How to Handle Religious Traditions that Aren’t Yours

Religious wedding

Most people, at some point, dream about what it will be like to get married. Falling in love is the easy part. Getting engaged is the exciting part. And wedding planning is the crazy part. But it’s just juggling all the small tasks and managing your guests that’s hard, right? Not always. What if their religious traditions don’t line up with yours? Worse, what if your parents butt in with their views on how religion should be handled at your wedding, holding their wallets hostage if you don’t do things their way? Religion is a sensitive subject, so handling these differences during wedding planning is best done with a calm heart and an open mind that you are both right.

Make a List of Important Traditions Together

Sit down with one another and make a list of the traditions each of you want included in the wedding. I grew up Baptist, where you went to a wedding and then walked next door to have some cake and punch. My husband grew up Catholic, where you had long, serious weddings and drove somewhere afterwards for the big party. We both quickly agreed on wanting the big party, but when it came to the ceremony, I was lost. For Catholics, there were many traditions, from a certain number of readings during the ceremony and a unity candle to taking Communion during the service and a ceremonial song (that threw me for a loop). I even had to throw out some of my fairy tale moments. Our church didn’t allow “Here Comes the Bride” to play as I walked down the aisle, so I had to choose some other music. But the bottom line was the same: we were going to get married and live happily ever after. So, I gave up some of the things that just weren’t as important to me. Our traditions weren’t the same, but our bottom line was, so we figured out each step together.

Wedding planning couple

While you’re having this discussion already, it is also a good time to figure out how you might incorporate religious traditions throughout your marriage as well. If your future spouse is Jewish, there may be things they want to celebrate that you don’t understand if you aren’t, so it’s a great time to learn and grow together as a couple. My husband was set on having Communion during the service and I didn’t understand why, but this gave him a chance to explain the relevance of the tradition in the actual ceremony. Don’t be negative about anything your fiance wants as part of the wedding. Remember that two people are getting married; it’s their ceremony just as much as it is yours, so be open to all ideas.

Have Two Officiants

One way to incorporate both belief systems into the wedding is to have two officiants perform the ceremony. In the Catholic church, you must have a priest perform the ceremony, but I wanted my childhood pastor as well. It was fine to have both of them for different parts of the event. Doing this ensures both of you get exactly what you want from the religious aspect of your big day. Keep in mind that some religious venues will not allow two officiants and/or they must be approved by the head of the establishment. Of course, if you aren’t getting married in a religious house, you probably won’t have any issues.

Include Both Families in Tradition Talks

couple dinner

Bring your families together to discuss important wedding traditions from each religion. Make sure they understand this is neutral ground where no one is wrong. Family members are often very passionate about their beliefs and might forget others have the same passion for theirs. Each side will need time to get acquainted with one another so they can also understand each other on a deeper level as well. Remind each parent that this is your wedding day and that not all of their ideas will be incorporated in the ceremony itself. However, stay open minded to all of them. You can pick and choose your favorite traditions from this meeting of the minds later.

Have Fun

Whether you have passionate beliefs of your own or welcome the beliefs of your future spouse, your wedding is a time of laughter and love. Make parts of the reception reflect traditions just like in the ceremony. Special music and dances can bring many religious traditions to life. Shine a light on these and welcome them with open arms as they will be a part of your future together.

Remember the bottom line of marriage is the same no matter what religion you practice. You are uniting together as one to live happily ever after. Respect and listen to one another as you plan each part of the wedding, and your happily ever after will be a life full of love.

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