Posts Tagged ‘interfaith weddings’

I have been sooooo tired of hearing all the bad economic news lately, that I have almost stopped listening to the news, or reading the paper.  But, today I stumbled upon good news, and it was so exciting, especially because it directly relates to what I do.  I’ve considered myself so fortunate this year, that while everyone has been lamenting about their economic conditions, times are good for me.  I have felt that my business is fairly recession-proof, as long as you provide value for what you do, and I think I work very hard at keeping my prices reasonable, especially for the service that I offer.

That being said, I was happy to read an article today, about brides continuing to book Destination Weddings in the Caribbean.  I have often said that the weddings I officiate in the Caribbean and Mexico are so worthwhile, and way more fun than a 4 hour soiree that costs a fortune, just because it has the word “wedding” attached to it!  When my clients get married at an All Inclusive resort in the islands, their guests get to enjoy a 3 day (or longer!) vacation together, rather than a 4 hour hustle-bustle with mediocre filet and lobster tail, and a dried out potato.

The families get the most amazing bonding time, and the experience can’t be beat.  The wedding planners I have worked with are proven professionals, and the whole experience brings the best memories I could ever imagine.  My clients are relaxed, their families and friends are having FUN, and best of all – they’re spending less than half of what they would spend in the U.S.

I’m so happy to hear that my brides in 2009 and 2010 are still going to be booking Destination Weddings, and that I might be fortunate enough to continue sharing the most amazing experiences with them and their families for the coming years ahead.  I can’t recommend the experience highly enough – and if you are just beginning to think about where you can take your family for your special day – be sure to ask me, because I’ve really had a world of experience the last couple of years.

Looking forward to discussing performing your Destination Wedding in the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, and beyond!  Be sure to check out my Facebook page, as well as my blog, for photos, and writeups on my most recent destinations.  What a great job I have!  See you in the islands!



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Today I performed a wedding for Scott & Mara, one of the most lovely, down to earth, authentic couples I have met in a long time.

Just pronounced Husband and Wife!

Just pronounced Husband and Wife!

From the moment I met them, I was touched by their simple honesty and affection for each other.  In a very short time, I felt like I really came to understand the essence of who this couple was, what they stood for, and what they wanted to be to each other, in their lifelong partnership.  Mara had a 5 year old son, from a previous relationship, and they gave birth to Sophie about 9 months ago, so it was very important for them not only to create the perfect wedding ceremony, but to honor their children with a unity ceremony to join the family together.

They were married at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.  The location provided a beautiful backdrop for a simple ceremony.  Scott and Mara are a no frills couple, and their wedding matched their personalities so perfectly.  The important thing to each of them was to honor their love and future commitment with a simple, authentic ceremony that was all about them.  No pomp and circumstance here, and it was much appreciated, by guests, family, and an officiant who is used to lots of p&c!  🙂  This time, it was the two of them, their son Zack, their daughter Sophie, and 25 friends and family members who meant the world to them.  Their chuppa was a family tallit (prayer shawl) that were attached to bamboo sticks, and 2 of their younger guests held it over their heads.

Scott and Mara's homemade Chuppa

We created the sand ceremony to include Zack and Sophie, read the 7 blessings, and I sang the Birkat Cohanim, the Priestly Blessing, in my favorite Julie Silver style melody.  My comments, as usual, were strictly about Scott and Mara, who they are to each other, what holds them together, and what they wanted to be for each other in the future.  It was a beautiful service.  Mara was a beautiful bride, and the couple looked amazing together.

What I loved about it was how comfortable it all was.   It was easy.  There was nothing superficial, nothing contrived.  Just a story about Scott, Mara, Zack, and Sophie, and the lives they will all share together.  I was honored to be part of their day, and wish them many years of joy and happiness together.

Breaking the Glass...Mazel Tov!

Breaking the Glass...Mazel Tov!

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Gee, another month I just pulled down from the calendar.  It seems like yesterday I was getting ready for Rosh Hashanah, but a full month has flown by, and the end of the year is coming up so quickly.  I couldn’t step into November, without writing about the rest of October.

Last weekend, I officiated my first double-wedding-weekend.

