Officiating an interfaith wedding requires a particular mindset, one that encompasses respect for multiple faiths, attention to important traditions and a true belief in the ability of a couple to move forward together despite what may have been vastly different upbringings. For years I have officiated Jewish interfaith ceremonies. I do so because I believe that faith, regardless of religion, unites people.
Meet My Couple – Dave and Tori
Dave and Tori are two fabulous individuals. Together they make one super-fabulous couple! Dynamic and fun loving, this couple actually met because a photo of Dave’s dog Karl, on a dating site, caught Tori’s attention. Talk about giving new meaning to the term “man’s best friend”! When Dave and Tori contacted me to discuss their upcoming wedding, I had no idea how uniquely special it would be. First, Dave was raised in a Jewish home, Tori in a non-denominational Christian family. Nothing new there. I have performed many interfaith weddings, some by myself and others in conjunction with another member of the clergy, for couples with similar religious backgrounds as Dave and Tori. This is where the expected ended…..
You see, Dave and Tori were confident they wanted two officiants, me and Vicki. But there was a catch: Vicki was Tori’s mother! She recently graduated from a minister ordination program; this was going to be her first wedding. I have to admit, it caught me a little off guard. The Mother of the Bride marrying the couple? The mother of the bride who traditionally has so much emotionally invested in a wedding? I was a bit concerned at first. I kept thinking, “Will this work?”
Planning the Ceremony – This Will Work!
After speaking with Vicki, I KNEW this partnership would not only work; but it would result in a magical experience. After all, this woman made a life choice based on her faith and desire affect others (a decision with which I can easily identify). Her commitment to her beliefs and her desire to share it through actively participating in her daughter’s wedding was inspiring. What a beautiful gift she was going to be able to give them.
Dave and Tori (and Vicki and I) discussed their ceremony. We learned what was important to them, both traditionally and spiritually. Understanding the meaning and symbolism behind Jewish wedding traditions is important. This is a conversation I have regularly with brides and grooms; melding different religions to create a meaningful ceremony is at the heart of what I do. However, this time the mother of the bride was the minister. Her perspective was not only religious, but also personal. As it turns out, her input and participation made for one of the most heartwarming ceremonies in which I have participated.
Dave and Tori, along with their family and friends, gathered in Long Boat Key for a beautiful outdoor ceremony. At the start, Vicki welcomed everyone, which was so appropriate; they were her family and friends too. Because of Dave and Tori’s love and mutual respect for each other’s background,s and as a result of Vicki’s and my mutual respect for each other’s beliefs, a truly special ceremony evolved. The couple married under a Chupa, the traditional Jewish wedding canopy, I wrapped them in Dave’s tallit and recited the seven blessings. Vicki led the couple in reciting their vows and read a verse from the New Testament (Corinthians). We each individually shared our thoughts about David and Tori. Dave broke the glass and I pronounced them husband and wife. What a special day.
What I Learned
Early in my career I made it a point to take time after each experience, each ceremony, each meeting, each lesson, to stop and think. What went right? What can I improve for next time? And, perhaps most importantly, what did I learn? Honestly, I learn something every single time.
Ultimately, Dave and Tori’s wedding was no exception. I learned the value of taking a moment to make sure I am actively listening. In this case I did. I may have had initial concerns regarding sharing the officiating duties with the mother of the bride; but I did not make a rash decision. I took a moment, waited and listened. I approached it with a positive end in mind. In this situation, it served me well. Honestly, in most situations it does. My choices are inherently better when I don’t rush to a decision. Perhaps that’s advice we can all heed. Especially in this day and age. Stop, ask questions and listen. Approach solutions with a goal for positive outcomes! I’m so glad I did.
Officiating with Vicki was eye opening. It was a truly moving experience. One which I will always remember. Thank you Dave and Tori, for inviting me to share this special day with you. And thank you Vicki, for your acceptance of me, your open and mind and your willingness to share your family and this very special day.
Cantor Debbi Ballard is a spiritual leader leader in South Florida , well-known for her commitment and dedicated to the unaffiliated Jewish community. She officiates at all life cycle events and looks forward to welcoming new families. Learn more about Cantor Debbi at www.mypersonalcantor.com.