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When planning a wedding, communication is key.Â Youâ€™ll be communicating with one or more of the following: clergy or other officiant, a wedding planner, florist, caterer, DJ or band, relatives and many others.Â But most importantly, you have to communicate with your partner.Â One of the great things about working with your partner to plan your wedding is that many of the issues that will come up later in your marriage (such as handling finances, dealing with parents and in-laws, determining who gets to make which decisions, and of course religion) are sure to come up in wedding planning.Â So working onÂ how you communicate with your partner while planning your wedding is great practice for how you will communicate when youâ€™re married!
Some couples engage in pre-marital counseling as a way to prepare for their future life together. Sometimes couples will seek counsel from the rabbi who will be marrying them, from the institution of the religious tradition of the partner who isnâ€™t Jewish (for example, if one partner is Catholic, they may do pre-cana) or from a therapist. Some couples participate in more than one form of counseling before their wedding. ).Â If you are interested in pre-marital counseling, you can ask your officiant if this is something that they can do or else ask for recommendations for a good therapist or group for couples in your area. If you live in a community where the Love and Religion workshop for interfaith couples is offered we highly recommend participating in this four week workshop.
When talking about various issues before getting married (such as what lifecycle rituals youâ€™ll include when you have children â€“ e.g., if you have a son, will there be a bris? a baptism?; are you going to have a Christmas tree in your home?; what holidays will your family celebrate?) itâ€™s important to be clear with your partner about what issues are non-negotiable for you, and then to consider what issues you can compromise on.Â Itâ€™s also essential to recognize that your feelings and positions, as well as your partnerâ€™s, may evolve and change over time.Â Whatâ€™s truly essential is not what decisions you and your partner make about what youâ€™ll do in the future, but how you communicate â€“ learning to listen to each other and communicate in a healthy, productive way.
As far as the wedding ceremony itself, if youâ€™re the Jewish partner and youâ€™re being married solely by a rabbi, remember that this may not be entirely comfortable for your partner. Even if theyâ€™ve agreed to be married by a rabbi, they may have some concerns or conflicting feelings about not having a representative of their own religion taking part in the ceremony. Be sure to be sensitive to this, and to give your partner space to share their concerns with you.
Wedding couples are adults and most of the decisions about the wedding are theirs to make â€“ though if parents are helping to pay for the wedding, it may be appropriate for them to be involved in aspects of the decision-making. And itâ€™s important in making decisions, though it may not ultimately affect the outcome, to consider how they may affect your parents and close family members.Â If youâ€™re going to be including something in your wedding that may be surprising or difficult for your relatives â€“ like having clergy members of different faiths officiate â€“ itâ€™s best to inform your parents as early as possible.Â This applies to aspects of the wedding that may not seem like such a â€śbig dealâ€ť to you â€“ such as including a reading from the New Testament (something most Jewish parents wouldnâ€™t expect, even if it doesnâ€™t include Jesusâ€™ name) or breaking the glass (something parents from a different religious tradition may not expect) â€“ as well. Similarly, if you are not planning to include rituals from your own religious tradition that your parents might hope or expect to be part of the ceremony, it is best to share this information with them ahead time. The more your parents can be prepared for what to expect, the more comfortable the wedding is likely to be for them.
If youâ€™re going to be married by a rabbi and you werenâ€™t raised Jewish, then you may want to ask the rabbi if theyâ€™d be willing to meet with your parents before the wedding, especially if your parents havenâ€™t attended a Jewish wedding before.Â This way they can ask the rabbi any questions they may have and they can get to know them a little bit as a person, rather than just meeting the rabbi minutes before the ceremony.
There will be many decisions you need to make when planning for your wedding ceremony and reception. It is possible you will have different opinions than your partner and family members and it will likely be necessary to compromise. One way to help ease conflict is for each person involved to identify what is most important to them and focus on that rather than on every single decision that needs to be made. Hopefully then you wonâ€™t get caught up trying to satisfy everyone with every decision.
One way to do this is for each person to pick the three things that are most important to them. For example, your top priorities may be writing your own vows, having kippot for the guests, and choosing the cake. Your partner on the other hand may prioritize choosing the officiant, selecting the venue and picking the music. Then you each get to make the decisions about your three things.Â For a blog about this, click here.
