When it comes to deeply held beliefs, nothing is more personal—or more polarizing—than religion. A person’s faith is shaped by a number of influences from their family to their life experiences. Once they decide on a religious conviction, it’s almost impossible to shake that faith…at least until they fall in love with someone who doesn’t share their beliefs.
What happens when two people of different faiths fall in love? The typical story—romance, laughter, ups, downs, and finally an engagement. However, then the story takes a sharp right…into the scary world of interfaith weddings. Planning an interfaith ceremony is no walk in the park, but you can make it easier if you are very careful. We’ve got a few tips to help you out!
1. Start by Planning Your Marriage
First things first: before you even begin planning a wedding, it’s important that you and your partner have a clear picture of what the future will look like. After all, a wedding is just one big party—but when it’s over, you two will have a whole lifetime together. If you want your marriage to be successful, you must have a plan for blending your two faiths into one daily routine.
If your religions celebrate different holidays, which ones will you celebrate at home? Will you attend worship services together or separately? If you have children, in which faith will you raise them? Talk with your partner extensively about these issues, and make sure you understand and respect each other’s beliefs.
2. Learn About Your Partner’s Faith
If you’re not Catholic, placing flowers before an image of Mary may seem like a strange wedding tradition. If you’re not Jewish, you probably don’t understand why grooms step on glasses at weddings. However, these traditions are part of your partner’s belief system, which is rich in history and sacred meaning. If you want to take part in these traditions, it’s your job to learn about them.
During your engagement (or during your relationship, if you want a head start), do your best to learn as much as possible about your partner’s faith. Ask them questions about their traditions. Read books on their religion. Attend a service to experience the faith firsthand. Taking this step will help you gain a more thorough understanding of how your partner views the world, and it may imbue those “weird” wedding traditions with new meaning. Plus, your partner will appreciate the effort!
3. Involve the Family
One of the hardest parts of planning an interfaith wedding is including your family in the process. Even the most laissez-faire can get a little crazy when a wedding rolls around, but two families with conflicting religious roots are bound to butt heads! It may seem like the easiest course of action is to exclude anyone who might stir the pot, and yet I encourage you to do the opposite.
Including your family in the wedding planning is the best way to ensure everyone’s voice is heard and everyone feels involved. Does your mother insist on offering communion during the marriage ceremony? Does your future father-in-law want an image of Buddha at the altar? Finding out which traditions are most important to your family members will help you and your partner find suitable compromises that will make everyone feel satisfied.
4. Personalize as Much as Possible
When you look at the above section, notice that I said you could hear everyone out—not bend over to all their wishes. At the end of the day, your wedding is about two people: you and the love of your life. While it is a great idea to hear everyone’s opinions, the ultimate decision will come down to what you and your partner want.
Which elements of your faith hold the most significance for you? Which elements are most meaningful to your partner? Whether you want to light a unity candle, perform a handfasting ceremony, or end your wedding by singing the Anand Sahib, make sure you include those traditions and expressions of faith that are most important to you both.
5. Be Very, Very Patient
This might be the most important piece of advice you can get while planning an interfaith wedding. Patience will be an essential aspect of dealing with…well, just about everyone: the priest who thinks you’re “unequally yoked,” the grandmothers and aunts who click their tongues and side-eye you at the bridal shower. Even your partner may get on your nerves as you debate which traditions will make it to the big day!
Remember, your wedding is all about your love and commitment to this person. If you want to spend your life with them, you’ll have to learn to navigate the various challenges of having different religious beliefs. Take a deep breath, try to understand other perspectives, and be very patient. If you both do this, your wedding (and your marriage) will be wonderful.