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I recently joined a Facebook group that InterfaithFamily started to connect couples planning interfaith weddings (join here!). As Iâve mentioned in a few of my posts, Zach and I have our wedding pretty well planned already, and weâve been working with great officiants to create a beautiful, meaningful and inclusive ceremony. I joined the group because Iâve realized during this process that the choice we made with this wedding to include and celebrate both traditions–to make both families feel welcome and represented–is a challenge and opportunity that we will continue to face in our married life.
Iâve mentioned a book called Being Both by Susan Katz Miller that solidified our decision to marry. The book isnât about weddings; rather, itâs about what happens after. That was our biggest question in deciding to get married: What would we do if and when we decided to have children?
Meanwhile, what I had heard from clergy, both Jewish and Catholic, was that âbeing bothâ was not an option. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops claims that religious leaders agree that raising children of interfaith marriages exclusively in one religious tradition is best. While this may be true, I had a hard time finding studies on the alternative, save for Millerâs book. Additionally, both Zach and I felt that a piece of us would be missing from our future family if our future child or children was or were raised exclusively in one tradition. Being Both offers examples of families and congregations that enable families to participate in both traditions fully, rather than having one or more family members as a spectator to that tradition.
Iâm not entirely sure what the right answer is for us, but reading that book made me realize that our family might not feel completely at home in either tradition, because of our desire to not just respect but incorporate both traditions into our one family. As a Catholic woman from a Catholic family, where we get together for baptisms and First Communions, that is a realization that, honestly, I still struggle with.
But I draw strength in my conviction that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Iâve already writtenÂ about how well Zach and I complement each other, and I also see a unique calling or mission in creating an interfaith family. I love celebrating Jewish holidays with Zach, and I canât wait to share those beliefs, prayers and family traditions with our children. Similarly, when I go to church on Sunday, I think about sharing with them my familyâs stories, beliefs and rituals. I think our overall desire is to raise children comfortable and familiar with both traditions, who see and appreciate God in all forms. Because, when it comes down to it, I see God in my relationship with Zach, and I refuse to be bound by the lines our religious communities have drawn around us. Our love is boundless, and our family will be too. Thatâs been the biggest realization for me in this process–weâre starting something new, that no one in either of our families has done before, but connecting to the larger interfaith community, with families who have years of experience before interfaith marriage became commonplace, is so valuable.
I recently decided to take the last name Drescher. I struggled with the decision for a while. I like my name as it is: Laura Rose Free. I like the connection that âFreeâ gives me to my family. I like the pun possibilities (bachelorette hashtag: #freeasilleverbe). But marriage signifies the start of something new–of two people coming together as one, acting as partners, and making decisions together. For me, taking the last name Drescher is a step in that direction; it’s an act that symbolizes that change for me. In addition to all of the practical reasons, this symbolism made me decide that I want to change my name. Iâm not saying itâs the right decision for all couples, but I feel itâs the right decision for us–itâs the first step toward the new family that weâre starting. Iâm thankful to have this community to support us and show us the ways they have chosen to create new families and traditions.
âWeâre not doing this!â Andy was visibly upset. âI wonât do it!â
It was a year into our relationship and we were in his car heading to his dadâs house in the middle of nowhere.
The topic that inspired this reaction was none other than kashrut, a set of Jewish dietary laws that I happen to follow. While I am not incredibly strict and will go out to non-kosher restaurants, I will only eat vegetarian, dairy and halakhically (by the law) approved fish.
Andy knew that I kept kosher from the very beginning of our relationship but because I still went out to restaurants, he never thought much about it. As we became more serious and talked about moving in together, he finally began to understand how dating a traditional Jew would affect him. I had explained to him that if we were to move in together, our kitchen, and everything in it, would need to be kashered.
Kashering is the rather intensive process of making a kitchen kosher and it was not up for negotiation. Andy was not particularly pleased when I explained to him what it would involve, and in particular, what he would have to sacrifice.
His protests were valid and I completely understood where he was coming from.
Food is a significant part of life and kashrut not only dictates the kind of food we can eat, but also its preparation, storage, separation of dishes, utensils and pretty much anything in the kitchen that touches food.
For a Catholic-raised atheist who is not Jewish and was not used to food restrictions, it was quite jarring for him to suddenly be told that he would have to abide by them.