Saturday night, I performed a wedding for Sebastian and Moran.

Sebastian and Moran

Sebastian and Moran

They were the sweetest young couple, and as always, the experience of working with them brought incredible joy and happiness to my heart.  Sebastian contacted me from my website, and he told me that he was looking for the perfect person to officiate their small, intimate wedding ceremony.  I thought he sounded so young!  (he was!)  But, we met in Aventura one afternoon, and I began getting to know this couple, and we were connected right from the start.

They have the cutest story – He is from Argentina, she was from Israel.  They met while he was traveling in Israel, and then, they bumped into each other again a few weeks later – 200 miles away from where they met.  They carried on a long distance relationship for a while, and then, Moran moved to Florida.  She really didn’t know anything about planning a wedding (who does??) but, over the time we worked together, Moran really did a great job and learned so much, and she and Sebastian made the most lovely wedding ceremony at The Bath Club, in Miami Beach.

It was a small, intimate ceremony, and I’m so excited that because they didn’t really have a chuppah, I decided to make one of my own, so, at their wedding, we used my beautiful, handmade chuppah for the very first time.  This is one more couple that really became very special to me, and I hope we all stay in touch for a very long time!

My chuppah

My chuppah

Sebastian & Moran’s ceremony

So – at about 8:30 p.m., when the ceremony was over, I jumped in the car, and drove to Jacksonville, for the wedding of Ian & Lindsay, at the Ramona Pavilion in Jax.  (of course, the ceremony was the next morning)  The weather was beautiful, and it was such an amazing day.  Lindsay also worked so hard on making her day just right, and she did a great job.  Ian and Lindsay’s wedding was an Interfaith wedding.  He was Jewish, and she was raised as a fairly devout Christian.  We wanted to make sure we incorporated the fundamental Jewish rituals, without being too over the top for the non Jewish guests.  We incorporated a sand ceremony, adapted the processional a bit to meet everyone’s needs, added a few non Jewish traditions, like giving away of the bride, etc., and the wedding was great.  Everyone felt comfortable, and was so happy with the turnout.

Ian & Lindsay’s ceremony

It’s not easy to create the perfect service for everyone.  I really believe that while it is about the bride and groom, it is also about respecting their immediate family, and making sure everyone can be comfortable with the outcome.  Even in a full Jewish wedding, like an Interfaith wedding, both sides often have different expectations, and it’s important to consider and balance everyone’s needs.  It can be done, and it can be fun!

So, for November – a wedding in St. Pete (David and Katie), another Havdalah Bat Mitzvah (Rachel and Mara), a trip to Punta Cana (Yelena & Lenny), an Orlando wedding on Thanksgiving weekend (Michael and Megan), and a Memorial service here at home.  Another busy month to come, which I am so thankful for!

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Great News! My article on planning an Interfaith wedding was published today on Ezine!


You might be thinking that planning your Jewish/Interfaith wedding will be all about the conflict – but you can create a ceremony that everyone will love. By focusing on the relationship, and choosing traditions and readings to honor both sides, your family and guests will love what you create.

Many of my clients begin their Interfaith wedding plans with strong feelings of fear and trepidation. They often fear their family members will not approve, and they are overwhelmed with fear of offending a single guest by their ceremony choices. But today’s Interfaith weddings can be crafted so that everyone not only feels comfortable, but honored, by your commitment to be fair and inclusive to both parties’ faith and heritage.

When a couple comes to me, most often, one of them is Jewish. They are afraid that if they include Jewish traditions, they will offend the non Jewish partner’s family. Likewise, a mention of Jesus could be just enough to send that Yiddeshe bubbe flying for the nearest exit! You CAN create balance, but in order to do so, it requires a lot of open communication and a little strategy.

The first thing I recommend is keep everything as close to neutral as you can. Keep the foreign language to a minimum, and try not to “name” your spiritual reference. If you can agree that you both believe in G-d, then that will suffice when invoking a spiritual presence.

There are a few major components of a Jewish wedding that most people want to include. The chuppa, the ketubah, the wine, and breaking the glass, are all traditional rituals that are meaningful. Incorporate these into your ceremony, and ask your officiant to go into detail to explain what those rituals are, and why we include them. The more you explain, the less alienated your non-Jewish guests will feel, and everyone will appreciate the time you took to make them feel comfortable.

