SO YOURE GETTING MARRIED!
Hello, and congratulations on your upcoming marriage!
What a glorious, life-affirming choice that is, one that must fill you with hope
and excitement. Now that the big decision has been made, your attention has naturally
turned to planning your wedding, which includes the ceremony.
an interfaith minister, I have been privileged to have officiated at hundreds
of wedding ceremonies for couples coming from an amazing variety of backgrounds.
Interacting with people of so many cultures, colors and creeds has enriched mefor
this is work that makes the spirit soar and the heart sing! These couples have
inspired me. What I often refer to as a sacred walking with these couples during
the preparation and celebration of their weddings forms the soul of this book.
is my hope that JOINING HANDS AND HEARTS will help you create the wedding
ceremony of your dreams and perhaps beyond what you have imaginedone that
will resonate within you throughout your married lives. This book offers an inclusive,
embracing approach, one rooted in and permeated by that very same essence that
brought you togetherlove. And if yours is an interfaith, intercultural or
interracial union, then your love doesnt know the boundaries of color, creed
or nationality. I cannot think of anything more beautiful.
world is becoming smaller by the minute. Advances in technology and communications,
changes in the way we work, the ability to travel anywhereall have created
what is truly a global village. People from all countries interact with one another
at an ever-increasing pace. Inevitably, individuals of different faiths, backgrounds
and cultures meet, get to know one another, fall in love, decide to marry. There
is no doubt: intermarriage is on the rise. Here are some statistics:
In the United States alone, five million people are married each year.
Over forty percent of marriage-age Catholics marry outside the Church,
a doubling since the 1960s. Marriages between Catholics and Protestants, once
frowned upon, are now accepted by the vast majority of those faiths.
Three in ten Mormons are now in interfaith marriages, although they are
encouraged by their church to marry within their faith.
One in three Episcopalians and one in four Lutherans have married outside
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America reports that two-thirds of its
sanctioned marriages are interfaith.
The number of Jewish-Christian couples doubled to one million during the
Four in ten Muslims, whose religion allows men but not women to intermarry,
have chosen non-Muslim spouses.
The intermarriage rate approaches sixty percent for Buddhists, the fastest-growing
Eastern religion in the United states.
do all these "mixed matches" get married? Increasingly, couples who
wish their wedding day to be one of harmony, spirituality and celebration are
discovering the interfaith ceremony. It is a bridge. The great strength of the
interfaith ceremony is that it is inclusive. If done correctly, it is an enlightening
and enriching experience. Each ceremony contains its particular brand of magic,
and all involved come away feeling honored and celebrated. No one feels alienated
or offended. One family is not more important than the other. The interfaith ceremony
is like a sacred dance that goes back and forth, celebrating each tradition in
joy, making room so that everyone feels richer and expanded.
I often tell couples that my job is to serve them and their families with the
utmost caring and devotion. JOINING HANDS AND HEARTS is here to serve you, to
suggest possibilities and solutions. There is no agenda, religious or otherwise.
We all participate in the sacred. The solutions, in the broadest sense, are not
about conciliation and giving in, but about learning, understanding, respecting,
and always broadening the circle ever wider. That is what makes for a memorable
interfaith wedding ceremony. And that is what makes for a successful interfaith/intercultural
marriage, one in which the love will continue to grow ever stronger, deeper and
JOINING HANDS AND HEARTS will serve as your guide to designing a wedding
tailored to both of your needs and wishes; it will lead you through the steps
of planning a ceremony that is uniquely yours. A ceremony involves not only your
beliefs, but those of both your families. It has to do not only with religion,
but also with cultural and personal elements of significance to you.
I includes the following chapters: An introduction
to interfaith; a questionnaire to help you identify, express and focus your feelings,
thoughts and needs; practical considerations to bear in mind as you begin thinking
about your wedding ceremony; a discussion of family matters to help you deal with
family issues as the planning process goes on; and the outline of a core interfaith
ceremony, which you may use as a blueprint around which to structure your own
Part II, you will find the Manual. It includes
several sections: First, an overview of the religions of the world and of their
marriage ceremonies, adapted for an interfaith service. We have taken traditional
elements from various ceremonies and presented them in a universal context, so
that each is appropriate for an interfaith assembly of peoples. You will find
the symbolism and meaning of each ritual and element explained for the benefit
of both sides of the family.
I meet with an engaged couple to talk about their wedding, sometimes one or both
are not very knowledgeable about their own religious or cultural traditionsor
often they know very little about their partners. I would suggest to you,
as I do to the couples I work with: Read about each others religions and
cultures. Be willing to learn from each other. The wedding is one daya wonderful,
transforming, unforgettable day, but just a day within a lifetime of days. Every
interfaith couple should enter a marriage with their eyes and hearts wide open,
and know as much as they can about each others religion, culture and family
heritage. Inevitably, there will be adjustments to come. But to marry in ignorance,
or with the notion that any compromises can be worked out later, is troublesome.
part of the Manual will help get you started. For each religion, I offer a brief
explanation of the basic tenets of the beliefs and the spiritual essence that
have provided comfort and sustenance to so many people over centuries. It is my
hope to give you a glimmer of the light that illuminates each tradition. Unfamiliar
doctrine often may sound strange or uncomfortable, and may separate and divide.