Thankfully, a year later as we were preparing to move in together, we were able to talk it out and eventually, negotiations were made where we agreed to set up two âkitchensâ in our apartment.
We dubbed them: Kosher Kitchen and Catholic Corner.
Kosher KitchenÂ is the main kitchen in our home. It’s where the majority of the cooking is done. The dishes in our apartment are all his. We rekasheredÂ hisÂ dishes in a local mikveh so that they could becomeÂ ourÂ dishes. He even participated in reciting the prayers and dunking all of his utensils, pots, pans and well, pretty much everything kitchen related, into the mikveh pool.
“Can you kasher our kitchen every day?!” he had said incredulously as he watched me pour boiling water all over our counters, making them especially clean.
However, when he wants to avoid these situations, he always has the option of using his own kitchen space.
Catholic CornerÂ is a corner by our front window which has a convection oven and a hot plate. Andy has a separate set of pots, dishes and utensils and even a separate sponge at our shared sink for those times when he eats non-kosher food.
Originally, he had a separate fridge as well but I felt like that was overkill. As long he wrapped everything up and it was well contained within its packaging, there would not be a problem about cross contamination and in the two-and-a-half years that we have been living together, it has never been an issue for me.
It may seem unfair that Andy cannot cook non-kosher food in the main kitchen, but I am the one that does the majority of the cooking for both of us. I am also the one who brought my beliefs to the table from the very beginning.
Andy realizes how important my religious and cultural traditions are to me and since that fateful conversation in the car four years ago, he is my number one supporter and now practically an expert on kashrut.
Keeping kosher is not always easy but not because Andy isnât Jewish. Itâs because we have a fairly small kitchen and having two of everything means our space is extremely limited.
Thankfully, together, we make it work.
âSo, howâs the wedding planning?â These days, this question excites and exasperates me at the same time. I have a lot of energy and excitement about the wedding, but it varies day by day whether that excitement is greater or less than my stress about âgetting it all done.â To explain that, I need to go back to the beginning of the process and explain a few things.
From the beginning, weâve been fairly flexible about what this wedding will look like. I donât have a crystal-clear vision of what I want, so I have invited and taken suggestions from family and close friends. I was breezing along for the first nine months, checking things off my list, thinking, this is easy! Sure, thereâs a lot to do, but Iâm organized! Iâm on top of it! We can do this!
In May I started to feel the pressure. And it was all because of Pinterest.
In the winter, we visited Lansdale and started thinking about decorations–again, an area where I didnât have preconceived ideas about what I wanted. My parents own a beautiful old house, and my dad has completed a lot of home improvement projects. Back in the wintertime, we discovered some old doors and windows he had saved that sparked some crafty neurons in my brain. I thought, these things will be perfect for signage, table assignments, whatever! And itâs all free! Perfect.
Itâs true that nothing in life is ever really free. I did not factor in how much effort it would take to polish all of those things. Washing, sanding and painting. Re-glazing some of the old window panes. Building stands for the doors so they arenât a hazard. We spent a full day cleaning some of these pieces and drawing out multiple iterations of plans for how we would use all the pieces. Luckily my family (and fiancĂ©) dove into the projects with gusto, each contributing their own talents to different pieces.
I went into that weekend excited, but I came out feeling overwhelmed. We had so many different ideas for how to use each piece. Plus, there were so many steps to bringing it all together–for example, to use one window we would need to wash it, sand the frame, repaint the frame, re-glaze the panes in the window and then write table assignments on it! I was having a hard time figuring out how we would get it all done, even with all the helping hands we had.
I did two things in response to this overwhelmed feeling. First, I sat down in my cone of silence and came up with a plan. I laid out all the steps, determined the critical path, and wrote out which tasks we could complete on which weekends we would be coming to Lansdale from Washington, DC. I had it all figured out, but I still felt tense.
Then I did the second thing: I envisioned what our wedding would look like if these projects didnât all come together. Surprise–everything was still beautiful. And we were still getting married! There would be officiants, food and a DJ. Somehow people would be welcomed, know where the bathroom was, and find their seat, even if it didnât look like the way we had envisioned it.
I realized that I was, to some degree, in control of how much pressure I was feeling to âget it all done.â If I decided that some things, like the signs for the bathroom, were more important than others, I could give myself (and everyone else) permission to not get those other things done, if we ran out of time.
