Finding your theme for the ceremony lends a sense of cohesion and aesthetic focus to the proceedings. Allowing your own values, background, talents and passions to be the core around which the theme develops is the best way to create a satisfying ceremony.
Many of the couples I work with come from different faith backgrounds or have left religious traditions behind, but still want to incorporate some ideas that honor their history or ethnicity. Below are a few of the many ideas I've woven into ceremonies. Call me to discuss your particular situation and we'll find an elegant solution for your wedding!
Interfaith Ceremony Ideas
The Jewish/Christian Wedding
A ceremony incorporating both Christian and Jewish wedding traditions can be not only beautiful, but can lay the groundwork for the respectful blending of two belief systems for the duration of the marriage.
Arising from the same cultural and historical matrix, Judaism and Christianity rituals have many elements in common. For a wedding ceremony, both include a welcoming of the guests, the exchange of vows and rings, a blessing of you as a couple, the pronouncement of your marriage, and a closing benediction. Some of the unique elements of a Jewish ceremony include the presence of a chuppah (the wedding canopy), prayers in Hebrew, the sharing and blessing of wine, the seven wedding blessings, the breaking of the glass, special dances following the nuptials. A Christian ceremony includes Old and New Testament readings, the lighting of a unity candle, the reading of the Lord's Prayer, and a declaration of intent.
For some couples, it may be necessary to have two, separate ceremonies in order to honor the integrity of the ritual as a whole, or to obtain the services of a rabbi or priest, who are sometimes bound by their religious orders to perform weddings only inside a temple or church of their own tradition. However, there are many liberal ministers and rabbis who are happy to officiate or co-officiate a ceremony that blends elements from both religions.
A wise rabbi once noted that in all streams of Jewish tradition there are two parts to any ritual, the "keva" and the "kavanna." The keva is the structure of the ritual, its actual components and words, and the kavanna is the intention and focus that makes it sacred. Thus, even if the “keva” is altered, it is possible to bring the “kevanna” that makes the ceremony a sacred one in the hearts and minds of those participating.
I hope you will find inspiration in the following readings and ideas for your own interfaith wedding! .Here is a ceremony for a couple in which one of Jewish and the other Catholic.
Pre-Ceremony: If a Ketubah (the Jewish wedding covenant) has been made, it is traditionally signed by the couple before the wedding, but may be included during the ceremony itself.
Processional: Joyful music alerts the guests that the wedding is about to begin. Under a wedding canopy, the minister awaits the arrival of the bride and groom, who appear, each walking between their parents down a different aisle. They arrive at the front of the room and are embraced by their parents, who are then seated. Then, traditionally, the bride circles the groom seven times. Alternatively, each circles the other three times and the final circle is made by the couple together. The music stops, the couple comes under the canopy and move forward to stand with the minister.
Opening Reading: From Songs of Songs
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;
for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,
the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
Set this as a seal upon your hearts,
for love is stronger than death,
Set these words as a seal upon your hearts:
Welcome: Today I invite you to share the joy of these two people, who have found joy in each other. You, their family and friends, are all especially welcome here because you form a circle of love. They are as they are, in part, because they have known all of you. The loved ones in this circle have shared concerns, shared both agreement and disagreement, have shared tears and laughter. Through that sharing, _____ and _____ have become more as persons. You are all a part of their past, and by your presence here, they feel your promise to care for and uphold them as they move into the future. You are not just spectators today. Not merely witnesses, but truly participants in the ceremony of love. I ask you to be here now, fully present, with open hearts and minds. Ready to bless and be blessed by the love which has called us together this day.
* * * *
What is a Humanist Wedding?
All weddings are humanistic in the deepest sense ~ that is they are reflections of two human beings who are striving to live into a great covenant based on mutual love and respect. A Humanist wedding, in contrast to a religious wedding, is based on this purely human sense of integrity and does not call upon a supreme being to condone the "blessedness" of the marriage. For many people, especially that growing population who consider themselves "spiritual but not religious," this is an important distinction!
If you are one of those contemporary couples who want to define your relationship outside of the old traditions of God-ordained unions, then seeking a humanist or humanistic basis for your ceremony is a wise step. This does not mean that your ceremony will be lacking in a sense of reverence, elegance or wonder. It means that what is being "worshipped" - that is what is being given worth (the actual definition of that word) - is the Love that has brought two people together in a profound sense of joy and mutual aspiration.
* * * *
How is a Gay Wedding different?
It isn't! A wedding is a wedding is a wedding, just as love is love! Love knows no boundaries of race, class, age or gender and it is a joy to be a wedding officiant at such a momentous time in our nation's evolution. There were many years when I did not think I would live to see that happy day when there would be no form of love "which dare not speak its name". Encouraged by the Unitarian church, I was officiating same-sex unions way back in the early 1990's and creating keepsake scrolls for my couples, in the hope that they might someday be used to validate their marriage. It was thrilling to be able to finally pronounce the marriage bans "by the power vested in me by church and by state."
The ritual of a Wedding fulfills both the deeply private need to feel more closely bonded with the beloved, and also satisfies the desire to share your joy with friends and family - to declare your love in a public forum and receive the embrace and support of your community. Becoming fully participatory and conscious of the inner meanings of the specific rituals you choose to use or discard at this important event can set the tone for years to come. Creating new forms for the universal desire to share one's life with another expands the minds and hearts of all who witness it, and ultimately overturns old prejudices and makes more room for the many faces of Love.
All the wedding examples on this site can be used for Gay Weddings, but if you are looking for some readings that may hold special significance for gay couples, please get in touch and I'll share some of my favorites.
* * * *
It's washing over the American consciousness like the light of a rosy-fingered dawn - only by treating Mother Nature kindly will we see many more tomorrows! Being true to your political and spiritual allegiance should not be neglected when designing your own wedding. In fact, it's the perfect place to make your statement. Here at the start of your new life together you can lay the foundations for making "green" the keynote of your new lifestyle.
There are many books and articles around that speak about ways to keep your wedding green - from recycled paper for invitations, to seed packets as party favors , to upcycled wedding dresses and sustainably-mined diamonds - and I have a blog post devoted to that topic - so ask me about some of my favorite readings for a Green ceremony.
As a part of the opening of closing of the ceremony, you may wish to include the ancient Greek tradition of offering a LIBATION to the earth in the form of a pitcher of water poured on to the ground, or a beaker of wine poured into the sand or waves. A flower from the bride's bouquet could be tossed into a fountain or the ocean with a thank you to the earth.