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Dealing with Religious Differences

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Marriage advice: religious differences

Religious differences can cause problems when devising a marriage ceremony. Here are tips for a compromise.

A common problem facing many couples today is religious differences. One person is one religion and has been visualizing a ceremony celebrating that religion, while the other has been visualizing something different. Then there are the families. While families may initially accept that their son or daughter is marrying outside their religion, tensions may rise over what elements of religion are present during the ceremony. These conflicts usually reflect deeper concerns about "losing" a child to a different religion or about what religion a grandchild is to be taught.

To maintain family harmony, these issues should be addressed head on. And also to maintain family harmony, the bride and groom should thoroughly discuss the issues, come to a mutually acceptable conclusion, and present a unified front to both families. Religious tradition should not tear the future marriage apart. Rather, the couple should view the experience as a lesson in compromise, in deciding what is important, and in standing up to overbearing but well-meaning relatives.

There are a few options for dealing with religious differences. Certainly, one party could convert. This can be time-consuming, as many religions require classes and a ceremony before a person can be accepted into the religion. The convert's family may feel betrayed. But if the convert is indifferent toward religion in the first place, this may be the path of least resistance, especially if the other party is more devout.

A second solution would be to try using elements of both religions. A wedding could incorporate both the Jewish tradition of breaking a glass and also the lighting of the Christian unity candles. Many religious officials are willing to stand with an official of another faith, to give a joint blessing to a marriage.

A third solution would be to have two ceremonies, one in each tradition. This way, each member of the couple can celebrate the marriage according to his or her traditions. The family of both couples can feel satisfied that the marriage is holy according to their traditions. An added bonus is that each family and each member of the marrying couple will learn more about the traditions of another religion and hopefully use that knowledge to better understand one another.

A fourth solution is to find a close friend or mentor and convince him or her to become an ordained minister online at a church like the Universal Church of Life. These churches believe that all human beings have a direct link to God; hence all people should be able to baptize, perform last rights, and even perform marriage ceremonies. These marriages are legal in all states, and the married couple is afforded all the benefits of a couple married by a "real" minister. These marriages work best for couples who are not strongly affiliated with a particular religion or want to develop their own tradition. The advantage of this route is that the couple can choose the minister instead of finding a minister they are not close to; the couple can write the entire ceremony, incorporating religious and spiritual elements they both find important and moving. The disadvantage is that more traditional relatives may see this as a "sham" marriage, one that is not holy in the eyes of God even if it is binding in the eyes of the law. This is a judgment the couple must make for themselves.

There are many options for couples of different religious backgrounds. Finding a ceremony that satisfies both, whether it means two ceremonies, a ceremony that combined elements of both traditions, or an internet minister, will be good practice at compromise and will be useful for the years of married life ahead of them.


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