FINALLYâ€¦when youâ€™re feeling stressed about your wedding, just remember that whatâ€™s most important isnâ€™t the wedding, but the marriageâ€¦and the fact that youâ€™ll be spending the rest of your life with the person you love.
In case you didnâ€™t notice from the pictures, Femi and I are a devilishly handsome, interfaith, interracial couple. We also happen to live in the South. While Atlanta is a shiny blue dot amongst a sea of red, itâ€™s still the South. There are challenges we have down here unique to any other part of the country. Case in point are the reactions we get to being an interracial couple. In the interest of fairness, let me say that not all of them are bad. For instance, people at restaurants remember us because we stand out (which the narcissist in me LOVES). And, when I see other interracial couples out, we give each other a nice smile of solidarity. Plus, itâ€™s scientifically proven that we will make beautiful children.
But then there are the not-so-great reactions. Older, white men, stare incredulously at Femi like heâ€™s committed a crime. While black women stare daggers at me because Iâ€™ve â€śstolen one of the good ones.â€ť Thatâ€™s tough for me to wrap my head around because my falling in love with Femi wasnâ€™t part of some master plan to undermine the black women of the world. However, I do understand their anger, even though in this case itâ€™s misplaced.
The worst example of this took place in one of the most sacred institutions in the South: Waffle House. Northerners, imagine an IHOP, but better, and you get Waffle House, where the elite meet to eat. Waffle House is supposed to be a judgment-free zone. Itâ€™s like the Statue of Liberty of food joints; give me your tired, your poor, your hungover masses yearning to eat hash browns (scattered, smothered, and covered, in my case). Imagine our surprise when one morning, when Femi and I were sitting on stools at the counter, we shared a quick kiss and a black, female server stopped in her tracks, gave us the ugliest look Iâ€™ve ever seen, and kept walking. We were shocked; the questions started flying. Did that just really happen? Maybe we imagined it? Femi, can I finish your cinnamon raisin toast? While this wasnâ€™t the first look we had ever gotten, this was by far the most brazen. Femi is lucky because he can let that kind of thing roll off his back, whereas I know Iâ€™ll carry that moment with me the rest of my life.
One place where we have rarely been judged for being interracial has been the religious community. I have brought Femi to several Jewish events over the course of our relationship; weâ€™ve done Shabbat dinners with friends, attended Atlanta Jewish Music Festival events and heâ€™s done Passover seder at my house twice. Conversely, Femi and I have been to his motherâ€™s church, the Community Church of God, three times. Besides the religious differences between the two communities I should also note that most people at my Jewish events are white, while the Church of God has a mostly black congregation. Yet weâ€™ve felt completely welcome in both situations. I will say Iâ€™d love to see more Jews of color at the community events I attend so Femi doesnâ€™t feel so tokenized, and I think conversations are beginning to happen to change that. Meanwhile, the Church of God is such a welcoming and friendly place. Everyone I met seemed genuinely happy to meet me, and didnâ€™t ask me any questions about my faith (which is something I worried about). We sang and clapped along to the beautiful church choir, and even though there were portions of the service that didnâ€™t overlap with my specific religious beliefs, their general mantra is to be a good person and love thy neighborâ€”who canâ€™t get on board with that?! Really the most awkward moments were of my own doing when Iâ€™d feel particularly moved by a song or a passage and Iâ€™d say stuff like â€śhell yeah!â€ť or â€śdamn right!â€ť and Femi would have to nudge me and politely remind me that we were in church. Seriously, sometimes I shouldnâ€™t even be let out of the house.
There are plenty of naĂŻve people out there who think weâ€™re in a post-racial society. Not to burst bubbles, but weâ€™re not. Thatâ€™s going to take many years of open dialogue, and many years of separation from past generations of backward thinkers. But itâ€™s nice to know that Femi and I have access to a few communities who appreciate the depth of our relationship, and donâ€™t just stop at the colors of our skin.
One of the first decisions a couple has to make in planning for their wedding ceremony is who will officiate.Â When planning a Jewish wedding incorporating multiple faith backgrounds, you have a number of options as to who can be your officiant. You may choose to have solely Jewish clergy (a rabbi or cantorâ€”for the sake of simplicity, we will just refer to â€śrabbisâ€ť from now on, but note that most cantors can officiate just as a rabbi can); to have Jewish clergy co-officiate with a clergy member of a different faith; or not to have clergy at all.
