When we first met, the bride-to-be said: “I am culturally Jewish, and my fiancé was raised Christian. We want a Jewish wedding, but we want to respect his background as well as mine. Can we do that?” My answer was, “Of course we can.” In the words of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, “Tradition has a vote but not a veto.” Every Jewish wedding starts with the traditional plan, and then we modify it to fit the couple!
Modern Jewish wedding officiants have to ask this question: Are there elements of the service that are not acceptable to the bride and groom? Maybe they are too sexist. Perhaps they build on religious beliefs that the couple does not hold. We need to focus on making the service authentic.
Sometimes the changes are additions. Brides and grooms often have visions of something specific—perhaps a ritual, a song, or a poem, that they have always dreamed of doing at their wedding. We build these into the wedding ceremony.
No one can predict what the typical Orange County Jewish family will look like in twenty-five or fifty years. But we do know that the Orange County Jewish family of tomorrow begins with the Jewish wedding of today. I believe it is essential that we help each couple planning a wedding to tap into their Jewish roots and Jewish feelings, to do our best to start this new family with Jewish tradition. If we turn a couple away from a Jewish wedding today, we lose a Jewish family of the future.
Jewish tradition offers a powerful tool kit of ceremonies, symbols, blessings, and traditions. The role of the Rabbi is to use these tools to create the perfect wedding for each couple, Jewish or interfaith—the wedding that starts the new family on their authentic, meaningful, romantic, unique Jewish life together.
Rabbi Larry Seidman, The Rational Rabbi, is a Trans-denominational Rabbi based in Irvine. He serves the unaffiliated and interfaith communities of Orange County. After a distinguished career as an engineer, he was ordained by the Academy for Jewish Religion, CA in 2009, and is a member of the Orange County Board of Rabbis. Contact him at Rabbi@RationalRabbi.com, or (714) 248-5771.