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.
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.)
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).
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.
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?