Cover Story

Mixed and matched: Challenges of interfaith weddings

Our wedding issue also includes B. J. Hutto on truth-telling about Christian weddings, Katherine Willis Pershey on a parishioner who got ordained online, and Steve Thorngate on the very liturgical wedding.

When an interfaith couple told pastor Joyce Shin that they’d like their wedding to include a Hindu ritual involving fire, she wasn’t sure at first whether they would be able to conduct it safely in church. But it turned out the ritual required only “a flame,” which served as a witness to the marriage, said Shin, associate pastor for congregational life at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. “We all have candles and light and flame.”

Clergy who participate in interfaith marriage ceremonies have to maintain a delicate balance, respecting the couple’s differing religious traditions and the concerns of the two families while staying faithful to their own religious commitments. Interfaith weddings raise issues about a particular faith tradition’s view of interfaith marriage and about who may or is willing to officiate or co-officiate (most mainline Protestant bodies trust the discretion of the pastor in these matters).