Sure, an old window with a quote from Song of Solomon would make a beautiful addition to our ceremony space–but it wasnât as high on the list as, say, the table assignments. I needed to let some of these things go if I was going to enjoy the rest of this process. The time between engagement and marriage feels so special–youâre giddy and excited and hopeful, all leading up to this one day that will be over before you know it. The wedding day starts a blessed and fulfilled lifetime of marriage, but thereâs something special about this expectant time, where youâre waiting for that next step, and I donât want to miss that. I want to savor it.
So, when I start to think about all that I âhave to do,â I think about all the people around to help me. I think about what the âbare bonesâ of the event will look like, and Iâm still happy. I think about standing in front of friends and family and promising to love Zach for the rest of our lives, and I know it doesnât matter if we get the photo booth just right.
Iâm choosing to use this time to prepare for a lifetime with my best friend, where the little things donât shake our happiness together. And I make that choice anew every day. Some days are better than others, but I, like most of us, am a work in progress.
One of the items that we needed to tick off our Wedding To-Do List this month was ordering the ketubah. As an interfaith, same-sex couple, we were looking for a text that spoke to the myriad possibilities of what it means to be in a loving, committed relationship. In a moment in the wedding industry when interfaith and same-sex ketubah texts are relatively scarce, we were happy to find something that struck a chord with us.
The Church of England doesnât have anything similar to a ketubah. The traditional wedding ceremony involves words and vows that have remained more or less the same since the Book of Common Prayer wedding service was first codified in the 17th Century. Our own wedding ceremony will combine these long-recited vows with elements of the Jewish tradition, so we wonât be taking the opportunity to express our more personal thoughts about marriage within the service itself (partly because the Church of England vows are very meaningful and beautiful, and partly because Vanessa would become a blubbering wreck). So, the ketubah felt like a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on our conception of marriage and to verbalize our priorities and commitments for the years ahead.
In the end, we decided to choose a ketubah that encompasses more of a poetic, abstract notion of love. The design is relatively abstract too: an impressionistic tree with blue and gold leaves, with its roots drawing strength from the text underneath. Our ketubah tells the story of a partnership between two people using beautiful metaphor, but a metaphor that is rooted in concrete behavior.
Wedding planning can be stressful, and weâre combining it with finishing our graduate degrees and looking for jobs: So when we read our ketubah text that speaks of supporting each otherâs dreams and comforting each otherâs sorrows, we know that the beautifully-illustrated document is not just for show. The line that describes holding each other in both our arms and our hearts has never seemed more appropriate than in recent weeks, as weâve huddled together under a blanket on our sofa, escaping the delightfully chilly weather/miserable freezing temperatures (depending on who you ask).
So, the ketubah is on its way. Many more things remain on the Wedding To-Do List, the vast majority of which relate to a single day. But this is one element of our planning that weâll see every day for the rest of our lives, throughout our entire marriage.
I am a lot of things in this diverse world. I am a female, a daughter, granddaughter, sister, fiancĂ©, niece, friend, Catholic, dietitian, animal lover, coffee and chocolate enthusiastâŠ in no particular order. While I identify as many different things, there are many things I am not and wonât try to be. As I continue to grow and navigate through life, I am finding that the way I define and present myself to the world is more important than the way someone else defines me. However, when someone tries to define or label me differently than how I see myself, it can be hurtful.
I have had so many positive experiences over the last several years as one half of an interfaith couple. I have had the opportunity to learn so much about the Jewish faith. I have embraced Jewish traditions and culture and continue to learn ways to incorporate these new traditions into my life. I have been welcomed with open arms into a Jewish family that I will officially be able to call my own family when I say âI doâ in an interfaith wedding ceremony six months from now.
Unfortunately, when small, negative experiences occur, they can put a damper on even the most joyful occasions, just like a rain cloud can ruin a beautiful sunny day. These negative moments can linger causing sadness and frustration. I have encountered very few negative opinions in response to my interfaith relationship but that doesnât mean it hurts less when these situations do arise. My hope is that individuals today can continue to become more open-minded and non-judgmental. As the Catholic half of a Catholic/Jewish interfaith couple, below are some experiences Iâd like to avoid repeating in the future.
