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Forty-four days, 23 hours and 53 minutes to go to the big day (but whoâ€™s counting?), so we thought weâ€™d give you a sneak preview of how weâ€™ve constructed our interfaith ceremony. All the way back last summer, we had a lovely meeting with our rabbi, IFF/Philadelphia‘s Rabbi Frisch, and our priest, Mother Takacs, where we talked about the elements of the wedding services from our religions and which of them were particularly meaningful to us.
There was no question that we would stand under a chuppah; after walking down the aisle separately, weâ€™ll hold hands and stand underneath it together, entering the special space as equals. Weâ€™ll begin with the Kiddush, and then the â€śDeclaration of Intentâ€ť from the Episcopalian tradition, in which weâ€™ll both announce to everyone that we intend to get married and stay married!
Both our officiants will say a few words, and Rabbi Frisch will read our ketubah text aloud as well (weâ€™ll sign it before the ceremony). We then move onto the part of the ceremony that, for Vanessa, was the most important part from her tradition: the vows. Rather than writing our own vows, weâ€™ll say the traditional ones derived from the Book of Common Prayer. These vows encompass everything that we could possibly want to cover, promising to remain faithful to each other through the best and the worst times. After exchanging our rings, weâ€™ll hear the Sheva B’rachot (seven blessings), and have the second Kiddush. One final blessing from the priest, and then â€“ weâ€™ll break the glass together!
Hopefully you can see from this description that weâ€™ve tried to weave our two traditions together: Weâ€™re not keeping the Jewish parts of the ceremony separate from the Christian ones, but rather combining them to make a wedding service that does justice to how we plan to continue our lives together. Our conversations with Rabbi Frisch and Mother Takacs helped us to figure out what we needed to do to make our ceremony perfect for us and our families, and the process of planning the ceremony has given us the space to reflect on exactly what each part means to us. So much of the wedding planning industry tells us to spend hours picking the perfect menu and flower arrangements: Why shouldnâ€™t we spend just as much time thinking about the words and actions that will be the centerpiece of our ceremony?
By Emily Baseman
Our interfaith ceremony was the best and most meaningful part of our wedding day. It was really important to my husband, Brandon, and me that the ceremony be both very personal to us as a couple and truly interfaith. This meant we looked at wedding traditions from both Christianity and Judaism, and discussed which would fit into our ceremony. It also meant working closely with both a rabbi and a pastor to select readings and determine what would be said by each of them. I took a very hands-on role in planning our ceremonyâ€”maybe more than most brides doâ€”because we had very specific ideas of what we wanted to be included. Hereâ€™s a look at what we chose to do, and where we made it work for ourselves and our families. (We also had a Ketubah ceremony, which Iâ€™ll write about in an upcoming post.)
Processional & Affirmation of Families
It is traditional in Judaism for both parents of the bride and both parents of the groom to walk their respective child down the aisle. In Christianity, it is much more typical for only a brideâ€™s father to walk her down the aisle. For this tradition, Brandon and I went with what we were comfortable with and had imagined growing upâ€”both his parents with Brandon, and just my dad with me. My feminist heart hated the notion of my father â€śgiving me away,â€ť and so I chose to look at the experience as an incredibly special moment between my father and me, and Iâ€™m glad I did not miss out on that. Early in the ceremony, our pastor led an Affirmation of Families that included blessings from both sets of parents.
We loved the symbolism of our new home under the chuppah and were excited to include this in our ceremony. We decided that only Brandon and I, and our officiants, would stand under the chuppah, with our parents in the front row and our attendants off to the side. We made this choice because we wanted our parents to experience the ceremony without feeling like they were on display, and we also wanted it to be a more intimate moment between ourselves and our officiants.
My mother and I designed our chuppah with our amazing florist. Our wedding was outside in Washington Square Park in Chicago and we wanted to ensure that our chuppah felt natural. The flowers and birch poles the florist used were beautiful and the best part of the chuppah was a white lace tablecloth that belonged to my late maternal grandmother. During the ceremony, I glanced up at the chuppah and loved feeling my grandmotherâ€™s presence in that moment. We now have the tablecloth at home and I hope to have it made into baby blankets for future children.
Acknowledgement of Different Faiths
Our pastor began the ceremony with an acknowledgement of our two faiths and talked about how the ceremony was uniquely created for Brandon and me, with traditions and beliefs adopted from both Christianity and Judaism. He closed with a Bible passage, God is love, and those who abide in love, abide in God, and God abides in them. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (1 John 4:16)
Our rabbi led three blessings: Shehecheyanu, blessing over the wine and blessing over the chuppah. We saw these blessings as essential to our ceremony and wanted to include both Hebrew and English. Our rabbi also provided background for each so that everyone understood their meaning. For the blessing over the wine, we asked our rabbi to recite it in Hebrew and our pastor to recite it in English. We also used the Kiddush cup from Brandonâ€™s bar mitzvah, which added special meaning.
In our initial conversation with our pastor, we agreed that we wanted to include Jesus throughout the ceremony. It is possible to have a Christian-Jewish ceremony that only references God, but it was more comfortable for us to also include Jesus in name. During our ceremony, our pastor explained with grace how we would be including aspects from both faiths, which could be perceived differently from person to person. We selected both Tanakh and New Testament readings for the ceremony, both of which offered blessings and a charge for our marriage. For the Tanakh, we heard Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, and for the New Testament, Colossians 3:12-17.
We were also blessed with homilies from both officiants, a statement on the gift of marriage, â€śI Carry Your Heartâ€ť by E.E. Cummings and the singing of â€śWhat a Wonderful Worldâ€ť by Louis Armstrong, arranged by my brother-in-law, our pianist for the day, and performed by him and my sister.
Vows & Exchange of Rings
Inspired by my sister and brother-in-law, Brandon and I wrote our vows together and each said the same words to one another, which was our personal way of making promises to each other about our commitment.
Brandon and I were also eager to find a way to incorporate each of us speaking in Hebrew in the ceremony. We found this opportunity in our ring exchange. Our pastor led Brandon and the rabbi led me in reciting our own words and words borrowed from Songs of Solomon, â€śWith this ring, I thee wed. Wear me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is infinitely strong. Many waters cannot quench love, no flood can sweep it away.â€ť We closed with these words in English, â€śI am my belovedâ€™s and my beloved is mineâ€ť and in Hebrew, â€śAni le’dodi ve’dodi li.
Sheva Brachot and Benediction
Before we were pronounced married, our rabbi recited the Sheva Brachot, or â€śSeven Blessings,â€ť which are traditional in a Jewish wedding. Our pastor also read a benediction, Numbers 6:24-26, â€śThe Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord be kind and gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor And give you peace.â€ť Later at our reception, our first dance was Bob Dylanâ€™s â€śForever Young,â€ť which we loved dancing to because the lyrics also echoed these words.
Breaking of the Glass
There was no questionâ€”how could we not include this fun tradition?
To learn more about interfaith weddings and for a full list of resources, click HERE.
To read more about Emily and Brandonâ€™s interfaith wedding planning, read her first post HERE.