Posts Tagged ‘Funny weddings’

Now, an artist has posthumously given Sendak the wedding he never had. Gay marriage was legalized in Pennsylvania in fall 2015.


Maurice Sendak lived with his partner psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn for 50 years, though he never told his parents that they were a couple. Artist Ella German chose to posthumously give them the wedding they never had. What a lovely tribute to man who still makes children (and their parents) happy!

Born to Jewish-Polish parents, Maurice’s childhood was affected by the death of many of his family members during the Holocaust. Besides Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak also wrote works such as In the Night Kitchen and Outside Over There.

Sendak described his childhood as a “terrible situation” due to the death of members of his extended family, which exposed him at a young age to the concept of mortality. His love of books began when, as a child, he developed health problems and was confined to his bed. He decided to become an illustrator after watching Walt Disney‘s film Fantasia at the age of 12. He spent much of the 1950s illustrating children’s books written by others before beginning to write his own stories.

Sendak mentioned in a September 2008 article in The New York Times that he was gay and had lived with his partner, psychoanalyst Dr. Eugene Glynn, for 50 years before Glynn’s death in May 2007. Revealing that he never told his parents, he said, “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.”[17]

Sendak’s relationship with Glynn had been mentioned by other writers before and Glynn’s 2007 death notice had identified Sendak as his “partner of 50 years.” After his partner’s death, Sendak donated $1 million to the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services in memory of Glynn who had treated young people there.

Sendak was an atheist. In a 2011 interview, he stated that he did not believe in God and explained that he felt that religion, and belief in God, “must have made life much easier [for some religious friends of his]. It’s harder for us nonbelievers,” he said.

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Yesterday, I had the delight of fulfilling a couple’s wish of incorporating some quotes from Star Trek: The Next Generation into their wedding service.

Who says weddings should be all serious and no fun?

As someone who once had a life-sized cutout of Jean Luc Picard in my living room, this was one request I was all too happy to fulfill. After a few hours googling around the vast terrain of famous Star Trek quotes online, I settled on two that worked perfectly for their love story.

First, some background information: Rob and Lynn were married at a hotel ballroom in King of Prussia northwest of Philadelphia. It was a 25-minute marriage ceremony built around the traditions of an Irish Handfasting ceremony. After a variety of readings (by me and others), sharing from a cup of wine, and a homily sharing how they met and their love story, we ended with a ring exchange and fasting of hands. In the midst of all this were our two chances for a little laughter:


Jean Luc overlooks his home village in the episode “The Inner Light.”

1) While giving some brief advice for their newly married life, I offered this wisdom from Patrick Stewart’s character, Jean Luc Picard, who said: “Seize the time. Live now; make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again!”

It was a happy coincidence that this line comes from one of the best ST episodes EVER: Called “The Inner Light,” the story centers on Jean Luc who is knocked unconscious by some sort of space probe. When he wakes up, he is on another planet, living the life of an elderly grandfather and master flute-player. His home world is about to be destroyed by its own star, which is going super nova.

(To learn more about this episode, read here.)

While he lives this other virtual life, Picard becomes a literal time capsule for this dying planet’s entire culture — he is what survives. A beautiful folk melody he learns while living this alternate life was featured in a later ST episode; he plays the song with a fellow musician in a Jeffries Tube on the Enterprise. It is this later rendition clipped from YouTube at the start of this blog post.

This was way too much of an insider reference to explain in the wedding, but it was all the more cool that in this episode, Jean Luc learns what sounds to be like an Irish folk song. I chose the quote because of its content — it was the perfect sentiment to say at that moment in the ceremony. But it literally gave me goose bumps when I started looking into which episode the quote came from, and to find out it happened to be from the one single episode in 15+ years of ST episodes that had an Irish theme to it. The couple who got married found me to be their officiant because I was the one person they could find who had an understanding and love for the Irish handfasting ceremony.