If you want to have Jewish clergy officiate your wedding ceremony, there are someÂ things you should know. While Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal rabbis are permitted to officiate interfaith wedding ceremonies, not all do so, and some who do have certain conditions that must be met in order for them to officiate. Conservative and Orthodox rabbis, on the other hand, are not permitted to officiate interfaith weddings. This means that you or your partner may have a rabbi you grew up with that you had always dreamed would officiate your wedding ceremony and they may not be allowed to officiate interfaith weddings, may choose not to do so or may not be comfortable officiating the type of wedding you are planning.
The best way to find out if a rabbi is able and willing to officiate your wedding ceremony is to inform them of your plans as early as possible in your planning and to ask if they can and will officiate. It’s important to run the date by them, as most rabbis will not officiate on Shabbat or the evening before a Jewish holiday. If a rabbi you know isnâ€™t able to officiate, or if you donâ€™t have a relationship with a rabbi, then InterfaithFamilyâ€™s Jewish clergy referral service is a resource that can help. Just fill out the officiation request form, and we’ll email you, free of charge, a curated list of rabbis and cantors in your area who are likely to be a good fit for the type of wedding youâ€™re planning. We also refer Jewish clergy that may be willing to travel.
Most rabbis and cantors who officiate interfaith weddings are not willing to co-officiate with clergy of another faith, though the number who will do so is growing. If you’re using InterfaithFamilyâ€™s clergy referral service and you’re looking for a rabbi to co-officiate, please check the appropriate box on the online form.
Good, clear communication is essential when working with two officiants. Many clergy (of any faith) who are willing to co-officiate may have conditions for doing so, and some will want to make case-specific decisions about what they are comfortable doing. Good communication between the officiants, and between you and both officiants, is crucial so that no one feels blindsided or misunderstood. Some rabbis who co-officiate will recommend specific local clergy of other faiths with whom they enjoy working.
You can choose to get married without having a rabbi or cantor, or any other clergy for that matter. Hiring a justice of the peace, judge or non-denominational officiant are all options. You can also arrange to have a friend deputized by the state to act as your officiant. Good communication is key when working with officiants who may be unfamiliar with the family dynamics or other issues sometimes in play in interfaith weddings.
If you decide to go this route, there are many resources you can consult to incorporate Jewish ritual and cultural elements into your ceremony. See the Sample ceremonies and definitions for wedding programsÂ section of IFFâ€™s Jewish Wedding Guide for Interfaith CouplesÂ for some good ideas.
You should feel free to ask any questions of the clergy you contact, including questions about fees. It is important to feel comfortable with someone before you make the commitment to have them join in your special day.
Your first conversation with a prospective officiant is your â€śinterview,â€ť and itâ€™s your main opportunity to discern whether this person is a good fit for you and your partner. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
After your initial conversation, the most important thing is for you and your partner to decide whether or not you feel comfortable, supported and respected.
As for fees, Jewish clergy fees vary greatly (and are often greater than the fees of clergy of other faiths) though generally they fall somewhere between $500 – $1,500, depending on many variables. Fees may include travel costs, or reflect the amount of necessary pre-marital work. They also vary by region. Many rabbis and cantors offer a sliding scale if finances are an obstacleâ€”donâ€™t be afraid to ask for a fee reduction if this is a factor.
Hereâ€™s whatâ€™s going into the fee: Rabbis bring years of seminary training into their work with couples, and often spend considerable time preparing the wedding ceremony according to the specific needs of each couple. In interfaith weddings, rabbis work with each unique couple to craft a sensitive, respectful and meaningful ceremony that strives to balance the aesthetics of Jewish ritual with the need for some cultural translation for family members and guests of other faiths.
When they hire a rabbi, couples are choosing to pay for a professional to create a sacred moment that they will remember forever. Itâ€™s useful to think about the clergy fee alongside the other costs associated with weddings today. The expertise and care couples look for in a wedding cake, a DJ or a photographer all come with fees, and clergy also need to make a living.
Finally, for co-officiated weddings, remember to include clergy fees for both officiants in your budget.
