With Sarah’s grandfather’s prayer shawl overhead, their beaming parents on either side, and eight friends holding up the foundational poles of the Chuppah, Sarah and William’s shining eyes were evidence that they knew without doubt that they were standing in a symbolic house of promises… a shelter for their two loving hearts, where family and friends were always welcome, and where they would raise a family of their own one day. A house of love where the very different cultural traditions of their upbringings would now blend and flourish, becoming their couple traditions.
In this moment, they (and everyone else) understood that the Chuppah wedding canopy tradition in a Jewish wedding ceremony is infinitely more than a piece of cloth. It is an inclusive ritual that everyone, no matter their faith or cultural background, can relate to and be touched by the way it speaks to the universal needs of the human heart.
At Modern Celebrant, we believe that all couples deserve a wedding ceremony that reflects their beliefs and values…. even when their backgrounds differ. Especially when their backgrounds differ! All too often, inter-faith or multicultural couples think it is ‘too hard’ to respect both their upbringings and ‘please’ both families.
I am here to say unequivocally – that it’s not true! Because, at their core, rituals represent what it means to be human. To be sure, rituals aka traditions aka customs manifest in varying ways. But drill down through the layers of cultural of faith specifity and you will find the human element. That is what I look for when I craft wedding ceremonies for couples of different faith or cultural backgrounds. What elements can both the bride and groom – or the bride and the bride, the groom and the groom as it may be – relate to? What about their families? How can we include their traditions but have everyone in the room think, ‘awesome, we should do this at every wedding ceremony!’
For instance, I worked with a Catholic bride and a Muslim groom, both from devout families. You may think ‘whoa’ but you know what? There was TONS in common. Both Muhammad and Jesus were prophets, men of humility who spread the message of peace. I talked about how, for many, where there is “god” there is peace. Right up front I established commonalities. We did a candle lighting AND a fabulous salt ritual (historically used in both cultures to seal a marriage covenant), where the mothers offered a gift of salt and participated in a passing of the salt to welcome their new son and daughter-in-law to their family. By the end of the ceremony, both families felt their traditions were carefully respected. They were honoured and touched, and the Bride and Groom’s relaxed body language and happy faces reflected their relief at seeing their families embracing warmly after the ceremony.
If you are thinking, ‘Okay that’s great Michele, but I have one that you’ll never find a way through.’ I say to you: Bring it on!