For every ritual or tradition from the Jewish faith you choose – choose another from your other faith. A song, or a reading that invokes spiritual presence provides a beautiful balance. Incorporate a unification ceremony, such as a sand ceremony or unity candle. Readings such as the Apache Wedding Poem, or readings from Kalil Gibran also invoke spirituality, without isolating.

Choose an officiant who is highly experienced in crafting wedding ceremonies that reflect your backgrounds. Ask to see samples of ceremonies that the officiant has written, to see exactly how he or she blended the rituals of past clients, and imagine yourself sitting in the room listening to the wedding you are reading. Was it fair? Did it honor both sides? Did you feel embraced and included, rather than out of place? Most people don’t mind hearing something new – if you deliver it in just the right way.

I have found that the more I explain in a service, the more appreciative the non-Jewish guests are, and even the Jewish guests often learn something they didn’t know. Your parents will appreciate that you took the time to balance each side, and so will your guests. In the end, you will have a ceremony that focuses on your love, not your differences. Focus on the aspects that bring you together, and your guests will feel honored that they were asked to be a part of that. Stay true to who each of you are, and recognize that it is also your differences, as well as your similarities that make each one interesting to the other. When both are honored, conflict cannot exist.

Your wedding then becomes a celebration of your individuality, and the commitment you are making to come together as one. With tolerance, understanding, patience and communication, your Jewish/Interfaith wedding ceremony will be absolutely beautiful.

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I just stumbled on a great site – www.shebrew.com, and there I found an article by Leslie Hershman, a Reform Jewish bride, marrying a non practicing Catholic.

It was so great to read her post, because this is exactly what I do in my practice when planning an Interfaith wedding. I’m much more concerned about the joy and celebration of the union, than being slave to outdated traditions that really don’t apply anymore. The philosophy here is to make everyone comfortable – to focus on the joy of coming together, and the honor of each person’s faith and traditions. In this article, Leslie chose those rites which were important to her, enabling her to incorporate special mementos of her Jewish travels, yet making her husband to be and his family feel richly satisfied.

The article is posted below. Leslie – all the best in your wedding! I hope it’s everything you hope for it to be!

Planning an Interfaith Wedding- The Ceremony

By Lesly Hershman

Getting engaged to a non-Jew poses the following question: How do I take a traditional Jewish ceremony and modify it to suit all the people involved?

First there’s me, a practicing Reform Jew. Secondly, there’s my fiancé, a non-religious man who grew up Catholic. Third, there’s everyone attending the wedding, a mix of religious backgrounds. We want everyone to feel connected to the ceremony, but we don’t want to lose the essence of Judaism that lies within the traditional ceremony.

Before shaping the actual ceremony, I realized I had a lot to learn about the Jewish wedding ceremony itself. I’d seen many Jewish weddings, but I needed to know what it all meant. I bought a copy of the book The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant to gain some perspective on the Jewish traditions. My friends cover to cover—and took notes! Understanding why each component of the Jewish ceremony existed was important to me, because I needed to explain it to my fiancé. I knew he would ask questions and look to me for the answers and I wanted to give him complete and correct information.

I learned that there are two main tenets of a Jewish wedding. The first is joy — because all of your friends and family come together to celebrate the union of two people. Everyone is there to relax, party, and have fun. It’s this essential part of a Jewish wedding that appealed to both my non-Jewish fiancé and me.

The second is unity; technically, the rabbi performing the ceremony isn’t even the one marrying the couple. The couple marries themselves through their vows. That is a pretty modern take for a ceremony with such longstanding history and tradition.

However, joy and unity weren’t always the focal points of a Jewish wedding. Not all of the aspects of the Jewish ceremony today started off with such a modern twist. Historically, the wedding was about the groom acquiring a wife, the notion of kinyan. Today, according to Diamant, most couples chose to make their wedding a, “sacred covenant between equal partners” or a brit.