A Jewish wedding has two major sections: erusin (betrothal) and nissuin (marriage). The central part of erusin is the exchange of rings. The central part of nissuin is the seven wedding blessings. Though erusin and nissuin were originally two separate ceremonies, they now take place one immediately after the other, and together they make up the Jewish wedding ceremony. There are many ways to personalize your wedding ceremony and include elements from other religious traditions. As with all aspects of your wedding ceremony, you should discuss with your officiant what you do and donâ€™t want to include in your ceremony.
There are no set Jewish rules regarding the processional, just customs, so the processional offers interfaith couples a great opportunity to weave in traditions from other faiths or include other cultural elements.
In traditional Jewish weddings the entire wedding party processes down the aisle, with the rabbi going first or simply starting the ceremony waiting at the chuppah (wedding canopyâ€”you can read more about the chuppah here). In heterosexual weddings, the processional typically continues with the groomsmen walking single file, followed by the best man, and then the groom with parents on either side of him. Then the bridesmaids walk single file, followed by the maid or matron of honor, and then any other members of the wedding party (flower girls, ring bearer, etc.). Finally, the bride processes with parents on either side. It is traditional for the bride and her parents to stop before arriving at the chuppah and for the groom to walk to the bride, and then walk together with her under the chuppah. Under the chuppah, the bride stands to the groomâ€™s right (which is the reverse of traditional Christian or American weddings).
In same-sex weddings, and in many Jewish heterosexual weddings, couples use various processional configurations.
Music for the processional usually includes pre-processional music, to which the grandparents process, followed by a piece chosen for all the attendants including ring bearer and flower girl. The bride and her parents usually come in to another piece of music. Traditional wedding marches including Wagnerâ€™s “Here Comes the Bride” are not typically used in weddings with Jewish families/guests due to the musician’s association with anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. Like all details of the wedding, be sure to clear music choices with your officiant(s) and family members.
In traditional Jewish heterosexual weddings, at the end of the processional, when the couple has arrived at the chuppah (wedding canopy), the bride walks slowly around the groom, circling him seven times. Circling symbolizes the creation of a new home and the intertwining of the lives of both partners. Traditionally, circling has also been seen as the symbolic transfer of the bride from her father’s house to her husband’s house.
Most liberal rabbis offer couples the choice of whether or not to include circling in their wedding ceremony. Many modern couples adapt this ritual to make it egalitarian, with each partner circling the other. A typical mutual-circling ritual would see one partner circle the other three times in a clockwise manner, followed by the other circling the first one three times in a counter-clockwise manner. They then complete one last circle together. Some modern couples view circling as a symbol of the way they’ll define the home space for the couple, each seeing themselves responsible for protecting and supporting the other.
The circling is usually done while music is playing, before the couple enter under the chuppah together.
After a brief welcome, the ceremony typically begins with a blessing of the first of twoÂ cups of wine (or grape juice). In Judaism, wine is a symbol of joy. In a traditional Jewish wedding, a second blessing is also recited before the couple sips the wine. This blessing is called birkat erusin. To learn about birkat erusin, click here.
After reciting the blessing(s) the rabbi invites the couple to sip from the cup. Traditionally, in a heterosexual wedding, the rabbi gives the cup of wine to the groom, who sips from it, and then the cup is presented to the bride, who sips from it.
In liberal Jewish communities, both partners give each other a wedding ring to symbolize their love and commitment. When exchanging rings, each partner recites a verse expressing their commitment to one another. The exchange of rings completes the first part of the wedding ceremony.
The ring ceremony is a good time for couples to exchange vows with each otherâ€”something that isnâ€™t part of a traditional Jewish ceremony, but which many couples like to include. Additionally, some couples like to write something personal that they can each say to the other when exchanging rings.
Traditionally, there are no â€śI Doâ€™sâ€ť in a Jewish wedding ceremony. However, if you want to have your officiant ask, for example, if you â€śpromise to love, honor and cherishâ€ť your partner, and then respond â€śI Do,â€ť you should ask your officiant if this is something they are comfortable with. To read a blog about one couple who wanted to say â€śI Doâ€ť in their wedding ceremony, click here.
See sample ring ceremonies here.
