So, you're getting married. Here you are, faced with the logistical puzzle of throwing a party for everyone you know and love. Sounds OK on the surface, but what happens when those wonderful, darling people you love turn into professional wedding planners, relationship experts, and interior designers? Suddenly, your dear friends and family have become a Greek chorus, providing color commentary on your every decision, from your choice in a mate to the paperweight of your place cards. When you're planning an interfaith wedding, the chorus of opinion can reach a fever pitch.
As the child of an interfaith marriage — in a family filled with them — I've gathered that even dating outside of your faith can trigger tough questions from your family, earlier than you think: Is this a deal-breaker? Will you convert? How will you raise your kids? Won't they be confused? (In my case, I was raised Catholic with a Jewish father, and I found little confusing about celebrating traditions among two loving families.)
Through an organization called InterfaithFamily, I was able to ask some more couples about their experience. To celebrate the premiere of FYI Network's Bride & Prejudice, a documentary-style show that will explore these issues further, here are 7 things that happen when you marry outside of your faith.
This article is sponsored by Bride & Prejudice, premiering March 15 at 9/8c on FYI. Special thanks to InterfaithFamily —a national organization supporting interfaith families exploring Jewish life —for their assistance in writing this article.
1. You'll Have Some Tough (But Necessary!) Conversations
Stephanie and Jarrett
"Be open and honest with your significant other about what your faith means to you and find out what their faith means to them," says Stephanie. "Be willing to have the tough conversations before you get married because it helps you better understand one another and makes you stronger as the interfaith couple you are."
"Talk about kids, talk about holidays, just talk it all out," add Liz and David, who are Jewish and Presbyterian, respectively. "How do you — not your parents or family — feel about these things?"
2. You May Have To Agree To Disagree
You might not always find a satisfying compromise to your differences.
"Sometimes keeping an open mind is easier said than done!" say Hannah (who is Jewish and Catholic) and Amma (who is Hindu and Christian). "Try not to think about your differences as right and wrong. Sometimes you may have to agree to disagree, and other times you may be introduced to a new viewpoint that will change you for the better."
3. The Pressure To Convert Will Be Real
Paola, who is Roman Catholic, and Brian, who was raised Pentecostal but considers himself agnostic.
According to many of the couples I spoke with, the worst advice they got was strikingly similar: "You should think about converting to his faith." "He will convert if he sees it's important to you." "Just convert already."
While converting is certainly an option for some, it's a private decision that's made over the course of many, many conversations... not something that you'll want to crowdsource among friends and family.
4. You'll Be Pressured To Make A Lot Of Decisions — Right Now
Of course, it doesn't have to be this way. Your friends and family will be demanding answers from you, but you don't owe it to anyone to explain your choices. As plenty of couples pointed out, you don't have to agree on everything. Interfaith marriage will be an ongoing process that requires plenty of communication,
"You don't have to make all of your decisions about your faith and how you are planning to live and raise your children at once," says Rachel, who had a Catholic-Jewish wedding.
Paola and Brian add that every difference doesn't have to be a deal-breaker: "If it's not an issue, don't make it one," they advise.
5. There Will Be A Lot Of Questions
Jessica, who is Catholic, and Matt, who is Jewish.
Whether it's during the wedding or long after the ceremony is over, your partner (and his or her family) will have a lot of questions about your faith. Try to see these as educational opportunities.
"My husband is Jewish, and I was raised Catholic," says Jessica. To this day, my husband will ask questions about a particular holiday or ceremony, and we've been married 10 years. What seems normal to me might seem utterly bizarre to him, and vice versa. But by asking questions, we are able to see where our faith overlaps, and what is important to each of us."
6. Creating New, Combined Traditions Is The Fun Part
"For us it was more about both of us creating a ceremony that included the best parts of us," says Liz, who had a Jewish/Presbyterian wedding. "I asked him what traditions he wanted to uphold, and he asked me. In the end we lit a unity candle and he stepped on a glass."
"We wanted our wedding to reflect the life we wanted to live together: a blending of Jewish and Hindu traditions and beliefs," say Adi (who is Hindu) and Cynthai (who is Jewish) "Many people have told us it was one of the most memorable wedding ceremonies they had seen. Of course, blending our cultures has involved some sacrifice, but working through that challenge has been a good exercise for our relationship and made us both a little more open-minded."
7. You Might Be Pleasantly Surprised By Your Friends & Family
Even if they express initial hesitance about your union, your loved ones want you to be happy.
"We were sure our grandparents would object to the lack of God in our ceremony, but everyone was happy to be at [our wedding] and celebrate us," says Jessica. "Luckily, they kept the snark to a minimum on our wedding day."
Bottom line, your wedding (and marriage) is yours, and yours alone. "In the end, with all the planning and stress of trying to please both sides, all that mattered is that we were married and that we threw one heck of a party," says Liz. And although there are a lot of decisions to make, her best advice is refreshingly simple: "Always choose love."