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By Katie Ryan
Steven and I were married in an outdoor Catholic and Jewish celebration on May 23, 2015. The ceremony itself was the biggest black box for us when planning our wedding and we hope sharing how we brought our two faiths together into an interfaith ceremony helps anyone else trying to decode this process.
Steven was raised Jewish and Iâ€™m a born and raised and practicing Catholic. We wanted faith as part of our ceremony and we also wanted to make sure it represented us and was welcoming and inclusive for our families and friends in attendance.
With some work, the help of great people and some luck, we pulled it off.
Stevenâ€™s parents are really involved in their Jewish community and through those connections found us a local rabbi, Lev Baesh that they thought we would like. It just so happens that Lev has a long history with InterfaithFamily and continues to work as a consultant with the organization. Steven and I both really value sustainability, so when we found out that Lev has solar panels on his house and chickens in his backyard, we felt like things would work out. The first time we met him for coffee (and to â€śinterviewâ€ť him) he said two things that stuck with us through the planning process:
1. Many of the major religious milestones (or sacraments in the Catholic world) recognize things that have already happenedâ€”baptism/ naming ceremonies (the baby is already born), funerals (the person is already dead) and in the case of marriage, two people have already made the decision to be together and the ceremony is to officially recognize it. Knowing this took some pressure off of usâ€”weâ€™d already been through the hard part of finding each other and figuring out that we wanted to be together forever. The ceremony was the cherry on top.
2. The ceremony is the first real opportunity to set the tone for how religion is going to look in your newly formed two-person family. That observation actually added a little more pressure, but also helped us find a framework as we came to decision points when planning the ceremony. For example, while I had written a word-by-word ceremony, our officiants both wanted the opportunity to speak in their own words, reflecting the sentiment we put forth in the draft. When we looked at our framework, we decided we wanted our faith journey to have room for flexibility and to be genuine and personal, so we agreed to let our officiants speak from the heart (that ended up being a GREAT decisionâ€”more on that later).
We found our priest through the recommendation of a friend who served on the Board of Directors for the Interfaith Action of Central Texas. I like the priest at my longtime Catholic parish, but I wasnâ€™t sure he had the personality we needed for an interfaith ceremony. It can also be challenging to have the Bishop recognize an interfaith, outdoor marriage. Luckily, Father Larry Covington knew how the system worked and helped guide us through the process which included the required paperwork as well as Pre-Cana, multiple pre-marriage preparation meetings a Catholic couple goes through. He also made us feel at ease about an interfaith ceremony and marriage. Oh, and he speaks some Hebrew, which came in handy (see list below).
We decided on a mix of Catholic and Jewish traditions as well as things we just thought would be cool. Hereâ€™s what we ended up doing:
Here are a few additional resources and things we did that were helpful:
Lots of communication with our guests: We emailed all of those attending the wedding to give them the heads up that our wedding would have a rabbi, priest and a dog. It really helped people know what to expect.
Lots of communication with our parents: We especially wanted to make sure our parents felt good about the ceremony since we were the first interfaith couple in our immediate families. We gave the opportunity in the beginning of planning to share anything they really wanted in the ceremony. We also shared the ceremony document with our parents in advance and they appreciated it.
Ceremony: It wasnâ€™t easy to find more than an outline of a ceremony, but we did find one from InterfaithFamily that we really liked. Here it is.
Vows: In addition to the traditional vow exchange, we also wanted to say our own words to each other. We worked off of this list and made the vows our own.
Hereâ€™s to a ceremony thatâ€™s just right for you!
Looking for an officiant?Â We can help.
While Iâ€™ve dealt with doctorâ€™s appointments and missed deadlines at work, Iâ€™ve had a mental image of a calendar with pages flying byâ€”each representing a day of wedding planning that weâ€™ve missed. But, honestly, none of that really matters. What matters is the fact that, with the support of family and friends, weâ€™ll make it there togetherâ€”the details of what the wedding day will look like are substantially less important. After all, thatâ€™s what it means when you choose love.
At a recent doctorâ€™s appointment a nurse smiled at Justin, as she said to me, â€śyouâ€™ve got a good one sticking by you through this.â€ť Justinâ€™s response was instantaneous: â€śwell, sheâ€™s sure had her share of being by my side in similar situations.â€ť
Itâ€™s true. Only four months after we met I was by Justinâ€™s side, calling 911 when he was injured, holding his hand as he came to after a 7 hour surgery, and traveling almost every other week between Boston and Philadelphia as he spent three months in a rehabilitation hospital relearning how to walk.
We havenâ€™t actually made it to the point of planning where we are addressing vows (which, as weâ€™ve learned, are traditional in Christian ceremonies but not in Jewish ceremonies), but we both know that this concept isnâ€™t new to us. Weâ€™ve committed to holding up our relationship through adventures and health, and through the lows of sickness and injuries.
So, the countdown is on.Â We need to order rings. We need to design our invites. We need to pick out a ketubah. Finalize our huppah design. We need to pick out food. And figure out what to wear. And how to light our venue. And order flowers. And learn how to dance. The list is long, but weâ€™ll get it done.
After all, those are just details. Weâ€™ve already worked out the important things.
Jose and I met six years ago in Washington, DC, on a co-ed soccer team. After a few weeks and a carefully worded Facebook message, Jose invited me to a DC United soccer game with his friends, and I did not realize it was a date until he called and offered to pick me up. He showed upÂ at my door smiling, looking relaxed and confident, like he had been waiting for me all along. I felt the same, and I could not wait to see where this went.
We were serious from the start, so when Jose told me he was applying to law school, I told him I would move with him wherever he went. After a year of dating, we moved to Philadelphia and heÂ started law school at Temple University. We were excited to start our life together inÂ Philly.
Because our relationship was intense early on and we were moving to a different city, we had to confront our religious and cultural differences right away. Jose is Filipino and Catholic, and I am Jewish. I remember a few times in the first few months when I cried, convinced that our relationship wouldnâ€™t work and that our differences would break us up. Jose and I would always talk about it and we would arrive at a place knowing we could work it out no matter the issue.
In six years together, Jose and I have lit Hanukkah candles,Â celebrated Easter, taken interfaith classes, witnessed a First Communion,Â hosted Shabbat dinner, talked about how we will raise our kids, bought a Christmas tree and ornaments, joined a Reform synagogue, and so much more. We are a team, and we talk often aboutÂ how our team will support and honor both of our backgrounds.
This past December, Jose got down on one knee in Rittenhouse Square, on the seventh night of Hanukkah. And this coming December, exactly one Hebrew calendar year later, we will get married at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia.
Stay tuned for more details about our wedding planning over the next few months!
Â Want to share the ways you #ChooseLove? Check this out!