Blending Holiday Decorations and a New Life Together

Alexandra & Paul at a family holiday party shortly after they got engaged
Alexandra & Paul at a family holiday party shortly after they got engaged

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 10 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 there 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 the InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia website. I began reading blogs by 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.

2 thoughts on “Blending Holiday Decorations and a New Life Together”

  • Arnold, I must respectfully disagree. Having talked to many folks of different life stages (parents, kids, adult children) who have made a range of choices, my take-away is that ANY style of religious upbringing can work and work well, so long as the couple is communicative and committed. Two religions equally, one religion dominant and one less dominant, exposure to both/all with an age deadline to choose, exposure to both/all with no expectation of choosing, no religion, blending religions, conversion, and non-spiritual religious education are just a few of the options. Simply put, families come in too many variations to rule out any one option as “doesn’t work.”

    Yes, IFF is a Jewish organization supporting interfaith families engaged in Judaism. Yes, many blog readers will be wondering how interfaith couples will be raising any future children. I am less interested in reading along holding my breath waiting for “the big reveal”– will they raise the kids Jewish?– and more interested in how Alexandra and Paul navigate the questions that go into pursuing an interfaith relationship and making it work for them.

    For instance, how have the challenging aspects of an interfaith relationship changed over time? What has made things better (or worse)? What religious and cultural aspects are important to hold onto and why? How do you navigate independence and creating a shared life together?

  • The real issue is what to do with the children should you decide to have a family. Raising children in both faiths doesn’t work. Think carefully about this issue and discuss it openly and honestly. Mazal-tov to the two of you.

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