Most Jewish officiants sing the blessings in the original Hebrew and translate each blessing into English. These blessings are ancient, and a lot of contemporary couples prefer to use modern creative translations. Also, the original wording of the blessings refers only to heterosexual weddings. Creative Jewish liturgists have written modified versions of these blessings, in Hebrew and in English, which honor same-sex weddings.
The first of the seven blessings is the blessing over a second cup of wine, and after all of the blessings are recited the couple is invited to take a sip.
After the seven blessings, some rabbis will recite another set of traditional blessings. These words, known as the â€śpriestly blessings,â€ť ask God to bless and protect, enlighten and give peace to the couple. Some rabbis will ask if the couple want to have a tallit (prayer shawl) draped over their shoulders while this blessing is recited. If this is something you would like to do, you should speak to your officiant about it.
Read more about the seven blessings and sample programs here.
Jewish weddings end with the breaking of a glass. In heterosexual weddings, itâ€™s usually the groom who stomps his foot down on a thin glass (wrapped in a cloth for safety), though some couples (heterosexual or same-sex couples) will do it together or break two glasses. Many couples also want to have a kiss at the conclusion of their ceremony, which can fit nicely right before or after the breaking the glass. Here you can see a fun short video taken from a same-sex wedding in which we see both grooms breaking a glass. And in this blog post, a groom tests out breaking a glass before the big day.
Progressive or traditional, religious or secular, Jewish weddings almost always include a breaking of glass at the end of the ceremony. The glass-breaking is typically followed by a communal “Mazel tov!,” which means “good fortune” in Yiddish and is the equivalent of “Congratulations!” In addition to the communal congratulations, Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov is sometimes sung after the breaking of the glass. Watch this video to learn the words.
There are countless interpretations for the tradition of breaking a glass. Some see it as a reminder of the destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem. Others say it is meant to remind us that marriage is as fragile as glass. It also has been interpreted to demonstrate how life is so fragile that the couple should enjoy every day as if it were their last together.
Read more about breaking the glass here.
At the end of the ceremony, couples typically walk back down the aisle, accompanied by music. The recessional can be deliberately â€śmessy,â€ť with the couple heading off down the aisle and then everyone else simply mixing and mingling with the guests, or it can be structured and more formal.
Couples often take time for yichud (seclusion) after the ceremony. This gives couples an opportunity to have a little time to be alone together in a private space immediately following the ceremony. The rabbi may mention, just before the breaking of the glass, that the couple is going to do this, and may offer any other short practical instructions to guests at this point as well. Taking a little time to be alone together before returning to your celebrating guests can be rewarding and grounding.
Sometimes couples want to include elements of other religious traditions in their Jewish interfaith wedding. There are many options for doing so as well as sensitive issues that may arise. Some couples decide to have separate wedding ceremonies in order to allow both of their traditions to be fully expressed.
For issues specific to Jewish-Christian weddings, click here.
For issues specific to Jewish-Muslim, Jewish-Hindu and Jewish-Buddhist weddings, click here.
Photos by Perfect Circle Photography
As a fourth generation Japanese-American, Iâ€™ve often felt my heritage was slipping away from me. I grew up feeling in between the two: not quite Japanese enough or American enough, not really belonging in either category. There have been phases of my life when Iâ€™ve embraced being just American or just Japanese. It wasnâ€™t until my conversion and our wedding that I came to realize that there is space for both.
When Bryan and I started dating, I became interested in his Jewish heritage. As things started getting serious, I felt that if we were to spend our lives together I had a responsibility to learn about his heritage too. In many ways, in Judaism I found the sense of belonging, spirituality and sense of community I had been searching for my whole life.
As we embarked on the wedding planning process together, we did what we had just learned to do in my Intro to Judaism class: QuestionÂ everything! We had decided to marry in the main sanctuary in our synagogue: Did we really need florals in such a grand space? Did we really want to have the traditional bridal party? How did we want to honor the side of my family who grew up in Hawaii? If we were having a Jewish ceremony, how could we incorporate parts of my Japanese heritage in ways that actually felt relevant and authentic to who we are?
Many, many hours were spent on the internet searching for â€śJapanese and Jewish weddingâ€ť ideas. What I discovered was that there were very few examples out there. The other challenge was that no one in my family had ever had a traditional Japanese wedding, so all of the â€śtraditionalâ€ť elements felt totally foreign to me. When we committed to having a Japanese and Jewish wedding, I donâ€™t think we realized what we were about to take on.