It’s as if the stars all aligned in the universe to say: “Yes, these are the words meant for these special people at this special moment!”
I love it when the mysterious workings of the world reveal themselves!

2) The other ST quote I used in the Irish Handfasting wedding was this one, which required a little framing. In explaining how the groom, Rob, fell in love with Lynn, I said: “In other words, as our friend Lt. Commander Data would put it, ‘Your neural pathways had become accustomed to her sensory input patterns’ — and that is no small thing!”

~~ pause. wait for the chuckle. ~~

It was fun. While officiating a wedding, it is always fun to say something small, and silly, that nudges the audience a little bit out of their loop! 🙂


It has been several years since I had the invitation to get zany in a wedding ceremony. The last time I had this chance was for a lovely couple (who now has a beautiful baby!) to incorporate their super hero, Indiana Jones, into their traditional egalitarian Jewish wedding ceremony. Here is how I was able to do that during the “love story” portion of their ceremony:

“Jacob and Sarah, although you two have only known each other a few years, you have taken to heart the motto of your hero, Indiana Jones, which he shared in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage!” From co-ed softball and kickball teams to hiking trips to canning eight batches of applesauce in one summer — you have become an integral and supportive part of each other’s lives. Your love story is a reminder of how ordinary, and yet how extraordinary, true love really is.

Going forward, you will, no doubt, face new challenges and lessons. As Indiana Jones said to his students in the Last Crusade, “We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and X never, ever marks the spot.” You will have to blaze your own trail into the wild unknowns of the future — be it career changes, health challenges, and the greatest challenge of all — parenthood.

But nurtured by the love you have cultivated for each other,  the patience, kindness and attention you have shown, you will no doubt be able to reach places in your own individual lives that you would never have reached on your own.


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woman wearing red and gold dress holding up handsA few times a year, I am contacted by a couple looking to find two officiants to marry them, usually a rabbi and a priest or minister of some stripe. The idea is such a complicated and multi-faceted one, I have written this blog post as a way of offering a fuller, “all you could ever want to know” on this topic.

The short answer is “Yes, I will co-officiate” but if feel like I would be shirking my ethical obligations by not inviting these couples to think more deeply about the question. Because having co-officiants will definitely cost more money, and it has the potential of becoming a very complicated and unhappy process (although I have not personally experienced that, thankfully. But I know people who have …). So, here are the issues:

If you are thinking you want two officiants for your wedding, the first thing to ask yourselves is: Why? Why do you want TWO officiants? Your reasons matter, because they determine whether it is really worth the extra effort and expense of having two officiants.

A few things to consider:

* Hiring two officiants is going to cost you double the price of hiring one officiant. Why? Because you are hiring the time of two people, not one. Unless Daddy Warbucks is financing your wedding, this may incline you to try to negotiate prices with both of your officiants that is considerably less than what he or she would be earning if they were doing the ceremony on their own.

* From the officiant’s perspective, this creates a quandary, for both of them. Leading half of a wedding is actually MORE work, not LESS work for your officiants because it involves trying to coordinate with an unknown other person who may or may not be easy to work with. The officiant’s travel time is the same and their monthly marketing costs are unchanged. (Mine are over $500 a month, in case you were wondering.) It especially creates a dilemma if your wedding date is in a busy month, like May or October.

If, for example, I were to accept a co-officiation gig for May 8, at half my normal fee because I’m one of two clergy — and then I get a call for a typical one-officiant wedding on the same day — I’ve suddenly missed out on hundreds of dollars! This is very painful for your officiant because weddings are a hugely cyclical business. There are about 6 months out of the year when we don’t officiate any weddings at all (but we’re still having to pay our online advertising fees.)

* Some rabbis are not allowed to co-officiate, based on the rules of their ordaining religious organization. This is why people often have a hard time finding the rabbi-half of a co-officiation equation.