Joy, personalization, and equality will be the key elements of our wedding ceremony. All three are rooted in Judaism, and yet can be easily explained to those with different religious backgrounds. From planning this phase, my fiancé and I moved onto planning the actual events of the ceremony.

We decided to remove references to Moses, since he’s only a key figure in my religion; we also decided against me encircling him seven times because the tradition felt very groom-centric. We’re planning on reciting the Sheva B’rachot or Seven Blessings as they were originally written in Hebrew, alongside an updated translation into English. The text we selected for our Ketubah (marriage contract) focuses on sharing a life together and building a home of mutual respect and appreciation rather the more traditional contract of vowing making a Jewish home and raise children Jewishly. We’ve even decided to add a brief Havdallah (ending of the Sabbath) service at the beginning of the ceremony because it’s my favorite time of the week; I’ve been saving a candle from Israel that we can use in it.

Personalizing our Jewish wedding will allow me to stay close to my traditions without excluding my fiancé. We’ll have a one-of-a-kind wedding ceremony because it will be about us, yet the same prayers that my great-grandparents uttered will be heard. It will be a perfect mix of something old and something new –now I just need to borrow something blue and I’ll be ready to walk down the aisle.

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I have a rich and varied background that brings me to where I am today. As a child growing up in a Conservative Jewish community, I was mesmerized and transformed by the musical experience of singing in synagogue with my family. Our Jewish holiday celebrations and lifecycle events became the most special moments in my life.
Brought up in a musical home, I followed my passion to sing while growing up, however, never realized how I could combine my love for music with work that would inspire and transform me.

In 1987, I met and married the man I fell in love with, however, much to the chagrin of my family, he was not Jewish. I had no idea how I was going to raise a family, much less an Interfaith family, but I had faith that I knew would carry us through. As our family grew, so did our need for spiritual worship, and as a parent – a JEWISH parent, I felt drawn to the worship experience I grew up with.
I was immediately faced with the harsh reality that Interfaith couples and families are not welcomed with open arms by the traditional houses of worship that exist today. Sure, even the most liberal synagogues open their arms in terms of membership, but when asked to actually facilitate the lifecycle events of the Interfaith family – now THAT was a different story…

I raised my children in our Reform synagogue in Weston, Florida, and served as a faithful congregant for years. But over the years, I have found that almost 80% of South Florida’s Jewish community is unaffiliated, and therefore unable to participate in a Jewish communal experience. They have little or no access to warm, meaningful Jewish lifecycle events. One cannot be Jewish alone, and while many people believe that synagogue life is the best way to be part of a Jewish community, not everyone feels the same way, I hope to serve as a connection for unaffiliated families to their Jewish roots and community.

In 2004, I met Rabbi Joseph Gelberman, the founder of the All Faith Seminary in New York. Rabbi Gelberman is the most amazing man, almost 98 years old, and sharp as a tack. My friend, my mentor, and my inspiration, Jerry Cohn introduced me to Rabbi G. That day, having lunch, in a Chinese Restaurant in Tamarac, Florida, he asked me to chant Debbie Friedman’s “Mishebeirach”. That moment was the most transforming moment of my life, as he asked me to found a Cantorial program with his seminary, and of course, through years of study with him and his staff, I became the first student to achieve a Cantorial S’micha, through the New Seminary.

Now, remember – I am still and will always be a congregant in my own synagogue. My worship needs are completely fulfilled by the Jewish community I am part of. But today’s social environment has created challenges that the Jewish community is unable to provide solutions to. For whatever reasons, 80% of our Jewish population does not, nor will ever, belong to a synagogue. And because of that, it’s possible that unlimited future Jewish generations could be lost forever, unless someone works to help these families maintain their Jewish connection.

So in 2004, I chose to become – Your Personal Cantor. A spiritual leader, a coach, a singer, a cheerleader, and a teacher. All in one. Yes, I believe that to be Jewish, you must be part of a Jewish community, but as our society expands, so does that Jewish community, and if I help you connect to your Jewish roots, then the likelihood of your future connection remains strong. I am committed to helping families, couples, and individuals remain connected to Judaism, in any way possible.

Call me today to find out how I can help you.. B’Shalom. Debbi

Email: Debbi@mypersonalcantor.com or call 954-646-1326

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