Planning an interfaith ceremony can be tricky. You’ll likely face three major challenges: finding an officiant; combining two sets of traditions without upsetting your families too much; and creating a ceremony that reflects your commitment and your common values. If you have two different religions, these issues can take on the complexity of an international summit. How can you prevent a religious roadblock?
Have a Long Engagement. Take an entire year (or longer) to identify and work on reconciling issues likely to arise during your marriage. The issue of religion — its role in your wedding, marriage, and future family — should be examined very closely. Discuss the religious practices you would like to continue observing, especially when you have children. Nothing need be set in stone, but it’s important to be open about your expectations for the future.
Gather Information. Take courses in each other’s religions. Even if you don’t intend to practice either religion at home, the study will give you a greater understanding of each other’s beliefs and assumptions.
Go For Counseling. Consult clergy from each of your religions, preferably someone with training in family counseling, to help you two discuss the issues you face. You could also contact a family planning organization or therapist for objective pre-wedding counseling.
Be Patient With Parents. If the folks are having a hard time dealing with the religious differences, try to understand that they are mourning for their own unfulfilled expectations. Give them time to adjust to the idea, and try not to get defensive.
Visit Eachother’s Family. Visit early, visit often. Interfaith marriage necessitates a partial “moving in” to another faith or culture. Spending time with each other’s parents can be a good introductory course in what to expect.
Find the Right Officiant. Choose an officiant (or two) who makes both of you feel comfortable and who believes in your union. Ask around — chances are that other interfaith couples in your area have already searched for (and found) local officiants willing to perform interfaith marriages.
Include Both Faiths and Both Families. Early in the process, listen to both families’ views and expectations for your wedding day. You and your sweetie should then decide how to proceed — and lovingly (or at least nicely) discuss your choices with your families. Be open and honest with everyone from the start, so they know what you’re planning and why. Many couples create a wedding program that includes explanations and transliterations of specific religious customs, so family and friends can understand and participate in unfamiliar traditions.
Personalize Your Ceremony. Take great care in planning the ceremony. Some interfaith couples choose to follow tradition closely, while others stray from convention. Your officiant(s) can help you design a ceremony that works for you. Work together to select readings and rituals that are significant to both of you. This tough-but-worthwhile process will do much more than solidify wedding-day plans — you’ll get a head start learning to compromise, the golden rule of marriage.