Words of wedding wisdom: INTER-FAITH WEDDINGS and how to handle them

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

Inter-faith weddings

People’s experiences with inter-faith weddings range from the utterly awful to the delightful. Much depends on how tolerant and mature the two families are, and how seriously they observe their own religious values and traditions.

The prospect of an inter-faith wedding can be very daunting, but remember there are ways of handling it that can result in a wedding that is meaningful for you and that pleases both religious factions involved.

Give it time

Many people say that time is a great healer and this is certainly the case here. Should the announcement of your engagement cause a stir with one or both families for religious reasons, remember that as time progresses everyone will get used to the idea. For that reason, amongst others, it’s sensible to have quite a long engagement.

Spend as much time as you can with each family and learn all you can about the other religion. Be honest with them about your concerns and encourage them to be honest with you. Some families will see your choosing to marry out of the faith as a rejection of the values they hold dear, and will be deeply hurt. Over time you can compensate for this by showing that you are not turning your back on your own religion and that the values it – and your family – have taught you will never be forgotten.

This period will also allow for what may amount to more complex religious build-up to the wedding than would be the case otherwise. One partner may decide to convert to the other’s religion, which can take quite a long time. And whatever religious option you choose, it will take time to find the right solution, the right officiants, and the right venues.

What if the family refuses to accept it?

If after a reasonable length of time and effort on your part to communicate with and listen to your family’s concerns and they still won’t accept your decision to marry out of their faith, you may just have to go ahead and do it without them. It will be very painful for you and probably very painful for them, but in the end it is your life and provided you are convinced you’re making the right decision, that should take priority.

As time goes on and your family can see for themselves that you’re happy and settled, they may well relent; after all your happiness matters greatly to them, no matter what their religious convictions. Also, you may find that barriers come down when there is a grandchild in the offing.

What is important is that you don’t cut yourself off from your family. Keep the door open. If they have taken a firm stand against your marriage they probably will find it quite hard to eat humble pie and contact you again, so make it as easy as possible for them. Even if you feel angry with them – as well you might, to begin with at least – remember that they are still your family and that there’s a good chance of reconciliation some day in the future.

The options:

  • Couples from two different religious backgrounds basically have a choice of five options:
  • One partner converts to the other’s religion
  • You have two ceremonies (or blessings following a civil marriage,) one within each religion
  • You have a ceremony that combines the two religions
  • You create a non-denominational ceremony
  • You marry in a Registry Office/civil ceremony and do not have a religious wedding at all

Conversion

Obviously the choice of whether to do it and if so who does what, is entirely a matter for discussion and agreement between you two and your families. You must also seek the advice of your own religious leaders before you make the final decision. Whatever you do, though, make sure you keep your families informed of what you’re doing, and be as understanding and caring as possible. Misunderstandings of this kind cause a great deal of hurt.

Two ceremonies

Provided that both religions will allow this, it strikes me as a very good solution to the dilemma. You will need to check out the legal implications here. If one of the two ceremonies includes the Registry bit that’s required in the UK that’s fine; alternatively you can have a civil wedding first with blessing ceremonies within each religion afterwards, or arrange to have a Registrar present at one of the two ceremonies.

Combination ceremony

This is another good idea provided you can make it work! Within different sectors of the same religion, e.g. Roman Catholicism and Anglican Christians, Liberal and Orthodox Judaism, etc., it shouldn’t be too difficult to organise a ceremony that is acceptable to all parties; see Nick Terry’s contribution below.

Where things might get a bit more complex is when there is a greater difference between the two religions. This need not be a problem, however. As usual, it’s a matter of communication! Talk to your religious leaders about your desire to blend the two religions into one ceremony. It could well be that they take a more flexible view of this than you would have imagined.

A non-denominational ceremony

There are officiants – some ordained ministers – who will put together a non-denominational ceremony for your wedding. This will assume only that you both believe in a “higher Being,” without going into the specifics of a particular religious viewpoint.

You will have to check carefully what the current legislation is regarding such weddings and if necessary, have a Registry Office marriage in addition. To find these people key “interfaith ministers” into Google or other search engine.

For more information on inter-faith weddings, key “interfaith weddings” into Google or other search engine.

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.

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