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