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Jewish Mixed Marriages

Ceremonies in Europe

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Introduction
Ceremonies in Europe
Ceremonies in the UK
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Background Information

Introduction
Congratulations to you and your partner on having decided to get married. This document is designed to help give you some advice and explanation as to what is possible. It should be considered as a guide in thinking about planning a mixed faith religious ceremony. Although it can not cover every possibility, It is intended to help in pointing out some of the things you need to consider. If having read through this it, you wish to go ahead, then please fill in all the details on the application form. Then return the form with a deposit. This will confirm your booking. Fully completed booking forms are accepted on the basis of confirmed dates, location and times. Obviously, the earlier you book, the easier it is to make plans.


The Ceremony
In most EU countries, the law states that only two Jews can be married in a synagogue. If one person in a couple is not Jewish, they can not be married there under EU or Jewish religious law. This means that if you want to be married in the eyes of the state, you first must be married in a registry office, or have had a legal ceremony elsewhere. After a civil ceremony has taken place it would be possible to have a religious ceremony. The location for this can be in any suitable venue. Amongst many options, the following have been used: homes, hotels, pubs, country houses, galleries, up mountains, in castles and museums, zoos, boats and on beaches. The form of the ritual has to be worked out in advance, but each ceremony can be unique, original and an imaginative response to the situation. It should be considered not as a Jewish marriage ceremony, but as either a Service of Celebration, or the Blessing of the Marriage.

Options
Some couples want a ritual which is very close to a traditional Jewish marriage ceremony. This is possible with the exception that a traditional ketubah, is not used. A similar document for mixed faith couples does exist and is available both in the UK, or from internet sites in Israel and the USA. The groom will not be asked to say to the bride the traditional words, "By this ring I betroth you to me according to the laws of Moses and Israel." However, a couple may wish to make an alternative declaration when exchanging rings. All the other parts of Jewish wedding ceremony can be included, such as the 7 marriage blessings, the use of a wedding canopy, and the breaking of a glass. When looking at locations, consider how you will make your entrances and your exit sand how it will fit in with the rest of the day's activities.

For some couples, a ritual is required which recognises that both have strong beliefs in different traditions. These needs may be met by one of three ways.

Having a Christian, or other religious ceremony first, followed by a Jewish ceremony.

Having one ceremony in which there are two officiants, thus reflecting both religious traditions.

Having a ritual at which a Rabbi officiates, but which incorporates readings or music from both traditions. There is no difficulty in devising a ceremony in which members of the family and friends can also take an active part if they so wish. There have been conducted ceremonies at which sisters have played musical instruments and brothers have sung, fathers have read poetry and one in which a mother read a psalm in Welsh. There have also been celebrations at which family and friends have done their party pieces and provided entertainment rather there just relying on speeches, after the ceremony.

Music
I do not have a trained musical voice, although I think that I am a reasonable singer. Some couples wish to have an organist and/or choir. I am quite happy about this. Other couples have opted for klezmer music at the ceremony, while other couples elect to have music of their choice from a tape, record, or CD. played through a suitable P.A. system. You will need to give careful thought about such matters and whether microphones and a sound system will be required.

Video & Photography
There is no objection to the ceremony being recorded on video-tape, or to having a professional photographer present. However, a certain amount of discretion is called for, so that it is not too intrusive during the ritual. If you are having a traditionally based ceremony, you may find it a help to "brief" a cameramen so that they can find a good vantage point. If you are making a video of the ceremony it is important to let any musicians, or other participants be aware that they will be recorded during the ceremony.

What Happens Next ?
If you wish to make use of my services, a couple should arrange to meet me, if at all possible. If this is not possible because of time, or distance then other arrangements can be made. However, it is of considerable help to meet a couple at least once before a ceremony, even if it is only a few hours before it takes place.

Once you know the date, time and location of the religious ceremony, complete the attached booking form and return it with the deposit, otherwise the booking will not be accepted. Only dates for which a deposit has been paid, can be reserved. Bookings are accepted in the order in which they are received. The deposit is non-refundable under any circumstances.

If possible, at least one other meeting will need to take place 6-8 weeks before the ceremony. Ceremonies can not take place on the Sabbath, or Jewish Festivals, nor usually in a Church, or Synagogue.

You must be married in the legal ceremony, before the Jewish religious ceremony.

You must take out insurance to cover any accident, or unforeseen loss, or misadventure on the day. Although every care is taken, situations may arise which make it impossible for me to attend the ceremony. You will be advised of this as soon as it becomes possible to let you know.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Children
You do not have to give any undertaking as to which religion you should bring up any children. According to Jewish law, the child of a Jewish mother is Jewish. In the UK, Liberal Jews will recognise as Jewish, any child with at least one Jewish parent. Such a child must also be brought up in a Jewish home and receive a Jewish education. Israel's law of "Right to Return," recognises that Jews have an automatic right to citizenship in Israel. The civil authorities have shown themselves to be reasonably flexible in this matter, but the religious authorities are more rigorous in their application of the law. Sometimes parents have found it difficult to accept the choice of marriage partner, or feel unsure about a Rabbi who is willing to officiate at such a ceremony. In such cases I am open to meeting parents to discuss the situation if they so wish.

Education
In my experience the person for whom religion is most important is the one who is most likely to take on the responsibility for the religious education of any children. It is important to teach children that their parents and grandparents may have different religious traditions, or even that they have none. Such honesty avoids later confusion. If both parents believe that their religion is equally important, then it seems only right that both religions are practised in an equal and positive atmosphere. I do not believe that this will confuse children. Giving children no religious tradition, or spiritual home is to deprive them of their inheritance from their parents. It also indicates that it is an issue which the parents have not faced, or worked out and will be an on-going strain within the family.

Naming Ceremonies
If you anticipate having a family, it is possible to arrange religious ceremonies which welcomes children into the family and community and which gives each child their name. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the consequences of pregnancy, becoming a parent, or grandparent. A short ceremony (with other officiants if required) can be a moving occasion.

Funerals
This may not be the most appropriate moment to consider such matters, but certain problems arise which need to be discussed. If you are Jewish then there should be no problem in being buried in a Jewish cemetery. If you are not Jewish then most Jewish grounds will not bury you by your Jewish spouse. I do not know what rules apply to grounds which are administered by other traditions. Many couples opt for cremation as a way of dealing with this problem. However, this may be hard on children and a surviving spouse. It is possible for a couple to be buried together in municipal or privately owned grounds. If you have not done so it is advisable to draw up a will and to leave clear instructions.

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