Experts share innovative ways to make a classic celebration your own.

By Sara Dickinson
December 19, 2018

Love is universal, but there are special wedding traditions unique to each religion and culture that have been passed on from generation to generation. With interfaith marriages becoming more common than ever before, many couples are exploring ways to personalize religious ceremonies in order to incorporate both the bride's and groom's backgrounds. With the help of two wedding planners, we came up with four simple ways to make your religious ceremony your own.

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The Officiant

Susan Norcross, owner of The Styled Bride, recently worked with a couple who wanted to honor traditions from Catholic, Baptist, and Muslim sides of their two families. "They had a lot of different backgrounds to meld and instead of having one person officiate, we had an MC bring up several important people to the couple to offer blessings, readings, and even song to celebrate them," she says. "This way, we can bring in traditions from all sides of their families."

The Readings

Most religions have specific readings that are shared during the ceremony, and Yifat Oren, founder of Oren Co., suggests having guests actively participate in this part of the celebration. "With a Jewish ceremony, perhaps have the Rabbi say the seven blessings in Hebrew, and have some friends and family stand up and repeat each corresponding one in English," she suggests. "For Christian ceremonies, add some modern readings your friends can recite, or if you have any musician friends, ask them to perform for your processional or recessional."

Decorative Structures

Depending on your background, a key aspect of a religious ceremony might be both symbolic and decorative. In a Jewish wedding, the bride and groom exchanges vows while standing beneath a chuppah, or a canopy structure that symbolizes the couple's new home together. When it comes to decorating your chuppah, you have a lot of freedom. Cover it in your favorite flowers, drape curtains in your wedding's color scheme, or hang a chandelier for some drama, the pros say. Similarly, in a traditional Indian wedding, the mandap is a canopy covered structure with four pillars symbolizing family and prosperity. The canopy is usually red and gold, but you can customize the mandap with added colors, floral garlands, ribbons, and string lights.

Family Heirlooms

One of the easiest ways you can personalize your religious ceremony is to incorporate any families ties. In Chinese and Korean tea ceremonies, Japanese san san kudo ceremonies, and Jewish kiddush rituals, special cups are used to share tea, sake, or wine. Ask your family members if they have traditional cups to pass down to you, or create your own with meaningful prayers, sayings, or symbols. In a North Indian wedding, brides often wear wedding attire that has been passed down from previous generations. Consider wearing or incorporating your mother's or grandmother's wedding dress-with her permission, of course!

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