Interfaith marriage assistance
July 21, 2011 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Interfaith marriages: how the hell do we do this?

Ok so I'm catholic and my fiancé is jewish. I'm the groom. We're planning on getting married in two years and we'd like to have both a priest and a rabbi wed us during the ceremony. We respect each others faiths and traditions and want to raise our family in an interfaith household. Interfaith or multi-faith? Either way, we'd also like to have the wedding on a Friday because it's a bit cheaper. The problem is that most Rabbi's can't do it on Friday due to Shabbat. Couple things:

1) are there any Rabbis that bend the rules and do weddings on Shabbat (before sunset of course)?
2) is this a pipe dream? kidding. Is it even possible to have both a priest and a rabbi? Don't they make you choose how to raise your children? We want our children to choose later in life. btw, my fiancé had a choice and actually later on in her life chose to fully convert.
3) if any of you are Bostonites, we'd love any local guidance!

So are we doomed or is there hope? We're just two kids in love that truly care about each others faiths and want them both to be a part of our families lives.
posted by deeman to Religion & Philosophy (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
before sunset of course

That's not Shabbat, then.
posted by amro at 6:15 PM on July 21, 2011

Response by poster: Corrections:

1) i meant "after sunset of course" when I mentioned Shabbat

2) we'd really prefer not to have a justice of the peace
posted by deeman at 6:16 PM on July 21, 2011

While finding a Protestant priest/pastor willing to do this shouldn't take much effort at all, particularly in Boston, finding a Catholic priest willing to participate in such a ceremony could be tricky. Catholics are not known for their ecumenicity, and the Catholic wedding ceremony does not exactly leave all that much room to improvise.
posted by valkyryn at 6:25 PM on July 21, 2011

My brother was married with both a Protestant priest and a reform rabbi. The priest was his wife's and the rabbi was found from the yellow pages. Most reform rabbis for hire will share the stage with a priest. As for on a Friday night, I think you will have a little difficulty, but most hire for wedding rabbis do not have a congregation so they might be persuaded.

I don't know Boston (his was in Philadelphia) but the fee at that time 15 yrs ago, was about $250. I must say that as best man, I was there when the rabbi met the priest (sounds like a joke intro) and they discussed how the service would go. They got along famously and ended up almost being a comedy team. They were both accommodating within their own religious constraints. The pre-meeting was truly an enjoyable twenty minutes.

My bet is that money will be a bigger issue than getting a rabbi and sharing the ceremony.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:26 PM on July 21, 2011

So, what sort of ceremony do you want them to do? Because a Catholic wedding ceremony is not the same as a Jewish wedding ceremony, and just having the guy in the right collar or whatever is not really the same thing as having that guy do his usual gig, ya know?

Are you trying to have your wedding satisfy your various actual religious beliefs, or just pay lip service to the idea that you're culturally Catholic and Jewish by having a single ceremony officiated by people who happen to technically be a priest and a rabbi even though you don't want them to actually follow the dictates of their religion when doing the ceremony?

If it's the latter, then you shouldn't have too much trouble in a major U.S. metropolitan area finding people who fit the technical description of "priest" and "rabbi" who are, nevertheless, willing to basically pose for you. If it's the former, though, you're sort of up a creek, I think, at least with the Catholic side of things, which tends to be pretty strict in terms of the actual religious requirements for the genuine-article-Catholic wedding.

And, on preview, what valkyryn said re: the Catholic priest and what JohnnyGunn said about finding a reform rabbi willing to share the stage.
posted by The World Famous at 6:28 PM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

The catholic priest is actually going to be the tough one. In my experience I found that they will only perform the ceremony in a catholic church and even when it takes place out of mass there is a very strict program that they follow with no real options to customize.
posted by saradarlin at 6:30 PM on July 21, 2011

When I was doing research on this (my family is catholic, husband is an atheist) my family's priest had no qualms whatsoever organizing a multiple faith marriage. He made it very clear that he could perform a marriage without pushing any beliefs on my husband, and in fact, made it a point for me to respect his (non)belief. It was supposed to be a symbolic ceremony, and a marriage on my side, but a commitment of respect on his. In the end we did not marry catholically. Just legally, cuz we were broke.
posted by Tarumba at 6:33 PM on July 21, 2011