For starters, please do not call me a âshiksaâ if you would like to maintain a friendship with me. Calling me this term will not make me laugh and I will not think itâs funny. The word âshiksaâ means ânon-Jewish female,â however, other translations for the word include âimpureâ and âabomination.â This word is not a term of endearment and every definition I have ever read for this word describes it as derogatory. Most definitions even directly indicate that this word should not be used as a label or reference for someone. It is 2016, I am a Catholic woman who fell in love with a Jewish man and there is nothing forbidden about our love. If you are a person who identifies as Jewish who is not aware of the correct definition for the word âshiksa,â please take the time to research the word and then ask yourself if the person youâre referring to would be offended by this.
I am Catholic. I am âof a different faith backgroundâ but would prefer not to be called a ânon-Jew.â I have read articles about the controversy of the term ânon-Jew.â It made me stop and think about my feelings toward this term. I get it. Iâm not Jewish and Iâm not trying to be. I am marrying someone who identifies as Jewish while I identify as Catholic. To me, this is very concrete. The problem arises when someone else starts identifying me by what I am not rather than what I am. When someone calls me a ânon-Jewâ it makes me feel like Iâm on the outside looking in or excluded from a group. The term ânon-Jewâ also makes me feel as though the person referring to me as a ânon-Jewâ feels superior because they are Jewish and I am not. Individuals should be identified as what they are rather than what they are not to avoid hurt feelings or discomfort.
Finally, I have been asked on a number of occasions since my engagement if I plan to convert to Judaism. While I respect the question and a personâs interest in our different faith backgrounds, I donât feel as though I need to convert to my partnerâs religion in order for it to be acceptable to get married. Donât get me wrong, I love that conversion is an option and that in the future, if I feel conversion is right for me, I can make that decision. On the other hand, I love that intermarriage is accepted by many today and that I can continue to practice my personal religious beliefs while building new traditions with my partner who has personal religious beliefs that are different from my own.
I donât know what the future holds for my partner and me as we move closer to our wedding day but my hope is for continued acceptance and respect for individuals of different faiths and interfaith couples. We will continue to surround ourselves with friends and family who accept and embrace our different faiths and support us as we build this new life together!
I have planned exactly one party in my lifetime. It was a surprise sweet sixteen birthday party for my best friend during our sophomore year of high school. The party was held in my parentsâ basement decorated with balloons and streamers. Party guests successfully pulled off the surprise and spent the rest of the evening gobbling slices of pizza and birthday cake while mingling and listening to the latest tunes playing on my boom box.
Fast forward 12 years to 2016. I am knee deep in planning the biggest party of my lifeâŠmy wedding! Jarrett and I are approaching our one year engagement anniversary (March 20th) and have been busy wedding planning for nearly 11 months now. We continue checking items off of our to-do list as we move closer to our October 2016 wedding. While our to-do list is much shorter than it was 11 months ago, itâs safe to say I probably looked like a happy deer in headlights last April. I was so excited about our recent engagement but had NO idea where to begin when it came to wedding planning. So I thought it might be helpful to share some planning tips that worked for us. We are by no means professionals when it comes to wedding planning but weâre having a lot of fun figuring it out!
1. Talk Details! Jarrett and I sat down one day and discussed everything we knew about weddings (mostly from the weddings we had recently attended). We brainstormed what we wanted and did not want in our day. We talked seasons: Summer? Too hot. Winter? Too cold. Spring? A spring 2016 wedding would only allow one year of planning which felt too rushed. We also discussed that weddings are very expensive and the additional months of planning would allow us to save more money. We had made our decision. A Fall 2016 wedding would allow a year and a half for all of the planning, decision making and money saving (it also happened to be my favorite season!). We drafted a guest list based on who we knew we would be inviting plus estimated a number for our parentsâ guest lists. Our guest estimate totaled 150-200 individuals so we knew we needed a venue that accommodated at least 200.
Finally, while the wedding day is about celebrating us as a couple, we knew the majority of our guests would be traveling to celebrate with us and we did not want our wedding day to be an inconvenience for our friends and family. We knew we wanted a Saturday evening wedding with the ceremony and reception at the same location. So we had determined season, guest count and venue wish list. Then we discussed budget. We listed each wedding vendor we would need for our wedding day (Venue, Caterer, Photographer, DJ, Florist and Officiant). We created a budget range for each potential vendor prior to setting up any appointments. From there, we estimated a total budget range for all wedding vendors plus additional details (wedding dress, invitations, etc). It seemed we had it all planned on scratch paper! Now what?!
