In Faith/ Family/ Wedding

A Jew-ish Ceremony

I wrote previously about Finding Our Officiant. It was something that wasn’t with out struggle.

Right now I have just 17 days left until I’m married. For a lot of reasons J and I had an engagement that has lasted over two years. And it’s good that we have. It gave us a lot of time to grow not just as a couple but as individuals as well. If it had only been a year I might have rushed into converting thinking I had to do it and I don’t think I would have regretted it, but I do think I might have been less comfortable with my decision.

So our officiant is our friend and Rabbi who left our synagogue to do amazing work in Jewish teen engagement in her home town. It allows her to be closer to her family and do what she’s really good at — youth religious engagement. And she’s like really, really ridiculously good at it. It’s a thing I admire most about her.

Creating our ceremony though, was an assortment of challenges. How Jewish did we want it? What elements of Catholicism did we want? What was she comfortable with? What were we comfortable with?

We started with a few ground rules

  1. The party was about other people. Our parents could decide about the flowers, the band, the food (they didn’t, but they had a lot of input) the ceremony was ours and not for anybody else so if there were things they didn’t like, tough.
  2. We needed to have elements of both
  3. People who were unfamiliar with Jewish traditions needed explanation and translations.
  4. Most of these practices were business practices that had been around for so long that my ancestors partook in them because they had to.
  5. We each got one need to have and one veto that the other one couldn’t argue.

Over the past few months, I think we built an interfaith ceremony that’s the best reflection of us.

We’re having a ketubah, but it’s an egalitarian writing of what we would say to each other if we wrote our own vows (an option presented to us, but weirdly something I’m uncomfortable with) and J’s “need to have” was, and it was a surprise to me, the bedeken. There’s a lot of reading and interpretation about  modesty, inner beauty, a husband’s duty and more but the most common biblical story cited is when Jacob thought he was marrying Rachel but was tricked into marrying Leah because of the veil covering her. J thinks it will be a fun and memorable moment for us, but again, egalitarian so while he puts my veil on, I’ll put his kippah on him.

We will have a chuppah, and we’ll use J’s late grandfathers tallit which has been embroidered with every milestone since the first cousin wedding above us, but we won’t be wrapped in it. My mom ended up really liking the idea of both parents walking me down the aisle. She was traditional for about 45 seconds before deciding that my father didn’t raise me alone.

Our vows will be in both English and Hebrew. We’re consecrating ourselves to each other “In the eyes of G-d and all humanity” as opposed to the traditional “according the laws of Moses and Israel.” We’re using the wine (since wine is also big item in Catholicism I felt like even this action was a bit of a nod towards my heritage.) We’re using the kiddush cup got at his Bar Mitzvah and the chalice I got at my First Communion.  We are having a unity candle, we’re doing a more modern Seven Blessings that acknowledges our differences and we’ll be breaking the glass.

I knew when I decided to marry J what I’d be giving up. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have just a twinge of missing it. While I don’t practice any more, I feel I have too much respect for those rules to violate them for the sake of making other people happy.

This is what my interfaith ceremony looks like. It leans a little bit more Jewish, but in our home and in our lives that’s who we are. It was by no means easy to create. There was a lot of research and a lot of discussion. I ended up vetoing any circling because it didn’t feel like me. Everything in our ceremony feels like both of us. The truth is just as no ceremony fits all people no interfaith ceremony will fit all interfaith couples. We’re lucky that our officiant wanted our ceremony to be something we were both in love with and build it from the ground up because it was ours. At the end of the day only one part of that entire day matters and it’s the 30 minutes where we go from being two separate people to our own family.


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