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Ask the Rabbi: Mixed-Faith Weddings

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Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Synagogue addresses your questions. This week's question asks: "My son has a long-term partner who is not Jewish. If they decide to get married, would a Reform rabbi be able to officiate at the ceremony in synagogue?"

The short answer is ‘no’ - for legal reasons, because according to Act of Parliament, rabbis are only allowed to officiate at weddings - be it in synagogue or elsewhere  - if ‘both partners profess the Jewish faith’. (Of course, if she converted to Judaism, then both would be Jewish, but although most Reform synagogues have a conversion course for those who so wish, I would not advise her doing so just for the sake of the wedding - as it is a process of learning about Jewish life and culture that takes approximately a year and is much enjoyed by those who are interested but is a large commitment if it is done purely for a 25 minute wedding ceremony). With a Jewish wedding ruled out, the main option is a civil ceremony, either in the Registry Office or at a venue registered for weddings, although the law states that religious officiants are not allowed to participate.

Still, there are creative possibilities, such as a DIY wedding e.g. they have the civil ceremony (to fulfill the legal requirements) and then either go to a hotel or, if already there, wait till the Registrar has left, and have a ceremony of readings (poetry, prose, prayers and blessings) interspersed with music (pre-recorded or live), with the different passages read by family and friends. The final result is a ceremony that is unique to the couple and reflects them and their particular relationship, including both what they share and their different traditions. Moreover most Reform rabbis are happy to meet with them and talk about the even more important question: what happens after the wedding and how they can steer a harmonious path through the religious issues that will affect both them and any children they may have.

Two events for people in families with both Jewish and non-Jewish members will take place in January. Find out more about I'm Jewish My Partner Isn't (London) and Not Your Average Jewish Family (Leeds).

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