Could you have two ceremonies, and make whichever comes second the big party one?
posted by Tarumba at 6:34 PM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

You are not going to get a real rabbi to marry you on the Sabbath. Jewish weddings are legal proceedings and specifically prohibited on Sabbath.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:38 PM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

I actually will contradict valkyryn ... 75% of my pre-Cana class was Catholic/non-Catholic -- my husband and I were in a distinct minority being Catholic/Catholic. In many dioceses, it's not just accepted, it's the normative situation now. As Tarumba says, it really shouldn't be that terribly difficult to find a priest who will do it.

You no longer have to make promises about how you'll raise the children for a Catholic wedding, although individual priests may feel differently. (Although the ceremony does still assume you intend to HAVE them.)

I would talk to some actual priests and rabbis ... there are a variety of choices you can make (two separate ceremonies; a wedding blessing rather than a wedding Mass; etc.) and you'll have to talk with the actual celebrants. A friend of mine was recently at a Catholic/Hindu wedding; they did two separate ceremonies, one morning and one afternoon. Full Mass for the Catholic ceremony. Lots of options. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:45 PM on July 21, 2011

You are not going to get a real rabbi to marry you on the Sabbath.

What's a "real rabbi"?
posted by andoatnp at 6:52 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Jews are funny about intermarriage. I'm not defending it, but it's a thing. Neither of my siblings were able to get married at my parents' very liberal reform synagogue, because they don't allow interfaith weddings there. They're happy to have interfaith couples join the synagogue, but they won't perform the wedding. Despite the very high rate of intermarriage in the Jewish community, rabbis are really reluctant to give it official sanction.

Here's an article about this issue. The couple in the article eventually found a Boston-based rabbi to marry them, so maybe you should contact him!
posted by craichead at 6:57 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Catholic priest is actually not the tough one, thought it will require a bunch of paperwork. Provided you get all the required permissions from your Bishop, a Catholic can marry a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic ceremony and a priest can participate in such a ceremony (e.g. by giving a speech, a blessing, reading a reading, etc.). However, depending on local and national (ecclesiastical) legislation his participation will be limited (In Los Angeles, for instance, he can't receive the vows, or co-officiate, etc.)

When a Catholic marries a non-Christian (that is an unbaptized person) they need a permission called a "dispensation for disparity of cult" (sometimes called a "dispensation for disparity of worship").

Catholics are ordinarily obligated to marry according to the rites of the Catholic Church. However, in some cases, one common situation being when they marry a non-Catholic, they can get a "dispensation from canonical form", which allows the marriage to be carried out by a non-Catholic minister, civil official, rabbi, or what have you.

In the Archdiocese of Boston, you'll also need to get permission for the wedding to be held other than in a Catholic Church. This seems to be fairly easily granted in the case of Catholics marrying Jews. Details on the policy here.

While the non-Catholic party to a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic no longer has to promise to raise the children Catholic,
The non-Catholic spouse does not have to promise to have the children raised Catholic. The Catholic spouse must promise to do all that he or she can to have the children baptized and raised in the Catholic faith. '>the Catholic party is required to make such a promise
. You'll also be expected to go through the various Catholic marriage preparation hoops.

Rabbis who are Sabbath observant (your Friday night problem) are possibly also going to have a problem with officiating at a mixed marriage.

From the Catholic side, the first step is to contact your local parish.
posted by Jahaza at 7:00 PM on July 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Ooops... that last link is supposed to go here. Instead I pasted the text I was thinking of quoting.
posted by Jahaza at 7:02 PM on July 21, 2011

It may be tricky to find a rabbi who is willing to do an interfaith marriage. I know we had trouble (and ended up marrying ourselves, with our friend who became an Internet minister signing the paperwork---but then, the interfaith marriage was Jewish/Quaker).

