Interfaith Ceremony at NC Wesleyan College

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On Saturday, April 5th, I officiated my second Jewish-Christian interfaith wedding ceremony. It took place in the quaint Leon Russell Chapel on NC Wesleyan College’s campus on an absolutely perfect spring day! The couple chose lavender and a pastel green as their colors which was just lovely for the season.

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I love interfaith ceremonies, because they are so rich with tradition and culture from each of the couple’s backgrounds. Amber and Ari chose the “Completely Custom” package and I’m so glad they did! They had such an amazing story of how they met, and sharing it during their ceremony hardly left a dry eye in the chapel. The custom package also allowed them to include all of the traditions they wanted, including a chuppah, wine ceremony, unity candle, and breaking the glass. It also included a special remembrance for both the bride and groom’s father, both of whom passed away from lung cancer.

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The chuppah was lovingly made by Amber and her mother. They used PVC pipe to keep it lightweight and easy to move since it was relocated to the reception for pictures following the ceremony. I thought that was pretty smart! During the ceremony, I gave guests the following explanation of the chuppah:

“In front of us is a beautiful chuppah. The chuppah represents the home. Its four poles symbolize the four pillars upon which a strong marriage is built: family, friendship, love and respect. A shelter that is open on all sides we see as an invitation and a sign of welcome to those we love. The chuppah’s delicate structure reminds those beneath it, that the only thing real about a home is the people in it, who love and who choose to be together as a family.”

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During the ceremony, the couple participated in a unity candle ceremony, which is commonly included in Christian wedding ceremonies. There are several ways to do the unity candle, and Amber and Ari chose to leave the original taper flames burning after their unity candle in the middle was lit. For this, I gave the following explanation during the ceremony:

“Although you are now entering into a marriage relationship, you do not, however, lose your personal identity. Rather, you will use your special individuality to create and strengthen the relationship of marriage. Therefore all three candles remain glowing. The individual candles represent all that makes each of you the wonderful and unique person the other admires and respects. The Unity candle in the center symbolizes the union of your lives, families, and friends, as well as your shining commitment to each other, and to a lasting and loving marriage.”

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Following the unity candle was the ring exchange, then the wine ceremony. The wine ceremony is traditionally included in Jewish wedding ceremonies. There are also several ways the wine ceremony can be done – I like to give my couples lots of options! Amber and Ari chose the single goblet that they shared from. I love the closing wording for the wine ceremony done with the single goblet: “As you have shared the wine from this goblet, so may you share your lives. May you find life’s joys heightened, its bitterness sweetened, and all of life enriched by God’s blessings upon you.”

The ceremony was concluded with the traditional Jewish breaking of the glass, which I also explained for guests: “The traditional breaking of the glass which marks the end of the ceremony, is a reminder of both the strength and the fragility of the spiritual bond that is marriage. It is a reminder to appreciate all that we have now, to embrace change, and to always hold the important things in life above all else. As the glass is broken, I invite everyone to shout “Mazel Tov,” which means “congratulations and good luck.”

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There was one hiccup in the ceremony, and that was right before the vows when one of the groomsmen passed out. It was warm in the chapel and the bride suspected he was not well hydrated. After a brief pause to tend to him and call EMS, the ceremony continued. I have to say the bridal party took what could have been a stressful situation and turned it around when they gave bubbles to the paramedics so that they could participate in the fanfare when the couple left the chapel! I know the photographer got some great shots of that!

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