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Beyond the Same-Sex Civil Marriage Ceremony

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

By Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway

While many gay couples have gotten used to the idea of the quickie civil ceremony just to legalize their marriage, there is a whole world of ceremony options to consider. In this new age of weddings, anything goes!  Finding your personal style is a matter of deciding the type of ceremony most suited to you both, and getting a sense of which rituals, blessings, prayers, readings, and cultural or religious aspects are personally meaningful.

In my line of work as an interfaith and non-denominational wedding officiant, it’s all about blending. First we assess the general type of ceremony that is right for each couple. Then we seek ways to blend in the traditions they do like, with creativity, romance and personal touches. For example, when I married Ron and Gerry recently, we created ceremony that told the story of their 23 year union, and also brought in prayers from both their Christian and Native American traditions. In a ceremony I am preparing for Linda and Pree, we are working on bringing in Pree’s Hindu heritage as well as Linda’s desire to make the traditional walk down the aisle escorted by her dad, both clad in tuxedos.

The personal touches in your ceremony can be anything from aspects of each partner’s religion or cultures, to honoring and involving family, to including a humorous story about how you met or a poignant poem that captures your feelings. Or all of the above!

As a reference point, I like to explain to couples that there are many types of weddings to choose from.

• Traditional. These are typically faith-based and culled from the traditions each partner was born into. For example, if both partners are Jewish, they may choose a traditional Jewish ceremony presided over by a rabbi or cantor. If Christian, it may be a ceremony in a Church.

• Non-denominational. A spiritual ceremony that may include a reference to God, but does not adhere to any particular religious protocol. These ceremonies may also be call “secular” or “humanist.”

• Non-religious. Usually includes no reference to faith and typically does not mention God. Some people call it a civil ceremony, but in fact a civil ceremony often mentions God.

• Interfaith. This is a blending of two or more faiths, by including aspect of religion, religious rituals or readings that are symbolic of each faith. Because some couples bring more than one faith heritage to the mix, this term is sometimes interchanged with “multifaith.” Can be presided over by a clergy person from both faiths or an interfaith clergy person.

• Intercultural. This represents a blending of cultures, and often (but not always) overlaps with interfaith. It could be a Scottish groom with a Sri Lankan groom or might mean blending a Filipino veil ceremony with a Chinese red string ritual, for example. It might also be called “multicultural” or “interethnic.”

From my perspective, you can do all of the above in one specially tailored ceremony that is unique and personal. It means that the love and commitment between the couple is at the core of the ceremony, and they can add in elements from any tradition as well as blending elements from many different cultures. They can also choose to honor their families without necessarily bringing in the religions of each family. For example, you can have mom’s or other loved ones light the unity candle ,and both grooms can stomp on the glass, without ever mentioning Christianity and Judaism—loved ones will relate to the symbolic gesture.

Some couples like to bring pop culture into their wedding – romantic dialog from movies, words to favorite songs – and references to parts of their own culture that are meaningful to them. To give you an example, one couple walked to the altar to the theme of Star Wars and another walked to Stairway to Heaven. One couple asked me to read a Barry White song as their wedding reading. Some couples select materials from favorite books, such as a reading from Winnie the Pooh.

As you can see, there are many options for you to have the ceremony of your dreams!

Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway is a leading NYC interfaith, intercultural and non-denominational wedding officiant who creates unique ceremonies for couples of all backgrounds and faiths. She is also author of Your Perfect Wedding Vows: Finding the Right Words to Express Your Love and Your Interfaith Wedding: A Guide to Blending Faiths, Cultures and Personal Values into One Beautiful Wedding. Visit Rev. Laurie Sue at