2.Â Get Organized! After our engagement, friends and family members had bought me a number of wedding magazines and I was so excited to start browsing through for inspiration. Over time, I started cutting ideas I liked out of the magazines so I could keep them in a pile and easily access them. I realized I needed somewhere to hold all of our wedding planning resources. I bought a three-ring binder and visited one of my favorite websites, Pinterest, and searched for âWedding Organization Printables.â I found free print-out dividers and resources for âfinancials,â âguest list & seatingâ and âtimeline/to-dos.â I knew that everything would be in one place and nothing would get lost. Through each step, I write in the amount we spent and checked it off the to-do list! As we decided on each vendor, I placed signed copies of our contracts in the binder so I could refer back to them when I needed a quick reference or to see when a future payment was due.
3. Do Your Homework/Be Willing to Be Flexible! I began searching for wedding vendors in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area. I utilized âThe Knotâ website/app on my phone to search vendors by location. The app made it easy to learn details about different vendors and read reviews from people who had utilized their services. I could even look at samples of vendorsâ work (ie: photography/floral arrangements) on âThe Knotâ app.
First, we chose wedding venues to tour based on those that met our search criteria. We knew we would need a confirmed wedding date and venue selection before being able to book any additional vendors. I made the vendor appointments and Jarrett came along to every meeting to provide his opinion and support. It is helpful to make the decisions together since after all, it is our wedding day! We made a list of questions to ask before each meeting so we would be prepared. The reason I suggest being flexible is because many wedding venues, especially popular ones book up far in advance. We toured a wedding venue in April 2015 and fell in love with it. We knew we wanted to host our wedding there but it was booked through September 2016 for Saturday weddings. This is how we decided on an October wedding date (based on venue availability). If you have your heart set on a specific wedding date, you may need to be flexible with your venue choice. The more time you allow for planning, the more choices you will have!
Other selling points for our venue included the staff; they thoroughly and professionally answered all of our questions and put our worries at ease. We learned that we could have both our ceremony and reception on-site and they even had on-site catering and bar service so we were able to save a few steps. Once we selected our venue, we continued booking our remaining wedding vendors one by one. We carefully read the vendor reviews, made lists of questions and compared prices and availability for our chosen wedding date.
My final planning tip would be to have fun! Many people have told me wedding planning is so stressful and they were happy when it was over. Truthfully, because we gave ourselves a lot of planning time, I have been enjoying this life chapter and may miss it when it all comes to an end because itâs truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We are still seven months away from the big day and there is still so much to do but I am content in what we have been able to accomplish thus far; especially since weâre figuring it out on our own and with the support of one another! Next up on the to-do list: designing invitations and yarmulkas! Stay tuned for more wedding fun.
When I was single, I spent a lot of time on OKCupid. But when I got Jeanâs message, Iâd never seen her profile before. My filter was set to see only women up to age 33. I was 37. Jean was 36.
I wasnât ageistâat least thatâs what I tell myselfâbut I want to have kids. When I did the math in my headâ1 year minimum dating + 1 year minimum engagement + 1 year minimum to have a babyâthe math got hard. There were other things to be wary of. She was a teacher. I had dated teachers before and was looking for something different. And then, under religion: âCatholic.â
When youâve spent enough time on dating sites, you know what it means (or what you think it means) when someone who isnât Jewish mentions their religion. Itâs a big, almost political, statement. It means their religion means something to them. It means they knowingly are excluding a significant number of potential suitors who are actively anti-religious, non-religious or uncomfortable with the whole topic. And it probably excludes another not insignificant number of people who are wary of anyone being too serious about anything on OKCupid.
My profile said âJewish.â But âJewishâ comes with a lot more useful flexibility than âCatholic.â When people write âJewish,â they could be declaring an important part of their identity. Or, they could be sharing an interesting detail, a conversational topic for late in a good first date. They could be including âJewishâ for other Jews on the site who will only date Jews, as a way to make it through their filter. Occasionally, people write âJewishâ because theyâre actually religious. Then againâmost of those people are on JDate instead.
I wasnât against dating someone who wasnât Jewish. But I want to raise my kids Jewish. âCatholicâ signaled a different intention.