But it doesn't hurt to call around.

fiancée for a woman, not fiancé
posted by leahwrenn at 7:07 PM on July 21, 2011

I got married 2 years ago. I'm catholic, my husband is not. We had to attend pre-marriage catholic counseling with our priest (which was actually really helpful) first. The ceremony had to be held in a church and we were restricted to a very limited amount of options as to what was permitted to be said in the ceremony. In other words, they pretty much dictate the readings. I had to promise to raise the kids in the faith, my husband did not. From my experience, or my priest at least there was very little deviation from strict catholic practise and I think there would be zero chance of this guy sharing a ceremony with a rabbi or having it count as a catholic wedding. He was a total hardass.
posted by Jubey at 7:15 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding "it's not that hard to find a Catholic priest who will work with a mixed marriage". I once attended a Catholic/Jainist wedding at the Mission Santa Clara in which the priest performed the first half of the Catholic ceremony, then we paused while a pandit went up on the altar and performed some rituals involving a flaming brazier and "worship[ping] Ganesha", then the priest finished off the wedding Mass.
posted by The Tensor at 7:16 PM on July 21, 2011

The Tensor, makes me think my priest was just especially difficult and most are actually more flexible than him. On the day, he told one of our guests who was in a short pink dress that she wasn't allowed in a house of worship dressed like that! I can't understand why people are leaving the faith...
posted by Jubey at 7:27 PM on July 21, 2011

I attended a wedding once that was co-officiated by a Catholic priest and a Jewish cantor. I think the priest actually was the one to say the magic words but the cantor did readings and prayers as part of the ceremony. Is that an option for you?

Can you have a wedding on Sunday instead? Might still be cheaper than Saturday and avoids the whole sabbath issue.
posted by bbq_ribs at 7:28 PM on July 21, 2011

My sister got married with a Catholic priest who had been defrocked because he had gotten married -- there's a group of them called, yes, Rent a Priest. The priest who married them was really great, and was familiar with Catholic tradition but willing to bend the rules. (In their case, they just wanted to be married outside instead of in a church.) It would be worth checking them out -- there seem to be a couple in Boston.

Good luck!
posted by cider at 7:29 PM on July 21, 2011

Your experience will likely be dependent on the priest/church you contact, and in my experience it's tough to "shop around" for a Catholic church. Two friends and I have all married non-Catholics, and none of us ran into difficulties in terms of the basic idea of marrying a non-Catholic (dispensation easily acquired). However, the one friend who wanted an interfaith ceremony (with the groom being Jewish) ended up going outside the Catholic church.

The priest from the bride's hometown was ok incorporating the rabbi into the ceremony (as a secondary role), but the priest wanted something as part of the ceremony that said the kids would be raised Catholic. (That wasn't something either of them were comfortable with.) I and another friend of mine (both married to agnostics/atheists) didn't have that come up as part of our discussions with priests.

Her advice was to contact rabbis early because they had difficulty finding one who would do an interfaith service, but they ultimately found one. Although, they opted to have their wedding on a Sunday (which in a Catholic church could also pose some problems).

When it comes time to planning the ceremony, she recommended this book.
posted by Terriniski at 8:00 PM on July 21, 2011

"Can you have a wedding on Sunday instead? "

Very difficult if you want a Catholic priest and/or a Catholic church -- most (priests and church buildings) have multiple Sunday Masses to celebrate. (As noted above, you usually have to get permission to be married in a not-church in a Catholic ceremony, which in some diocese is routine and in some is a major hassle.) Worth asking, but I wouldn't bank on it until you get a firm yes from the Catholic parts of the equation.

@Jubey: "we were restricted to a very limited amount of options as to what was permitted to be said in the ceremony. In other words, they pretty much dictate the readings." ... I picked readings not on the list, did my own translation from the Hebrew for the first reading because I didn't like the "official" version's wording, chose hymns I liked (not ones on the list), had a female Methodist pastor assist and give the sermon ... it's all about the priest and the diocese. (I asked my priest if he cared if my dress was strapless and he said, "I don't care if you show up in a bathing suit, I don't think God's keeping track.") It helps that I have a masters in liturgy and the priest and I got to nerd out putting together the ceremony -- I wasn't just picking at random, I had solid theological reasons for my choices -- but there are plenty of flexible priests out there.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:11 PM on July 21, 2011

I can't speak for Catholicism, though I agree that it will probably be difficult but by no means impossible for you to find both a Reform rabbi and a Catholic priest who will be willing to officiate. The Friday night aspect could be an issue, but if you marry in the summer and the ceremony is before sundown (which can be as late as 8:45 in most of the East Coast), even that can be made to go away.

