How To Make the Right Choice For Your Interfaith Officiant

by: Michael Kabel

Interfaith weddings are sometimes delicate matters to reconcile with friends and family. Choosing the right officiant can often provide at least a partial solution to resolving parental qualms about marrying outside the faith. An interfaith ceremony also allows for the representation of both faiths within a single ceremony, giving each one equal importance.

An officiant presides over all kinds of weddings.

An officiant is anyone that's legally qualified to perform a wedding service, whether civil or religious. Many religious officiants also routinely perform non-religious ceremonies for couples interested in an irreligious wedding service. Choosing the right officiant gives an interfaith ceremony a special significance and atmosphere that the couple as well as their guests can enjoy and appreciate.

The benefits of an interfaith officiant

For interfaith couples, choosing an officiant familiar with the marriage customs of both faiths is a means to celebrate their differing beliefs without playing favorites to either. This can be especially appealing in situations where one family is uneasy with the mixing of faiths, or unsure about the religious customs practiced by the other faith.

It's also possible to have an officiant from one faith perform the main part of the wedding ceremony, while an officiant from the other gives a blessing before or during the ceremony itself. Of course, the assigning of which officiant to which role is a decision up to the individual couple.

The versatility of some interfaith officiants

Many officiants specialize in helping members of their congregation marry outside the faith, conducting special services that include the non-member. Some are full members of their religion's clergy, while others are trained in simply the marriage rituals.

Interfaith officiants vary almost by the individual, so finding one that exactly meets your wedding ceremony needs is sometimes very simple.

Contacting the right interfaith officiant for your wedding

Several referral services are available online to help you contact exactly the right officiant for your needs. Some may already be located in your city, while some may be several states away - again, it varies according to need.

You may also wish to have a civil officiant – that is, somewhat without a religious background to perform the wedding.

The benefits of a civil wedding

While often considered somewhat less "meaningful" than religious weddings, civil weddings are still entirely valid under state and national law. They are also sometimes cheaper than religious weddings, since church or venue rental fees do not have to be paid.

Civil weddings are sometimes used in place of interfaith ceremonies in order to keep the marriage completely nonpartisan between the married couple. They are frequently performed by judges and justices of the peace, though some other legal officials may be allowed to marry consenting couples under local or state law. A civil officiant should be contacted weeks in advance, to make an appointment for the ceremony. Couples wanting a civil wedding must still apply for a state marriage license and take a blood test, and pay all fees involved with registering the marriage with the state.

Civil weddings are also sometimes done as a preliminary wedding for other reasons, with a religious service to follow thereafter.