When planning a wedding, communication is key. You’ll be communicating with one or more of the following: clergy or other officiant, a wedding planner, florist, caterer, DJ or band, relatives and many others. But most importantly, you have to communicate with your partner. One of the great things about working with your partner to plan your wedding is that many of the issues that will come up later in your marriage (such as handling finances, dealing with parents and in-laws, determining who gets to make which decisions, and of course religion) are sure to come up in wedding planning. So working on how you communicate with your partner while planning your wedding is great practice for how you will communicate when you’re married!
Some couples engage in pre-marital counseling as a way to prepare for their future life together. Sometimes couples will seek counsel from the rabbi who will be marrying them, from the institution of the religious tradition of the partner who isn’t Jewish (for example, if one partner is Catholic, they may do pre-cana) or from a therapist. Some couples participate in more than one form of counseling before their wedding. ). If you are interested in pre-marital counseling, you can ask your officiant if this is something that they can do or else ask for recommendations for a good therapist or group for couples in your area. If you live in a community where the Love and Religion workshop for interfaith couples is offered we highly recommend participating in this four week workshop.
When talking about various issues before getting married (such as what lifecycle rituals you’ll include when you have children – e.g., if you have a son, will there be a bris? a baptism?; are you going to have a Christmas tree in your home?; what holidays will your family celebrate?) it’s important to be clear with your partner about what issues are non-negotiable for you, and then to consider what issues you can compromise on. It’s also essential to recognize that your feelings and positions, as well as your partner’s, may evolve and change over time. What’s truly essential is not what decisions you and your partner make about what you’ll do in the future, but how you communicate – learning to listen to each other and communicate in a healthy, productive way.
As far as the wedding ceremony itself, if you’re the Jewish partner and you’re being married solely by a rabbi, remember that this may not be entirely comfortable for your partner. Even if they’ve agreed to be married by a rabbi, they may have some concerns or conflicting feelings about not having a representative of their own religion taking part in the ceremony. Be sure to be sensitive to this, and to give your partner space to share their concerns with you.
Wedding couples are adults and most of the decisions about the wedding are theirs to make – though if parents are helping to pay for the wedding, it may be appropriate for them to be involved in aspects of the decision-making. And it’s important in making decisions, though it may not ultimately affect the outcome, to consider how they may affect your parents and close family members. If you’re going to be including something in your wedding that may be surprising or difficult for your relatives – like having clergy members of different faiths officiate – it’s best to inform your parents as early as possible. This applies to aspects of the wedding that may not seem like such a “big deal” to you – such as including a reading from the New Testament (something most Jewish parents wouldn’t expect, even if it doesn’t include Jesus’ name) or breaking the glass (something parents from a different religious tradition may not expect) – as well. Similarly, if you are not planning to include rituals from your own religious tradition that your parents might hope or expect to be part of the ceremony, it is best to share this information with them ahead time. The more your parents can be prepared for what to expect, the more comfortable the wedding is likely to be for them.
If you’re going to be married by a rabbi and you weren’t raised Jewish, then you may want to ask the rabbi if they’d be willing to meet with your parents before the wedding, especially if your parents haven’t attended a Jewish wedding before. This way they can ask the rabbi any questions they may have and they can get to know them a little bit as a person, rather than just meeting the rabbi minutes before the ceremony.
There will be many decisions you need to make when planning for your wedding ceremony and reception. It is possible you will have different opinions than your partner and family members and it will likely be necessary to compromise. One way to help ease conflict is for each person involved to identify what is most important to them and focus on that rather than on every single decision that needs to be made. Hopefully then you won’t get caught up trying to satisfy everyone with every decision.
One way to do this is for each person to pick the three things that are most important to them. For example, your top priorities may be writing your own vows, having kippot for the guests, and choosing the cake. Your partner on the other hand may prioritize choosing the officiant, selecting the venue and picking the music. Then you each get to make the decisions about your three things. For a blog about this, click here.
FINALLY…when you’re feeling stressed about your wedding, just remember that what’s most important isn’t the wedding, but the marriage…and the fact that you’ll be spending the rest of your life with the person you love.