But I think you're profoundly misunderstanding Judaism and Jewish weddings. Judaism - even Reform Judaism - isn't simply a belief system. It's a set of laws. The different denominations have different opinions when it comes to how (and in the case of Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, whether) those laws should be obeyed. But the beliefs actually come secondary to the laws. It's pretty acceptable, even within mainstream Orthodox Judaism, to be an atheist or agnostic but still keep kosher and the Sabbath. I won't say faith doesn't matter, of course it does, but it's not of primary importance. Reform Judaism has negated the necessity of observing many laws over the last century and are loose in how they interpret others, but they still consider the Torah laws to be important enough to not throw away entirely. It is less strict than the other branches, but that doesn't make it "anything goes" - though they are fine if that's the way actual Reform Jews currently interpret it. Getting a rabbi involved, however, means hiring someone who does play by the party line of the religion, and cares deeply about those laws that do matter within their denomination.

For a marriage to be conducted in accordance with Judaism - to have a "Jewish wedding" - there are some laws that have to be followed. Not holding it on the Sabbath or Jewish holidays is one of them. Having a rabbi officiate (or even on the premises) - is not. A Jewish wedding takes place when a Jewish man places a ring on his bride's finger and says the words "behold, you are consecrated to me according to the laws of Moses and Israel," in front of two valid witnesses. All the rabbi does is sign the state license, which a priest or JOP can do just as well. The different denominations of Judaism have different standards as to what makes a valid witness. But it doesn't change the fact (and I know that's a loaded word, but we're talking about Jewish laws that even the most lenient branch of Judaism accepts) that if both parties are not Jewish, or if you don't have kosher witnesses, or if the wedding takes place at a prohibited time, or to a person not permitted to marry the other under Jewish law, then she is not consecrated to him according to the laws of Moses and Israel . If you and your fiancée eventually got divorced, they would tell you you don't need to give her a get (a Jewish divorce), because you were never officially married according to Judaism to begin with.

So at least from a Jewish perspective, you and your fiancée have to figure out what having a "Jewish ceremony" means to you. All the other, traditional Jewish practices (standing under a chuppah, breaking a glass, having the bride circle the groom, dancing a hora on chairs) - are all available to you whether you have a rabbi or not. And your kids will be considered Jewish even by Ultra-Orthodox Jews because their mother is (if they choose to be). So all your bases are officially covered. Having a rabbi there as a physical manifestation of Judaism is a nice gesture. But it is in no way necessary to having a Jewish ceremony. And meanwhile, even if you had 100 rabbis there to officiate would be meaningless when you're not following Jewish law yourselves.

Rabbis aren't considered holy in Judaism (not the same definition of holy, at any rate). They don't consecrate marriages. If what you both want is a multi-faith marriage, then that part is up to you.
posted by Mchelly at 8:29 PM on July 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

oops, just saw that your wife converted - scratch my comment about Ultra-O Jews automatically accepting your kids as Jews despite their father's religion. That would depend on whether your soon-to-be-wife's conversion was considered valid. But again, if you are planning to make this a case of leaving it up to your kids which religion they want to choose, you're also putting them into position to know that they may need to convert someday, based on that choice. And that's fine too.
posted by Mchelly at 8:34 PM on July 21, 2011

Is it even possible to have both a priest and a rabbi?
I have been to a wedding that was officiated by both a priest (though Orthodox, not Catholic) and a rabbi.
posted by Flunkie at 8:35 PM on July 21, 2011

In Judaism, anyone Jewish can officiate a marriage. It's only for the modern legal/civil reasons that rabbis typically officiate Jewish weddings these days, as it's easier to have a Jewish wedding that also is legally recognized (if such a union between the two people is recognized in the area).

