A TALE OF TWO FAITHS
Although modern-day marriages are now often more of a legal matter than a religious one, many still choose to wed in their place of worship and incorporate sacred traditions that reflect their beliefs. So what happens when you and your spouse-to-be are from two different faiths? Kirrily Ireland speaks with marriage celebrant Cameron John Eglington to discuss the ins and outs of combining multiple faiths and cultures within a single wedding, ensuring both families are appeased and everyone’s beliefs are duly acknowledged in a harmonious way that brings everyone together.
Over the last ten years or so, Eglington has noticed an increase in couples with faiths that are ‘traditionally different’ approaching him for his celebrant services. When you’re dealing with two faiths, a civil celebrant can act as the perfect compromise, working with or in lieu of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and their religious officiants in order to blend various religious practices with ease.
YOU GOTTA HAVE FAITH
While having to combine varying religions in your wedding plans might seem like an obstacle, it’s actually an opportunity to fill the big day with even more festivities and expressions of love. “When couples have family history of faith and generations of traditional expectations and cultural ‘must-haves’, it brings two otherwise separate worlds together in a beautiful confluence of beliefs, ideas, traditions and experiences,” Eglington says.
At their core, weddings symbolise the beauty of two people, even two families, coming together in one beautiful union. Weave two faiths into the mix, and this union is not only beautiful, but also inspiring. “Blending faiths brings together and highlights what we share and have in common in our lives, beliefs and relationships, and helps to moderate the differences; we see so much more what we have in common than what stands out as significant differences.” After all, relationships and marriages are all about finding common ground with your partner – when better to establish this than the wedding day itself?
THE FEELING’S MUTUAL
With all people, couples, traditions and religions being different, there are endless ways to plan and carry out an interfaith wedding. That is what makes these types of weddings special – allowing you to create a markedly unique ceremony that reflects all the idiosyncrasies of you and your partner as individuals, and united as a couple.
As you work to combine the two religions as equally as possible, you might find it easiest to focus on just a few of the most meaningful traditions or practices to include. “It is great to blend the commonalities and understand the differences that can complement the building of a unique experience and ceremony,” Eglington says. “This could be the inclusion of a poem, reading, activity or even symbols that are inclusive and form a new tradition for the couple to create something new for them.” A Jewish and Catholic wedding, for instance, may include a chuppah and the breaking of the glass, along with the Lord’s Prayer and Holy Communion – two select rituals from each side. “Using symbols, lighting candles, including poetry and music that reflects the families [and cultures] of the couple is always a treat.”
For the sake of sensitivity and respectability, you might decide to have multiple officiants presiding the ceremony; the religious officiants can lead everyone through the faith-based practices, while a civil celebrant can cover any common ground. Eglington has done this numerous times before: “In some cases I work closely with ministers of religion and together we blend into our ceremonies the non-controversial elements that can promote unity and carefully avoid those elements that might contravene some beliefs and religious rules.”
If you feel that combining the two religions in the single ceremony will sacrifice too much, there’s always the option of having multiple ceremonies, allowing both parties to have a fully traditional event. There’s nothing wrong with extending the celebrations over a couple of days, thereby making them inclusive for all.
PAVING A NEW PATH
More often than not our religious beliefs and faith groups stem from the families and cultures into which we are born. For this reason, family tends to play a big part in wedding plans, influencing certain decisions around rituals and traditions. This can sometimes pose a problem for interfaith couples, who might find themselves compromising with and attempting to appease each side, a hard-won battle that can put a damper on the wedding day and the planning leading up to it.
Eglington reiterates that couples should “work hard to bring together what joins them as two faiths and not what makes them different”. If you’re in the sticky situation with two warring families, “having the members of the family share in the readings, music, poems and stories helps greatly”.
The main thing is to maintain a balance between keeping the peace and having the wedding you want. Don’t be afraid to break away from old traditions and create new ones. “Have the ceremony you want and have always dreamed of,” Eglington encourages. “Include where it is possible the history and culture of your families. However, finding the similarities and not focusing too much on what makes you different is important. The ceremony is one day, a metaphor for the life you wish to lead for your future.”
Never forget, an interfaith wedding is a chance to be creative and have fun. With all the love, caring and commitment different faiths inspire, incorporating not one but two will only strengthen the message you and your partner are trying to convey on this very special occasion.
Photography by Lee Griffith Photography