But the teachings of the founders of the worlds great religionsthe
words of Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Lao-Tzu, Buddhaare essentially universal.
All religions and spiritual paths originate from and lead to the same placelove.
an interfaith minister (who grew up in a traditional Catholic family), I find
that the more I learn, including from all the couples I have worked with over
the years, the bigger I become inside. Through my exposure to the various traditions,
they have become somehow part of me. I have discovered that in some way: I am
Christian, I am Jewish, I am Muslim, I am Hindu, I am Buddhist, I am Taoist, I
am Sufi, I am Native American, I am African-American. I am one with the beauty
and wisdom of all faiths and cultures. God is called by many names. Perhaps as
you and your partner learn from each other, you too will find yourself growing
in appreciation of each others theologies, cosmologies and belief systems.
And from this exposure you too will become bigger, richer inside. You or your
partner may have spiritual inclinations toward traditions other than the ones
you were raised with, and this book will serve you in that regard as well.
next section of the Manual lists wedding rituals and customs from around the world.
Many couples wish to celebrate their cultural roots. In these pages, you will
read about customs you might find appealing and appropriate for your wedding (the
African-American jumping of the broom, for example, or the Spanish and Mexican
exchange of coins)what they mean and how they can be incorporated and explained
in a ceremony.
we offer a menu of universal words. These pages provide a sourcebook of passages
that correspond to the several stages of the ceremony readings, prayers,
vows, blessings. Their appeal is universal; they are words that speak to all hearts.
And they can be incorporated into almost any wedding ceremony.
Many of the couples whose ceremonies I have conducted have graciously allowed
me to tell their stories. They are tender, delightful and romantic storiesabout
how they met and fell in love, about the obstacles they overcame, about their
spiritual paths, about the choices they made and the weddings that, together,
we designed. Standing in the presence of their love, one cannot help but be sprinkled
with their stardust. From their love stories (which are interspersed throughout
the book) and sample ceremonies (which are presented in Part III) you may gather
any number of suggestions or creative solutions for your own wedding. I hope their
stories will not only describe how, when and where particular elements can be
incorporated, but will also spark ideas on how to unite your family and guests
into a oneness of spiritand especially, how to achieve the balance that
is the hallmark of an interfaith service. Perhaps you may even see a bit of yourselves
in these brides and grooms.
you read the ceremonies that we describe in JOINING HANDS AND HEARTS, it
may be apparent to you that one has a more Jewish slant, another a more Christian
slant, or whatever the interfaith combination may be. These are decisions the
bride and groom have made. It is the couple themselves who choose the rituals,
prayers and blessings for their wedding. There may be any number of reasons for
their choices: Perhaps the bride feels more deeply committed to her religious
heritage than the groom does to his, and he is happy to accommodate her wishes;
perhaps his family and guests come from a more traditional environment, and the
couple hopes to help them feel most comfortable. Sometimes the issue of who is
paying for the wedding is a deciding factor. The final decisions are theirsjust
as your decisions must be yours.
For me it is an honor and privilege to perform marriage ceremonies. The Christian
marrying a Hindu, the Protestant marrying a Mormon, the Baptist marrying a Jew,
a Jewish groom marrying a Japanese Shinto bride, the bride who loves her Greekness
and admires her fiances Catholicism, an African American and a Moroccan
Frenchman who relish each others culturesto me, these individuals,
even when they struggle with their plans and questions, are a cause for rejoicing.
They are blessings. "Marriage," wrote Joseph Barth, "is our last,
best chance to grow up." And an interfaith/intercultural marriage, to me,
represents one of our universal best hopes of reaching toward a promised land,
where people of all religions, creeds and colors live side by side, hand in hand,
honoring and celebrating both their uniqueness and their commonality. No us versus
them. Or me versus you. When I stand before an interfaith couple and look out
at their families and guests, I sometimes feel, "This is where it starts.
This is our hope for peace."
from Chapter One:
WHAT IS INTERFAITH? A PHILOSOPHY OF THE HEART
"The spiritual visions of man confirm and illumine each other
poems in different languages have different values but they all are poetry, and
the spiritual visions of man come all from One Light."
Juan Mascaro, introduction to Bhagavad Gita
Interfaith is not a religion. It walks among the religions. Interfaith begins
when we create a bridge between one set of beliefs and traditions and another.
We start by listening to each other, and to the humanity in all of us. Interfaith
emphasizes the universal principles and spiritual compassion taught by all schools
of divinity and ethics. Each religion is an instrument for the divine, and together
the worlds religions form a glorious symphony. Interfaith is the acceptance
and celebration of humankind in all its magnificent faiths, colors, cultures and
traditions. It is the acknowledgment that there is but one light that burns brightly
through each faith and within each heart. In its essence, this light is love.
Interfaith does not take sides.
For further information on Joining Hands and Hearts
please click below. Macomb is now busy working on her next book!
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