Weâ€™ve been married for over a year now, and I cry tears of gratitude every time I look through our wedding album. Though it was at times a laborious process that required a lot more soul-searching than I had expected, it forced us to define our narrative as a Japanese and Jewish American couple. Unintentionally, it helped us create a solid foundation and made our bond even stronger than I could have ever imagined.
One thing I greatly admire about Bryan is his courage to be vulnerable and share his experience with others, especially if it means it will help them. Itâ€™s something that inspires me every day, since I usually prefer to keep things (especially private and sacred moments like our wedding) within my community. I have spent the last year working up the courage to add our wedding to those search results on the internet. My hope is that other mixed race couples might be inspired to incorporate elements of their heritages into their wedding day in ways that may not necessarily be â€śtraditionalâ€ť, yet feel authentic and true to who they are as a couple.
Recently, an amazing Jewish wedding program infographic was posted in our Facebook group for Jewish interfaith weddings (planning a wedding? Join us!), and we all flipped over how pretty and easy to follow it was. What a perfect way to help guests who arenâ€™t familiar with Jewish weddings to understand whatâ€™s going on. Jewish weddings have many beautiful rituals, and I wanted to connect with the artist behind the program (Lingâ€™s Design Studio) to see where she got the idea and how she helps couples create inclusive wedding ceremonies. Spoiler: Sheâ€™s never been to a Jewish wedding! Whoâ€™s going to invite her so she can see it firsthand?
And for those of you who have a wedding coming up and want to purchase these beautiful programs from Ling? Check out this interfaith-friendly, egalitarian, customizable design we love. Happy planning!
Why is it important for couples to have a wedding programâ€”in particular couples who come from two different faith backgrounds?
Ling:Â Having a wedding program for a couple is more than just about what youâ€™d like to inform your guestsÂ with in regards to the order of your wedding ceremony; itâ€™s all about getting the â€śpersonal touchâ€ť to makeÂ it more fun nowadays. I have not been to a Jewish wedding before, but Iâ€™ve learned so much fromÂ creating the program from my clients. With two people coming from different faith backgrounds, itâ€™sÂ definitely helpful to have it to show your guests who are not Jewish what Jewish wedding customs are all about.
In this particular program, your guests will be learning Jewish wedding customs through the funÂ infographic. Itâ€™s a fun way to break away from the traditional wedding programs we used to have!
How did you start creating programs for weddings?
As I began to accept custom orders, I was asked to design a Jewish infographic design for a buyer. ThisÂ particular Jewish program was how it all started. Since then, the item became very popular in the JewishÂ community.
Are there any other customs or traditions that couples can include in their program aside from whatâ€™sÂ listed in the sample Jewish program?
Absolutely! Every wedding is different. Couple â€śAâ€ť may not have the same customs from their weddingÂ as Couple â€śBâ€ť. I often have buyers ask to add or omit some items from the program. If the coupleÂ provides me the info, Iâ€™d be happy to modify the program. (Please note that there will be additionalÂ charges depending on the complexity of the requests.)
Do you ever have couples ask for a program that describes multiple religions or cultures?
I havenâ€™t had that request yet but I do take any custom orders.
What are some other customizations people have asked for?
Some couples would ask to include â€śHakafot,â€ť â€śKiddush Cupâ€ť and â€śYichud.â€ť One buyer also asked meÂ to list out each blessing of â€śSheva Brachot.â€ť I also made a timeline, and added a thank you note.
What has been most interesting or surprising to you to learn aboutÂ Jewish weddings while creating these programs?
I learned that Jewish weddings are very cultural with many beautiful meanings for a couple.Â Most of the customs are about the couple and their family. It really emphasizes the connection andÂ union between the bride and groom. One of the interesting things is that I never knew that the rightÂ index finger has the closest bloodline to the heart before I created this program. I thought this was very special.
