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Crossing Lines While Going Down the Aisle: Interfaith Marriages
by: Michael Kabel

They're increasingly commonplace throughout the world, but interfaith marriages continue to present their own unique and perplexing set of difficulties. Even for couples not actively pursuing a faith-based lifestyle, planning a mixed-faith wedding and celebration can present issues if one or more hopes to incorporate their own religious customs into the wedding events.

Modern couples have a decided advantage in that many of the major religions have come to accept mixed-faith unions with a degree of tolerance not seen by previous generations. Even the Catholic Church, one a bastion of exclusivity among its congregation, has begun extending its marriage ceremony to include those of other faiths without requiring full conversion. But some churches and congregations are slower to respond to shifting population trends, with couples feeling "frozen out" as a result.

Deciding where and how to hold an interfaith marriage

This is a deeply personal choice for every couple, and must be left open to negotiation and especially compromise. Ideally, the couple may be married in one church while an officiant from the other blesses the marriage during or immediately before the wedding ceremony. Another suggestion would involve a service in one faith, but with a prayer by the other faith's members during the ceremony, led by a member of the family.

The third alternative is a civil ceremony, if both members of the wedding couple are amenable to removing faith from the marriage altogether.

Planning the interfaith marriage celebrations

Fortunately the reception and rehearsal dinner events are much more relaxed and less liable to inflict pressure on the interfaith couple. In fact, these occasions are a great opportunity to blend aspects or traditions of the two faiths together in something new and unique.

If the couples are of different ethnicities, the wedding feast can be a mixture of dishes from both cultures. The music played can represent different styles, and both kinds of reception customs can be practiced. Compared to the potential hazards of the ceremony, the reception is a time to blend two different heritages together.

Marriages between someone of one faith and someone of no faith at all.

Less common than interfaith marriages are the marriages between atheists and believers. Depending on the severity of the atheists' beliefs, these marriages are perhaps best conducted as a civil matter, with faith kept outside the relationship. Nevertheless, there is room for compromise either way if the partners are willing.

Helping families get through the interfaith marriage adjustment

The families (especially the parents) of interfaith couples sometimes struggle with disappointment or confusion regarding the couple's choice for a ceremony. Indeed, the idea of forbidden love among religious faiths remains one of the most poignant story ideas for popular entertainment, and the subject of hundreds of romances and romantic comedies.

Couples should speak with their respective parents and let them know that their faith isn't being abandoned or forsaken for the sake of getting married. Quite the opposite, it's becoming strengthened and spread to new areas through the marriage. If the resistance to the marriage continues, couples can point out that at least any eventual children will receive instruction in both faiths, too.