Rabbis ordained in the Reconstructionist or Conservative movements are prohibited by their rabbinical assembles from co-officiating. (The reasons for that decision are another story). Such grads make up perhaps 60% of all rabbis in America. Orthodox rabbis make up another 15%, and they definitely won’t co-officiate (they won’t even officiate at an intermarriage.) That leaves you with about 25% of ordained rabbis who even have the permission of their ordaining institutions to consider your request (regardless of their personal feelings on the matter).

Also, buyer beware. Every “rabbi” is not created alike. There are handful of rabbinical groups out there that are not respected in the field. They aren’t quite as bad as “Internet ordination” but their programs demand about 5% of what a traditional rabbinical college demands of its students.

Legitimate rabbinical programs to look for (which DO allow co-officiation) are Aleph (Renewal movement) and IISHJ (International Institute for the Society of Humanistic Judaism). Aleph and IISHJ grads are allowed to co-officiate, and I can personally vouch for the legitimacy of their training programs. Contact the colleges and ask for a list of their graduates and their locations. The Reform movement allows its rabbis to decide whether they would like to co-officiate.


Let me pause here and clarify a few terms: Co-officiation means having two clergy of two different faiths jointly conduct the ceremony. This is different from a simple interfaith ceremony, which has o

nly one person officiating, but has both faiths being honored and incorporated in some way.

You have many more rabbis to choose from if you are looking for a straight interfaith ceremony with only one officiant, versus trying to orchestrate a co-officiated two-clergy-person ceremony.


All that said, let’s get back to what you said you want: co-officiation.


Let’s say you DO find a rabbi you like who is willing to co-officiate. Now let’s get back to my question: Why do you need two people? If the goal is to have some Jewish elements in your wedding, then a savvy minister or priest, educated in pluralistic values, can create a genuinely interfaith ceremony w/o a Jewish clergy present.

Alternately, if your goal is to just have a Jewish “figure” as part of your wedding, you can invite an elderly grandparent, for example, to come up and recite the Kiddush over wine. He would delighted by the honor, and you don’t have to pay him anything.

It works the same way in reverse. If you hire a rabbi to do your interfaith wedding, the right rabbi knows all the things to do to make the service comfortable and meaningful to both Christians and Jews. And, to compensate for the “official Christian presence” issue, you can invite a family member to come up and do a reading from Apostle Paul, Book of Corinthians, for example, to add a specifically theistically Christian flavor to your event.

In other words, it is completely possible to have one officiant conduct an interfaith ceremony where both religious traditions are honored and represented. You just have to hire the right person.

Why is Co-Officiating Difficult?

bride and groom walking down the aisle

Co-officiating a ritual is tricky because you basically have two people trying to jockey the job of one person.  It is the role of the officiant to meet with the couple, present you with a variety of readings and ritual options, and then to let you, the couple, come back with your decisions. (At least, that is how any officiant who is worth the money you are paying them conducts the process. There are people out there who just use the same canned script for everyone, but that is never how I would prepare a ceremony.)

For example, I give couples a 38-page file of poems and readings to choose from, many from explicitly Christian and Jewish traditions — as well as many more from secular sources. I also offer the same array of rituals to choose from. There are 8 elements in a typical Jewish wedding, so we review and discuss all of those.

Then we look at rituals from Christian tradition, such as a unity candle, sharing from wine, the Greek Orthodox crowning ceremony, and the handfasting ritual. Then we look at rituals from secular American culture, such as the sand ceremony, the time capsule, and the tree planting.

Lastly, we look at rituals borrowed from other cultures and still other religious traditions such as jumping the broom, a Quaker minute of silence or the Quaker “minute of joyful noise”, the Celtic ringwarming, and the Swiss log-cutting ritual.

These are the kinds of things the right officiant, schooled in interfaith weddings, can offer you. And none of them require two people to do them.

In the end, this is what you are paying for when you hire an officiant — you are paying for someone who has combed the world’s literature and can offer you a wide range of options; you are hiring someone’s expertise and experience working in interfaith groups. You’re hiring a person who will be able to make every person in the room, no matter their faith tradition, feel “heard” and “represented.”