But she was cute. She was rock-climbing in one picture. She held a (good) beer in another. There wasnât a pink Red Sox hat or Macchu Picchu picture in sight. I liked her message to me: It was thoughtful. She had read my profile. She appreciated that I noted that I was aware that my job description sounded âdouchy.â (Iâm a business strategy consultant for the telecom industry. It does sound douchy.) I liked that. Also, I had recently broken up with somebodyâa âperfect on paperâ and Jewish, but not so perfect a match in reality, somebodyâand was still kind of beat up about it. So I wasnât looking for anything serious at this point. I figured we could have fun for a little while.
She was late for our first date. Not terribly late, only 15 minutes or so.
âIâm sorry, Iâm a time optimist,â she said, a little out of breath. She didnât seem sorry.
âItâs OK. I used to be a punctuality Nazi,â I said. âBut Iâve mellowed.â
On our fourth date, she came over to my apartment.
By this point, I knew I liked her. She was smart. She was funny and self-deprecating but confident. She was a great listener. We always had something to talk about. But she didnât fit my script. The age, the profession, the religion, a vegetarian to boot. It sounds shallowâand it is. But online datingâs greatest attraction (and no doubt its deepest flaw) is that it offers the promise of enough choice to find someone who actually fits your script. No settling necessary.
Liking her carried another danger, more significant than the risk of going off-script. Permanence. Permanence with somebody who cares enough about their religion that they include it on their online dating profile. Permanence with somebody who may feel strongly about raising her children Catholic, and will probably have better, clearer reasons for doing so than I do for wanting to raise my kids Jewish.
We were lying in bed, smiling at each other.
I asked her the question I knew could end things.
âSooooâŠ,â I said, turning toward the ceiling. âThis Catholic thing. What does it mean for you, in terms of how your kids are raised?â
She sat up. She seemed intrigued, not anxious, about the serious turn the conversation had taken.
I wasnât sure what answer I wanted to hear.
âWell. When a guy says theyâre Jewish on their online profile, I know it usually means he wants to raise his children Jewish. I wouldnât have sent you a message if I werenât prepared to do that.â
âSeriously!â she said. âI go to church because I was raised Catholic. But I would probably be Muslim if I were raised Muslim. Or be Jewish if I were raised Jewish. I just want my children to be raised in a religion. What religion that is is less important.â
This was someone to take seriously. What kind of person thinks a first message on OKCupid all the way through to child-rearing? Or rather, what kind of person actually makes a decision about a major life compromise theyâd be willing to make before they hit Send? I knew she was thoughtful, but this was another level.
But this wasnât just a hurdle cleared, or even just a deep source of potential future conflict addressed early on and head-on. It was a gift, yesâas it is for all Jewish people whose partners are willing to make this compromise. It was also a challenge.
When two Jewish people decide to have a family, this kind of conversation can be put on the backburner. Regardless of whether they send their kids to Hebrew school or whether they observe Shabbat, the parents can be confident their children will identify as Jewish. Two Jewish parents + bagels and lox + appreciation for Woody Allen movies = Jewish upbringing. But when your partner who puts âCatholicâ on her OKCupid profile says, âI just want my children to be raised in a religion,â she is laying down a challenge: If you are making me sacrifice sharing my religion with my children, then you better be ready to share yours. Bagels and lox + Woody Allen movies â Jewish upbringing. This means Hebrew school, bar mitzvahs, weekly Shabbat perhaps, talking to your children about GodâŠ
What had I gotten myself into?
I was raised Catholic. I have received sacraments in the Catholic Church including Baptism, Penance, Holy Communion and Confirmation. While spirituality has always been an important part of my life, it has been a part of me that I have kept more reserved. As I grew through adolescence and into adulthood, the thought of marrying someone of a different religious background never crossed my mind. But after meeting Jarrett and growing closer, our different faiths became a norm in our relationship. We continue to teach each other about our different religious backgrounds and continue to respect each other for these differencesâŠ and that is how our relationship works.
Jarrett has been my wedding date to 10 weddings in the last two years. We have watched some of our closest friends and family members marry their significant others in Catholic, Jewish, Christian and non-denominational ceremonies. As each wedding came and went, I found myself thinking about what kind of wedding ceremony I might someday have. It wasnât until Jarrett and I got engaged in March of 2015 that I realized my thoughts would soon become actions as we prepared to plan our interfaith wedding.
