The Humanist Dilemma: When a Mixed-Faith Wedding Pleases Some but Not Others

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How Can I Get My Fiancé’s Relatives to Attend Our Ceremony? I was raised Catholic, but work for a well-known health organization that provides birth control and abortion services. My fiancé was raised Jewish. For years I’ve been accompanying him to holidays at his beloved aunt’s home, where I participate in celebrating the Jewish new year, fasting with them on Yom Kippur, and taking my turn reading at Passover seders.

Now we’re planning our wedding. We look forward to raising our children in both traditions, which I find rich and beautiful. My family is fine with having a priest and a rabbi officiate, and his immediate family is also on board with that, but the aunt and her daughter (his cousin) have said they can’t make it for every date we’ve proposed.

We have the opportunity to hold the wedding at our dream venue on a Friday evening, for a really good price and with a very cool priest/rabbi team. I knew doing the wedding on a Saturday was a problem for Jewish people, but now I’m told Friday evening is just as bad. I had been thinking maybe we should have the wedding with just the priest on Friday and then do a little ceremony with the rabbi on Sunday, but now I’m not sure even that would help. The cousin informed me that while she and her mom like me, they can’t accept a non-Jewish bride. What can I do?

–Aiming to Please


Dear Aiming,

Indeed, it doesn’t sound like moving the Jewish portion of the wedding away from the Sabbath (which runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) will help, other than to show how much you care. While you’re willing to go to any lengths to accommodate everyone’s values, you can’t please people who refuse to be pleased.

Based on what the cousin said, she and her mom probably adhere to the view that children are Jewish if and only if the mother is. They would accept your marriage if you converted to Judaism and renounced your Catholic roots, or at least pledged to do that with your children. But that’s out of the question, since neither you nor your husband nor your immediate families desire or require that. In addition, the cousin and aunt may also be avoiding the Catholic portion of your ceremony.

Go ahead and make your plans for the priest and rabbi on Friday night—if that’s what you and your groom truly want to do. The fact that the aunt and cousin have been welcoming you to their holidays shows that there is hope. Maybe they’ll decide to attend your wedding after all, but if they excuse themselves, that’s their prerogative. Don’t take it personally, and don’t keep pursuing them with alternative options when they’ve essentially said they won’t support the union unless the bride is Jewish and there’s no Catholic component.

Regardless of whether they grace your wedding, continue to join them for the Jewish holidays. And keep inviting them to share all your celebrations, Jewish, Catholic and secular—including your anniversaries and the births and milestones of your future children, who, with a mom like you, are apt to be mensches no matter what traditions they follow.