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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.
In a million years, I never would have imagined that I would someday marry the sweet, funny, curly-haired freshman I met at a house party at Penn State 10Â years ago. Yet, here we are.
Paul and I were friendly acquaintances at Penn State, but not much more. Despite our shared love of bad television and daiquiris, we only socialized a handful of times during our four years in State College.
After graduating from Penn State, Paul moved to Philadelphia to study medicine and I moved thereÂ to study law. Halfway through our second year of graduate school, we discovered we were both single. (Thanks, Facebook!) Paul asked me out. Unlike our chance encounters at Penn State, when Paul walked into our first date it was different. We talked for hours, laughed a lot and I had this overwhelming intuition that this was the beginning of something big.
We have been together since that first date. Our respective career paths have not always made it easy or even allowed us to live in the same city, but we both now work and live in Philadelphia. Nearly five years strong, we are still talking for hours, still laughing a lot and our relationship is the biggest thing in my life.
On a chilly Friday night this past December, Paul proposed in our living room, which was decorated at the time with our Star of David-topped Christmas tree, wax-covered hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah) and a porcelain statue of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus, recently gifted to me by my Catholic, Italian grandmother.
Surrounded by our blended holiday decorations, we excitedly agreed to blend our lives as husband and wife.
By way of background, I was raised Catholic. Paul is Jewish. Our proposal story is, undoubtedly, a beautiful snapshot of our interfaith relationship. However, in all candor, the interfaith aspect of our relationship has been a challenging (albeit, a rewarding) one. Communication and compromise have been instrumental to our process.
After one particularly difficult discussion, I turned to my best, most reliable resource in a time of uncertainty: Google. That night I found theÂ InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia website. I began reading blogs byÂ clergy and similarly-situated couples who have made interfaith relationships, weddings and parenthood work. Suddenly, Paul and I had options, resources and a network to help us figure this out. It was a game-changer and ultimately led us to our kind and open-minded officiant, Rabbi Robyn Frisch (director of IFF/Philadelphia).
Paul and I will be married in an interfaith ceremony on December 3, 2016 in Philadelphia. While I am still not entirely sure what that will entail, I look forward to figuring it out and sharing our experience with the InterfaithFamily community.
Todayâ€™s blog post brings us well into wedding planning processâ€”as well as to a few other relationship landmarks.
Last week we celebrated Justinâ€™s birthday, which we do in a traditional (to him, not so much to me) wayâ€”with a King Cake. The King Cake is a Mardi Gras custom (Mardi Gras being part of the Carnival celebrations that occur immediately before the observance of Lent)â€”and Justinâ€™s family has roots in the Bayou of Louisiana.
With his birthday falling so close to Mardi Gras each year, itâ€™s become a tradition for his Grandparents (who live just over the Louisiana border in Mississippi) to send him a King Cake.
Before meeting Justin Iâ€™d never had a King Cake. Now itâ€™s something I look forward to each year. This purple, green, and gold cake is topped with frosting and sugar, and from the time it arrives until weâ€™ve eaten it all, every meal involves cake. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, mid-day, and midnight snacks all involve King Cake. (And, as we are adults, we have deemed it okay if one wants to have a slice of cake before dinner.)
The most important part of the King Cakeâ€”besides it being delicious and often arriving in the same box as Mardi Gras beadsâ€”is that it comes with a plastic baby Jesus hidden inside the cake. Itâ€™s good luck if you find the baby in your piece of cake.
And, every year that weâ€™ve celebrated with a King Cake, Iâ€™ve always ended up Jesus-less.
Somehow that plastic baby is always in one of Justinâ€™s slices of cake. (Perhaps thereâ€™s a secret to finding the King Cake baby that Iâ€™ve missed out on? My ability to always find the Afikoman at a Passover Seder does not seem to translate to the King Cakeâ€™s hidden Jesus.)
Justinâ€™s Jesus finding skills did, however, set us up for a fantastically cheesyÂ exchange this year about how he was the one with the luckâ€”thus he gets to marry meâ€”and I was the one without the luckâ€”hence I was stuck marrying him.
This year, weâ€™re hoping that little plastic baby Jesus is going to bring us some mutual luckâ€”especially as we move from the theoretical planning into actually putting the plan into action.