Weâ€™re counting down the daysâ€”less than one month until the wedding! Plenty of friends and family have been askingÂ us if weâ€™re excited (of course) and if weâ€™re ready (which is a tougher question). In the practical sense, yes, we are ready. The caterer has our menu, the DJ has our song list and weâ€™re finished with all of our DIY projects. In a broader sense, Iâ€™ve been thinking a lot about the question: How do you know youâ€™re ready to make such a monumental commitment to another person?
Since weâ€™ve completed most of the wedding planning, weâ€™ve been able to spend the past few weeks making sure we stay connected and grounded. Last Saturday, we biked to Yards Park in the Navy Yard area of DC, which is where Zach proposed over a year ago! We rodeÂ past one of our favorite breweries and sat in the park with our feet in the wading pool for a while, watching the kids run around and play. I thought about this lazy summer day that we were taking advantage ofâ€”that we were making the time to have fun and do something that wasnâ€™t wedding-related, grocery shopping or watching TV together. I promised myself when we got engaged that we would make time for these things, and I havenâ€™t been as good about that as I would have liked, but that day, we were.
We ran into our maid of honor and her family visiting from out of town, got ice cream with them and biked home in time to host some friends for a low-key game night. Thatâ€™s one of the many things I love about Zachâ€”that he gets me out of my head, and he challenges me to enjoy things like warm summer days and riverside parks without thinking about what I should be doing instead. Yards Park was a perfect reminder of that strength of his, at an exciting and busy time in our lives.
Iâ€™ve also been catching up with old friends, like my former roommate. We lived together for two years right after college and have kept in touch since both of us moved on. Last week, we met up for dinner at our favorite place in the old neighborhood. As we laughed and commiserated over wedding planning (and assured each other that the headaches would be worth it), I couldnâ€™t help but think: Am I ready to get married? To leave my single life behind?
Those years of supporting each other through good and tough times over wine, lazy weekends and taco nights seem so rosy, and Iâ€™m a little sad to leave them behind. But then, I go home to my amazing fiancĂ©, who has already unloaded the dishwasher, or left me Reeseâ€™s in the fridge, or asks me how my day was, and I know Iâ€™m ready to marry Zach. I’m ready to promise to be there for him in all of those ways and more. Itâ€™s still important, for me, to reflect on where this journey has taken me, and the other relationships I formed on the way. Iâ€™m a firm believer in the value of friendships outside of a relationship, even outside of your marriage, and the end of my â€śsingle lifeâ€ť in no way means the end of those friendships. But it does mark the beginning of a binding partnershipâ€”a promise to work through tough times and celebrate the good ones in new ways.
This past weekend, we went home to Pennsylvania to work on our seating chart. Putting it together was beautiful because, at each table, we see different groups of people from different times in our life, who have made us into the people we are today. We have friends from childhood, friends from high school and college, family friends who weâ€™ve known since birth, current friends, work friendsâ€”theyâ€™ll all be there, with our loving families, to watch us commit to the rest of our lives together. We canâ€™t wait for everyone to meet and mingle, and to represent for us on this momentous day who we have been and our hopes for who we are to become.
When I read about the Jewish tradition of the ketubah, I realized it was the perfect way to create a visual representation of this commitment weâ€™re making to each other. Rather than a contract or agreement, itâ€™s a perfect reminder of the promise weâ€™re makingâ€”to constantly strive to live up to the ideal of love for each other. You can read the text we selected here. Different articles (likeÂ this one from InterfaithFamily and this one from America Magazine) and conversations with family and friends have forced me to acknowledge the uncertainty associated with marriageâ€”the idea that peopleâ€™s values, personalities and desires can shift over time, and marriage is a promise to work through those. Like many people, I personally struggle with uncertainty, but in thinking about these issues, I know that Zach is the person I want to take that leap of faith with. I canâ€™t wait to see where we end up on this journey.
How is this version of your wedding book more inclusive of all who identify as Jewish or are marrying into a Jewish family?
AD: This edition of the book reflects the fact that the chuppah, the wedding canopy, has never been bigger or more inclusive. The Jewish Wedding Now addresses the advent of marriage equality, and the language throughout embraces people of all gender identities. I also discuss the diversity of people who are not Jewish but choose marry under a chuppah. Just as there is no generic Jewish wedding, there is no such thing as THE â€śinterfaith wedding.â€ť Itâ€™s all about making choices that are meaningful and authentic for the couple under the canopy.
