Going to the Chapel?

If you have a good memory, you might remember me saying in my first inspiration post that my family expects a church wedding. In this case, my family = my mom. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue—we are practicing Catholics. But when you combine that expectation with the fact that Mr. Milk Cow is Jewish”¦it makes for some pretty interesting wedding plans.

Jewish wedding vs. Catholic Wedding. Left photo is from Wikipedia, right photo is from Allori Photography.

 Jewish wedding vs. Catholic wedding / Left photo is from Wikipedia, taken by user Bachrach44 / Right photo is from Allori Photography

To avoid this dilemma, Mr. Milk Cow and I initially decided to have a non-religious ceremony. When I told my parents our plan, my mom was really disappointed and asked me to consider at least having a priest come say a blessing. I said I would be open to talking to a priest about it, so my mom offered to call our church and get more information.

The next morning, my mom talked to the church secretary, and she learned that the church actually has special processes in place for interfaith couples, including Jewish-Catholic. I had never heard of anything like this before, so I spent a few hours with my good friend Google to see what I could learn. (If you’re not interested in Catholic-Jewish marriages, you can just skip to the bottom at this point, because this is a little detailed and long.)

Another option is to have a deacon and a rabbi co-officiate. Photo by Photography by Janine via A Practical Wedding.

An interfaith Catholic-Jewish wedding, presided by a deacon and a rabbi / Photo by Photography by Janine via A Practical Wedding

A Catholic wedding is only considered to be a valid marriage and a sacrament if it takes place in the church (either on its own or within the celebration of mass) and is conducted by a priest or a deacon. Unfortunately, this meant that interfaith couples in the past would either sacrifice one of their faiths and get married in the church, or choose to have their own non-Catholic ceremony and not have their marriage acknowledged as valid by the Catholic church. Luckily for the Milk Cows, the church has made some changes for different interfaith marriages.

Interfaith couples need to do a few things to have their marriage considered valid by the church. The couple needs to find a priest or a deacon willing to work with them on this. He will help with marriage prep, co-officiate or say a blessing at the ceremony, and make sure all the paperwork required by the church is in order. The couple will need the priest to help them get a “Dispensation from Form,” which is granted by the bishop in that area. This gives the couple permission to hold their wedding ceremony at a neutral location and still have it acknowledged as a valid marriage. Then, the couple will need to find a Jewish officiant to lead the ceremony since priests and deacons cannot perform weddings outside of the Catholic church (but they can say a blessing or be a co-officiant).

The forms change depending on your diocese, but this is a good example. Image from DocStoc.

This is the Dispensation from Form paperwork. It may vary slightly depending on your diocese, but this is a good example. / Image from DocStoc

The Jewish standards are a little looser, as long as you are a Reform or Reconstructionist Jew (like Mr. Milk Cow is). Jewish weddings are not supposed to take place during the Sabbath, which rules out the normal Friday and Saturday night weddings (unless you wait until the sun goes down on Saturday). A rabbi or a cantor can officiate, and you can be married pretty much wherever you want—outdoor weddings are accepted and popular, which is very different from Catholicism! The cantor in Reform Judaism helps lead worship, teaches in the Jewish community, officiates at life-cycle events, and more. From what I’ve seen and experienced, cantors tend to be a little more flexible and willing to participate in a less-traditional wedding ceremony than rabbis, although this is not always the case.

An interfaith ceremony presided by a Rabbi and Catholic Priest, picture from Cayton Photography.

 A rabbi and a Catholic priest co-officiating an interfaith ceremony / Picture from Cayton Photography

Once you get through all the background and logistics, you’re left with the ceremony itself. A lot of the components in the ceremony are up to you and your officiants to decide—some may request certain elements be included, while others may leave it up to you. In our experience so far, neither faith puts any restrictions on your ceremony content. As Mr. Milk Cow and I go through the process, we’re learning more about both sides and how to make them work together, so I’ll have more details to share as we go along.

Did anyone else not know about interfaith weddings? Anyone who is in an interfaith wedding have advice to share?


Mrs. Milk Cow

August 10
Columbia, MD
Wedding Date:
July 2014
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  1. wellies Bee
    wellies 1425 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:28 am

    I’m so excited to read about your interfaith wedding! 🙂 Mr. W is converting and we are having a (Conservative) Jewish ceremony.

  2. Member
    misstiptoes 68 posts, Worker bee @ 12:02 pm

    Here in the uk all marriages outside are not valid. And our family priest (catholic) flat out refused to come and say a blessing. We’ve got round both things by asking a friend to conduct the ceremony outside but we will have to get married ‘officially’ the day before. We are incorporating vows and prayers and also a ketubah and chuppah – mostly symbolical things for us both really. Happy with our compromise but kinda wish we could have had it officiated like you’re doing!
    Good luck x

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    Kammber, Guest @ 1:45 pm

    Rabbi Claire Green – best rabbi for couples in love (she’s based in Philly)

  4. milkcow Bee
    Mrs. Milk Cow 216 posts, Helper bee @ 5:46 am

    @Misstiptoes: I’m so sorry you’re not able to have what you wanted, but it seems like you found a good compromise. And now I’m feeling lucky that our process was so much easier than yours! Good luck!

  5. pyramid Bee
    Mrs. Pyramid 104 posts, Blushing bee @ 6:13 am

    I’m glad that you guys are getting it to work for you. It’s all really confusing when you try to find answers online, since every church seems to allow slightly different things.

  6. Member
    mrswhitemtn 365 posts, Helper bee @ 1:28 pm

    We really wanted an interfaith wedding in a church. I’m not Catholic, just Protestant (and DH is half-Jewish). My family goes to a non-denominational church that meets in a local high school, so we didn’t have a church building. I spent a lot of time shopping around for churches to find one that would let us do an interfaith ceremony. (My favorite response from one church secretary was, “An interfaith ceremony? You mean a Protestant marrying a Catholic?” – we did Not go with that church.

    In the end, we did find a very nice Congregational church that had enough space for a chuppah. The church’s wedding coordinator actually loved it so much, she took some photos for the church for future brides!

    The hardest part for us was finding a rabbi/cantor to co-officiate the ceremony (we had a Pastor in mind who was the Chaplain at DH’s high school when he was there). Rabbi’s often won’t officiate or co-officiate interfaith ceremonies, but we found a fantastic Cantor who had done a lot of interfaith ceremonies in the past and he had a few copies so we could choose the style ceremony we wanted. (We wanted something close to the Book of Common Prayer, with a few added elements thrown in).

    We met with both the Pastor and the Cantor beforehand, both individually and as a big group so we could talk through what we wanted for the ceremony (in addition to the traditional christian and jewish elements, we also included a brief tea ceremony). I’d be happy to share photos from our wedding and a copy of our ceremony if you’re interested! (Not sure where you’re getting married, but I’d be happy to share our Cantor’s info too! He was FABULOUS).

  7. milkcow Bee
    Mrs. Milk Cow 216 posts, Helper bee @ 3:53 pm

    Ahh I would not have loved that response either! I’m so happy you found officiants that would work with you! I’m about to send you a PM – I’d love any info you want to share.

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