When Jarrett and I sat down to begin wedding planning, he expressed to me how important it was to him to be married by a rabbi in a Jewish wedding ceremony. At this point in time, I had been to two Jewish weddings but felt they were truly unique and memorable. I liked that the Jewish ceremonies were personal and intimate with a strong focus on the bride and groom. While I have always felt that Catholic wedding ceremonies are beautiful and meaningful, I had never dreamed of getting married in a Catholic church and this was not a requirement I needed in order to marry my best friend. What mattered to me was what Jarrett felt to be important for our big day. It was special to hear him explain that his Jewish heritage was very important to him and that having a Jewish wedding was something he had always wanted. So it was settled. We would be married by a rabbi in an interfaith wedding ceremony with an emphasis on Jewish traditions. The only problems were, I did not know a lot about Jewish wedding traditions and had no idea where we would find an interfaith rabbi to marry us!
As fate would have it, while working in Philadelphia one day, I had a meeting with a pharmaceutical representative. At the end of the meeting, I asked her if she had plans for the upcoming holiday weekend (Easter). When she responded that she was Jewish and celebrates Passover, I found myself feeling somewhat embarrassed that I hadnât considered this before asking the question. I apologized then explained that my fiancĂ© is also Jewish and that I celebrate Passover with him and his family. She asked about wedding planning and I explained that we had plans to look for a rabbi to marry us. She excitedly responded that she has a very close friend who just so happens to be a rabbi and the director of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia. She gave me her friendâs contact information and I reached out to introduce myself. Jarrett and I met with Rabbi Robyn Frisch and knew our search for the right wedding officiant was over before it had really even begun. Rabbi Frisch was kind, easy-going and non-judgmental. We look forward to working with her over the next several months and having her as an essential part of our big day!
During our second meeting with Rabbi Frisch, she provided us with some information to guide our decision-making through the ceremony-planning process. I was relieved to have someone to teach us more about Jewish wedding traditions so I could expand my knowledge and understanding throughout the planning process. Over the next several months, Jarrett and I will be busy making important decisions including designing our chuppah, choosing a ketubah and determining which Jewish wedding traditions to incorporate into our ceremony. As we continue to move closer to our wedding date, we are also looking forward to the opportunity to participate in InterfaithFamilyâs âLove and Religionâ Workshop which will give Jarrett and I the opportunity to dive deeper into some challenging scenarios that may arise in our future as an interfaith couple. I feel this will help strengthen our bond and allow us to learn even more about each other as we approach marriage. I look forward to sharing our wedding planning experiences as we move closer to saying âI doâ in eight short months!
I first met Jarrett in February of 2010. Our encounter was brief. I was a junior at Penn State University and out with a group of girlfriends one night. I ran into Jarrett and his friend on my way to the bar. They introduced themselves, we exchanged a few words then I continued on as usual with my evening. Just another night out in State CollegeâŠor so I thought.
A few weeks later, I was out to dinner celebrating my roommateâs birthday. Toward the end of our meal, I received a text from a friend. She said they were at a bar around the corner and that I should meet them after dinner. Now, it was a Wednesday night. I had a tough course schedule that semester and didnât love the idea of staying out late on a weeknight. I told her I was tired and didnât think I was going to make it. She responded with, âbut there is someone here that wants to see you.â Curiosity got the best of me and after all, it was Saint Patrickâs Day. Being a redhead of Irish descent, I couldnât disappoint my ancestors on this holiday, right? So, I finished up dinner and headed to CafĂ© 210 West.
When I approached my friends, I noticed there were a few boys with them and right in the center of the group sat JarrettâŠ.timing is everything, right? I learned that a few of his fraternity brothers were friends with a group of my girlfriends. I was still skeptical. I mean, he was a fraternity boy (which must mean trouble) and a senior getting ready to graduate. I thought he would have no interest in dating. But, as I sat with him that evening, I learned that he was funny, confident and kind. We talked and hung out in the weeks leading up to his graduation. He even asked me to be his date to his Senior Fraternity Formal! But we never talked about our status as a couple.
After he graduated, we went our separate ways. I moved back in with my parents for the summer in Gilbertsville, PA, and he moved back in with his mom in Cherry Hill, NJ.Â I thought for sure we would fall out of touch. But one summer day, he asked if I wanted to go on a date. We saw each other every few weeks after that and officially started dating! As we got to know each other more, he learned that I was raised Catholic and I learned that he was raised Jewish. This wasnât anything new for me as I had a Jewish roommate in college who taught me the basics of Jewish traditions. Also, while I would say Iâm a spiritual person, my Catholic faith background wasnât the only thing that defined me. Plus, I liked this boy! And who knew where our relationship would go? I was only 21 years old at the time and wasnât planning for marriage.