It seems a bit weird to have a rabbi and a priest because you simply can't have a dual-religious wedding ceremony—that contradicts both religions. I mean, are you going to have a Mass with communion and also sign a ketubah and go through the blessings? I just don't get how this is supposed to work.

You'd probably be better off having a completely civil ceremony without any religious leaders involved, and instead having a party afterward with both of your families and friends.
posted by autoclavicle at 1:18 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Over ten years ago, my cousin, who is Catholic, married a man, who is Jewish.

They had a priest.
They had a rabbi.
They had a justice of the peace.

No, that is not the beginning of a joke or a nursery rhyme.

It can be done. And they had absolutely no difficulties in getting everyone on board for it.

There was also an episode of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" a few years ago where they were planning weddings, and it featured a Catholic groom and Jewish bride, whose families were at each other's throats over it. A priest and a rabbi in their area had been working together for years on interfaith relationships and how to to counsel people in them for marriage. They had performed dozen of interfaith wedding ceremonies by the time they appeared on the show.

It's entirely possible, and in some places, probably not nearly as difficult as you would imagine.
posted by zizzle at 4:01 AM on July 22, 2011

You might want to check out, a ewish organization which I believe is based in Boston. It may have resources that are useful to you long beyond the wedding the itself.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:31 AM on July 22, 2011

Everyone's got some good suggestions up to this point, but I have an "if all else fails" idea.

I know in Massachusetts (and probably other states, but I know from a cousin's wedding that Massachusetts definitely does this), a given person can apply to be the official...officiant at a specific wedding; they sort of get one-day-only Justice Of the Peace powers so they can perform your wedding. If you can't get both a priest and a rabbi in on this, perhaps you could appoint a trusted friend to actually officiate, and then handle the interfaith part by having readings or rituals from both traditions.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:56 AM on July 22, 2011

If you google "interfaith" rabbi, you'll find a number of rabbis who advertise specifically that they do it. This one, who identifies as a Jewish secular humanist, says that he "will happily co-officiate with non-Jewish clergy, officiate on Friday night or on Saturday..."
posted by callmejay at 8:28 AM on July 22, 2011

If you google "interfaith" rabbi, you'll find a number of rabbis who advertise specifically that they do it. This one, who identifies as a Jewish secular humanist, says that he "will happily co-officiate with non-Jewish clergy, officiate on Friday night or on Saturday..."

He'll also eat the shrimp wrapped in bacon appetizer.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:18 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My non-Catholic brother and secular Jew sister-in-law were married by a bishop and her childhood rabbi. Neither of them had to promise any religious obligations. Their interfaith ceremony was written by the two religious figures themselves and still remains the loveliest, most personal ceremony I've ever attended. Ask around the location for friendly religious figures. While some of the priests I know would refuse, others would gladly bless you.

If renting a church is a problem, there are plenty of beautiful parks, event centers, etc, that would gladly host your wedding.
posted by avagoyle at 12:04 PM on July 22, 2011

"Rabbi" isn't a subjective term. Rabbis are actual credentialed professionals, among whose duties is to help those who want a Jewish wedding follow the laws that make it valid. The fella callmejay linked to above, I don't know what his credentials are, but it doesn't matter: what he's offering is tangential and irrelevant to Jewish weddings.

OP, you and your bride need to consider whether you want a Jewish wedding, which requires following certain laws, because it is a legal contract that only observance of certain laws will satisfy; or just the blessing of a rabbi, which you can get any number of ways. Interfaith ceremonies are perfectly common. You can get any kind of guy you want to attend and give you thumbs up. I think this would be the easier and more honest route.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:36 PM on July 22, 2011

My dad and stepmom had their wedding co-officiated by an Episcopal priest (this is likely easier to get than a Catholic priest though) and a reform rabbi. The priest was from my dad's home church; not sure about the rabbi. I was little and don't remember it much, but I kind of feel like the service wasn't that different from Christian ones I'd been to, plus some Jewish bits (breaking the glass, etc.), so it's possible that it leaned more heavily in that direction. All in all it seemed to work out ok, though. Now, when they had a daughter and attempted to give her both a zeved habat (?) and a baptism, they ran into more trouble...
posted by naoko at 9:20 AM on July 24, 2011

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