For American Jews, interfaith weddings are a brand new normal – they usually are weaving each traditions together in creative ways

Over 10 years ago, I attended a university friend's wedding in New York City.

My friend is Muslim, her husband is Jewish. They were married under a Jewish wedding cover comprised of the groom's bar mitzvah prayer shawl – which, his mother announced to the assembled guests, had been made in India, the country of origin of the bride's parents. The bride wore a red wedding sari. The groom's mother read and explained the seven blessings of a Jewish wedding; the bride's mother read from the Quran after which provided an English translation.

The bride and groom sipped wine from the identical cup, as one does at a Jewish wedding. But since I knew I used to be writing about their wedding, my book about interfaith marriagesthe bride took me aside between the ceremony and the photos. They had replaced the normal wine with white grape juice, she told me – non-alcoholic out of respect for the incontrovertible fact that she is Muslim; white out of fear of soiling the marriage dress before the photos.

My friend's interfaith wedding could appear unusual, nevertheless it is an element of American Jewish normality. About 42% of married Jews have a spouse who is just not JewishAmong American Jews who’ve married since 2010, that percentage rises to 61%.

Many advocates of interfaith families prefer to not seek advice from these marriages between Jews and non-Jews as “gentile” because that term defines people by what they will not be — and erases their very own living religious and cultural heritage. There is a wide selection of people that marry Jews. Given the demographic makeup of the United States, most spouses come from Christian backgrounds, but Christianity itself could be very diverse. Others marry Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, or people from various other religious traditions.

In my research on interreligious familiesI actually have seen ceremonies wherein traditions are combined in many various ways.

A useful cover

Sometimes the Jewish Wedding cover, called Chuppahis solely a gorgeous piece of cloth or combined with floral arrangements. Often, nonetheless, it represents family traditions. A bride or groom may use the identical chuppah as their parents, use a family prayer shawl, or have a chuppah that mixes fabric from each moms' wedding dresses.

A handful of women smile as they hold up a white piece of cloth embroidered with colorful flowers.
Women celebrating their very own Bat Mitzvah admire a chuppah they’ve sewn and plan to donate to their synagogue after the ceremony.
Peter Power/The Toronto Star via Getty Images

In interfaith ceremonies, the chuppah is commonly a solution to incorporate one other culture into the marriage. When Jews marry people from India – be they Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and even other Jews – they generally use a sari or a shawl with typical Indian embroidery as a marriage cover.

Another couple I wrote about in “Beyond Chrismukkah”, a book based on my research on Jewish-Christian families, made the chuppah an African-American story quilt which they then hung above their bed, with the intention of adding a square for every year of their marriage. The last square they added shows two people standing together: she pregnant and he beaming. They told me, laughing, that after the infant was born, their lives became hectic they usually at the moment are over 20 years behind.

Another bride and groom had a chuppah decorated with symbols, some representing them as individuals and others telling what brought them together as a pair. Their design included a Star of David for him and a flaming chalicethe symbol of Unitarian Universalist Associationfor her, after which the love of books and mountaineering that they shared.

Get creative

While many rabbis will not be allowed to serve along with clergy of other religions At weddings this is feasible for some people.

Other rabbis allow one other clergyman to provide a reading or tackle one other role within the ceremony, sometimes to picturesque effect. At one wedding, a Catholic Franciscan monk in his brown robe and sandals gave a blessing while standing under a chuppah next to a rabbi who was in a Jewish prayer shawl.

Regardless of who performs the ceremony, couples often find creative ways to include their traditions into the marriage day. Many use readings from each traditions: a meaningful commentary on marriage and even the famous Bible verse 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind.” Jewish-Hindu couples can seven Jewish wedding blessings with the Seven steps of a Hindu wedding.

Some couples have a Jewish ceremony but make other parts of their heritage a central a part of the celebration: for instance, they invite a Christian relative to say grace before dinner or greet guests on the reception venue with a Hindu Aartiwherein certainly one of the hosts waves trays with burning lamps in front of the guests to point out them honor, respect and blessingFamilies often incorporate foods from non-Jewish culture, whether at lavish Italian-American dinners or Chinese wedding banquets.

Other couples of various religious affiliations will surround their Jewish wedding day with traditions from non-Jewish culture. For example, Jewish brides traditionally visit a ritual bath called Mikveh before their wedding. Some brides at Jewish-Hindu interfaith weddings end their visit to the mikveh with a mehendi party and Sangeet for ladies: an evening of henna painting and singing.

A photograph of two people holding hands, with the woman's hands decorated with brownish-red patterns.
An Indian bride might incorporate henna into the events surrounding an interfaith wedding.
Peter Photo/iStock via Getty Images

Difficult conversations

Not all the things is simple and fun on the planet of interfaith weddings. More and more rabbis from the more liberal Reform, Reconstruction and Renewal movements are conducting interfaith ceremonies. In August 2023, nonetheless, the conservative movement reiterated its ban to conservative rabbis who perform interfaith weddings.

While researching families of various religions, couples told me many, many stories about their weddings—though ultimately I didn't really write about weddings. Sometimes they were tough stories. A bride's childhood rabbi refused to perform the ceremony, which upset her parents a lot that they left the synagogue they’d lived in for 30 years. Some couples expressed distress that grandparents or aunts and uncles stayed away from the ceremony. In one case, a lady expressed relief that her father had died before her nephew announced his engagement. She was glad that her father had never told his grandson what he had said to her when she fell in love with a Protestant.

Overall, nonetheless, most individuals's weddings were a gorgeous memory and provided insight into the interfaith life and household they’d construct together.

image credit :