How can the book be helpful for someone who is not Jewish or is not sure they want Jewish rituals at their wedding?
The book is intended to help people of any background decide which, if any, Jewish rituals, can help them create the wedding they want. I hope the tone and language of the book is clear, jargon-free and inclusive, so that the Jewish rituals described are doorways, never barriers. I hope that couples are surprised and delighted to learn about the varieties of joy that are woven through the customs and rituals of Jewish weddings.
What is your greatest hope for what a couple from different religious backgrounds would take away from this book?
I hope couples feel empowered by learning about Judaismâ€™s wealth of customs, rituals, wisdom and insights, and I hope they feel encouraged to make use of what speaks to them. There are countless ways that Jewish tradition can enrich a wedding ceremony and I hope couples see Judaism as a source of joy and spiritual expression.
This post was written by my fiancĂ© Zach Drescher, who is Jewish and whose work often intersects with issues important to the American Jewish community.
When you live in Washington, vacations can be a good opportunity to get away from the news cycle and conversations dominated by politics. While our trips home to plan the wedding could only be loosely termed as â€śvacations,â€ť it has been nice to focus on something happier than whatâ€™s going on in our adopted home city.
That was impossible this weekend. Try as we might to avoid the paper and cable news, it was impossible to ignore what was happening in Charlottesville. The imagery and vitriol stemming from the white nationalist march saturated social media, and it was hard to think about anything else in between our appointments and errands. Reading the word â€śnaziâ€ť showing up so many times on what was supposed to be a quiet and enjoyable weekend was startling enough, especially for me (Zach), whose family history is in many ways shaped by the Holocaust.
The contrast between the wedding planning and the horror story playing out in our Facebook feeds was especially jarring to witness as an interfaith couple. While not as outwardly obvious as the color of oneâ€™s skin, there are certainly stigmas attached to marrying outside of your religion. As friends and newsmakers quickly spread the faces of angry, tiki-torch-wielding crowds, it was easy to picture them yelling directly at us, vowing to take back their religion from those who are in interfaith marriages. Those who oppose interfaith marriage often espouse a similar combination of fear and traditionalism to what came across in the message of white nationalist marchers. With everything weâ€™ve seen happen in the last year, and given the fact that weâ€™ve even discussed moving to Charlottesville in the future, it was easy to imagine a torchlit mob showing up at our doorstep one day.
Itâ€™s worth reiterating that we have felt extremely accepted as an interfaith couple. Weâ€™re blessed to have friends and family that are nothing but happy for us, and are excited for us to embark on a journey of religious discovery together. And living in a liberal bubble helpsâ€”itâ€™s hard to imagine our neighbors in Washington getting too worked up over our dual-faith identity. But the events of this weekend were an unsettling reminder of the ignorance and anger that is out there.
The more conversations we have as the big day approaches, and the more we delve into the communities other interfaith families have already built, the more encouraged we are that tired stereotypes are being washed away by tolerance. We hope that the events of this weekend are but a speed bump on our societyâ€™s path toward acceptance and open-mindedness.
And we pray for those hurt or killed in Charlottesville, and for those all over the world who are afraid to be themselves in their daily lives. Let us strive for a day when we do not fear our differences, but celebrate them instead.
I recently joined a Facebook group that InterfaithFamily started to connect couples planning interfaith weddings (join here!). As Iâ€™ve mentioned in a few of my posts, Zach and I have our wedding pretty well planned already, and weâ€™ve been working with great officiants to create a beautiful, meaningful and inclusive ceremony. I joined the group because Iâ€™ve 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.
Iâ€™ve mentioned a book called Being Both by Susan Katz Miller that solidified our decision to marry. The book isnâ€™t about weddings; rather, itâ€™s 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 â€śbeing bothâ€ť 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 Millerâ€™s 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.
Iâ€™m 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. Iâ€™ve 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 canâ€™t 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 familyâ€™s 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. Thatâ€™s been the biggest realization for me in this process–weâ€™re 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 â€śFreeâ€ť 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. Iâ€™m not saying itâ€™s the right decision for all couples, but I feel itâ€™s the right decision for us–itâ€™s the first step toward the new family that weâ€™re starting. Iâ€™m thankful to have this community to support us and show us the ways they have chosen to create new families and traditions.