Rhode Island Wedding Guide

Wedding Planning

Interfaith Wedding Ceremonies

Written by Hon. Rev. Dennis James Robinson
RI wedding officiants
Photo by Captivation Studios

Traditionally, many marriages take place in a house of worship such as a synagogue, church, mosque, temple, parish or chapel. Today's brides and grooms are much more cosmopolitan and the general trend to have a marriage solemnized in a place of your choosing is becoming more of the norm than the traditional walk down the aisle as seen in movies or TV.

Many modern brides would like to transcend the traditional ceremony dictated to them by rigid clergy or outdated officiants or justice of the peace by having a simple but elegant ceremony in a place that is different from the average church or synagogue ceremony. Most couples who are searching for alternatives are usually the ones who have been forced to seek these alternatives or interfaith ceremonies because of religious differences or if one party has been divorced, has children by a previous relationship or are unattached to a particular religion at the time of the marriage.

In the interfaith marriage, the parties may be Protestant and Catholic, Jewish and Church of England, Hindu and Buddhist or Muslim and Bahai. The United States has become a melting pot of religions as well as people and where there is a diversity to choose from, person from various ethnic backgrounds fall in love with a wonderful person with whom they would like to spend the rest of their lives. Questions of religion do not come into question until wedding plans have begun and then this is where crisis intervention takes over. Many of these problems are easily overcome, but very often there is a tremendous tension when families become involved or opinions arise from every corner of the earth.

Certainly, some of these problems have become a real stumbling block when the first bigoted opinions are unleashed from very traditional minds. The persons with the most active opinions in religion and politics are usually the uninvolved or the uninformed. When a marriage is going to take place families should give their blessings.

The interfaith ceremony can be one that a minister, priest, rabbi, clergy or justice of the peace can perform under certain conditions. These conditions are usually the "LOCATION". Location has everything to do with the ceremony; however, proper planning should be an integral part of the process. Last minute officiants usually do not take the time to plan and be involved in the ceremony process and all facets of timing, delivery, rehearsal, etc.

Many brides and grooms do not talk to a number of officiants to find out what is included in their price, preparation, etc. They think they just show up, marry them in four minutes and leave. Just because a ceremony is one of an interfaith nature, no matter who is performing it, it can still be first class. Many civil ceremonies held in castles, chapels, boats, etc., are so technically involved that a year's worth of planning goes into the wedding day. Some interfaith weddings have ten bridesmaids, ten ushers, two ring bearers, two flower girls, chamber music, florists, limos and over four hundred guests.

Most people have a stereotypical view of a civil or interfaith ceremony as one lasting approximately three minutes, a boom box and Uncle Bennie playing the accordion. Some of the most elegant weddings I have performed were for wealthy people who just happened not to be of the same religion.

Where do you Go?
Probably the number one question asked is where to go for the ceremony. I have performed ceremonies in hundreds of locations that included chapels, castles, hotels, private and public estates, large and small boats, yacht clubs, condominium day rooms, backyards, country clubs, libraries, gazebos, prisons, mountains, the seashore, beaches and the list goes on and on.

The One Stop Wedding
The one stop wedding has many advantages because your wedding guests will park their cars and they are done for the day. If your wedding is in a hotel or Inn where accommodations can be had - that's even better. When alcohol plays a big part of some weddings, it is best to have your guests in a stationary position where they are less apt to get involved in an accident or be pulled over for driving under the influence. Many function facilities arrange a separate room that can have all the ambiance of a chapel style wedding with the aisle down the middle and guests on either side. It is recommended that the ceremony not be held with everyone at their tables. People do not pay attention when they are at their tables smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. At one ceremony I was stunned when the waitress served the soup in the middle of the ceremony and took orders for drinks as the couple was exchanging vows.

Elegance in the Backyard
There is a tremendous trend towards having an elegant wedding on someone's beautifully landscaped backyard. With a few rented tents to account for the vicissitudes of the weather, a caterer to help with the presentation, preparation and cleanup, one's back yard can be turned into a dream location for a ceremony and reception. People can bring food, liquor can be bought rather inexpensively and the bride or groom always feel so comfortable getting ready in their own bedroom. The only drawback is that you must consider the crowd who will attend. If the people are rowdy, you will have visions of all the over indulged guests throwing grandmothers in the swimming pool - chances are this will happen. If the crowd is fairly laid back, then there should be very few problems. This is a very popular style of wedding that seems to be increasing more and more.

Think Weather
The weather has always played a factor in the planning stages of a wedding. Couples dreamed of getting married on a beach and on that day a sweeping hurricane blows everything for forty miles away from where it used to be. You must have an alternative plan and every one of your wedding professionals should know that your decision will not be made ten minutes before the ceremony. PLAN WELL!! Good weddings just do not happen - they have to be planned well in advance with back up alternative plans. This is the most important day of your life. Your memory should be of a triumphant occasion - not a travesty. Fond memories will last you a lifetime.

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