The following three years meant long distance for our relationship. I finished my senior year at Penn State, graduated and moved to Maryland to complete a dietetic internship to become a Registered Dietitian. He started his career in sales in New Jersey. Throughout the long distance, we strengthened our relationship through milestones such as meeting extended families and celebrating different holidays together for the first time including Passover, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah and Christmas!
In the summer of 2013, we decided it was time to fix the distance between us. We started talking more about our future together and had some of the âtougherâ conversations about things like where we should live, finances, marriage (more about that later) and children. In September of 2013, we made an offer on our first home in Cherry Hill, NJ. Â I was offered a new job in Philadelphia (a short drive away) on the same day that our offer was acceptedâŠthey say timing is everything!
Just in case we didnât have enough responsibility as new homeowners, we decided to adopt a golden retriever puppy in September 2014. We named him Nittany after our beloved alma mater.Â On March 20, 2015, Jarrett, Nittany and I took a road trip back to Penn State for a mini-getaway. Upon our arrival, we stopped for a quick family photo-op at the Nittany Lion Shrine and to my surprise; Jarrett got down on one knee with Nittany as his witness and proposed in the place we had met almost five years to the dayâŠtiming is everything!
We will tie the knot in an interfaith ceremony in October 2016. I look forward to sharing our interfaith wedding planning journey!
I love telling our âhow we metâ story, because if you donât know us, itâs pretty unexpected. And, if you do know us, well, our beginnings make a lot of sense.
We met three years ago in Guatemala City, both having traveled there for a photography workshop. My first impression of Justin was that he was a skinny hipster. (Youâll have to ask him what his first impression of me was.)
On (what we now realize was our first date) we climbed an active volcano just outside of Antigua. At the top we roasted marshmallows on the volcanoâs natural heat sources and felt like we were on a completely new planet. On the way down, distracted by taking pictures and pausing to climb trees, we got momentarily separated from the group and started practicing, in our very limited Spanish vocabulary, the phrases we might need to get a ride back into town. Eventually, we found our bus back.
Afterwards, covered in dirt, we went out for dinner.
A few months later, on a camping trip in Pennsylvania, Justin broke his T-12 vertebrae and severed his spinal cord incompletely. After being life flighted to a hospital, a seven-hour surgery, and a week in the ICU, we both felt the intensity and realness of our relationship. (Iâve written previously for IFF about how I processed praying for Justin, when our faiths were so different.) The next few months I traveled back and forth between Boston and the rehabilitation hospital in Philadelphia where he was recovering.
These days we live just outside of Boston in Salem, Massachusetts. Weâre both photographers, and Iâm part of the communications team at Keshet. Our day-to-day life of marathoning TV shows, looking for photography work, and teaching ourselves how to cook is punctuated by weekend adventuresâitâs not abnormal for me to go into work on a Monday and answer the question of âwhat did you do this weekendâ with âwe ended up in the middle of New Hampshire and met some people who were ice fishing in the middle of a frozen lakeâŠâ
Our proposal story is the flip side of how we metâbut, much like our first date, it makes complete sense if you know us.
There was no big romantic moment, but a long discussion. After several years of dating we knew how we felt about each otherâthe question was more how we felt about marriage. In many ways, deciding to get married made a lot of sense. In other ways, it was more of a stretch. We went back and forth about wedding hypotheticals and what would be important to each other. For me, having a Jewish ceremony was the most meaningful part of taking our commitment to the next level. For him, having a large gathering where all of our family and friends could be part of a celebration was essential.
Our decision to get married was just thatâa joint, mutual decision. We both asked each other, we both agreed. We kept the news to ourselves for a while, just to see how it felt. A few weeks later we got a ring from my family, and we made it official. And, weâve set a date: 9.26.15.
Weâre pretty excited to share our story with IFFâs Wedding Blog. Storytellingâwith photos and with wordsâis a big part of who we are. Weâll be navigating how to put together a ceremony that feels comfortable and right for my Judaism, appropriate to Justinâs secular belief, and understandable for all of our guests. Weâre trying to plan something on a modest budget, and weâre hoping to do so without going crazy. Iâm sure there will be some surprises along the way, but right now weâre looking forward to our next adventure.