By adding another chef in the fire, you potentially have two people basically playing tug-of-war over who writes what section, who reads what section, etc. Here are some conflicts that sometimes arise:

* What happens if one clergy wants to do or say something that the other clergy believes will make part of the audience uncomfortable?

* What if one of the pair refuses to show their half of the ceremony to the other officiant?

* Who gets the final “read” or “say” on the whole ceremony? Do you want to get involved in that, and NOT have the words and blessings of the ritual be fresh and be a surprise on your wedding day? (Most couples like that element of surprise and mystery, so I don’t recommend the couple “proof” their ceremony in advance.)

* If you ask each officiant to do a part of the ceremony, how do you ensure it flows together? How can you be sure that the ritual has a range of quiet, speaking and ritual, and that it doesn’t come across like chopsticks — words and rituals just piled on top of each other?

Conducting a wedding is like conducting a theater piece. Would you hire a director to do Act I and another director to do Act II? Of course not. That would be just … odd. It could potentially be disjointed and jerky.

… That’s often what it’s like to have two ceremony officiants. Yes, a wedding can be done with two people and, sometimes it works, depending on the officiants involved. And, I’ll be honest, I’ve heard stories. Sometimes, it’s a nightmare.

My Own Experience


Most of the time when couples first contact me saying they want two officiants, they end up deciding one will do just one, and not one of these couples has ever regretted their decision. On only two occasions has a couple decided that they really did need two officiants, and in both instances, they were couples who were not stressed about their budgets. 

Both of the ceremonies went fine, and I am still friendly with one of my co-officiants. I would be happy to recommend her to any couple and work with her again. I can also report that I probably spent 40% more time preparing that ceremony than I would have if she had not been involved. It wasn’t because she was hard to work with — to the contrary — but it simply takes time for two people to blend and meld their own distinct ideas and styles into one cohesive ceremony. We sent our ceremony back and forth probably 10 times before we came up with one flowing whole that we both felt happy with.

In the end, it was a beautiful ceremony and no one had any regrets. But the experience confirmed for me that the one thing dual officiants will never be is time-efficient! For this reason, co-officiated ceremonies is the only type of ceremony where I am unable to offer discounts on my fee.

Let me leave you with two ideas, which may or may not be provocative to you:

1) Trying to hire two people for a job that can easily be done by one person might be an indication that you don’t have faith or confidence in any one person you spoke with to do it right. If that rings true to you, then I encourage you to keep looking. There are people out there who are masters at weaving multi-faith ceremonies; I’ve seen it done, and I’ve done it myself.

2) Your desire for two officiants could also be an indication that you two, as a couple, have not fully processed how you are going to live a blended faith home together. If any part of that idea rings true to you, I implore you to go back and start talking about it, perhaps with a clergy person or a couple’s therapist, to facilitate the conversation. Your feelings need to be aired NOW, before the wedding day, and before the first baby comes! If you are both really solid and confident about how your family is going to blend your faith traditions, then I think you will feel much more comfortable hiring just one officiant.

More Than Just the Officiant

anniversary birthday cake celebration

One final thought to consider: Interfaith weddings are about much more than just who does the officiating. They are also a statement, a reflection, of the kind of future you envision.

When I get a call asking me to co-officiate — and then I find out the wedding venue is in a CHURCH, I confess, it leaves me slack-jawwed. A church? Really? Could you not find a more neutral wedding venue? If your wedding is in a church, you’ve made the decision that your family’s primary religious identity (as a unit) is Christian — which is perfectly fine — but it also means you should hire a minister or priest to officiate your wedding!

The same thing applies to a synagogue. If you goal is to create an interfaith home, you should avoid having your wedding at a synagogue. If you book in a synagogue, I would say your goal is not to raise an interfaith family; your goal is to raise a mainly Jewish one, maybe with a few Christian holidays sprinkled in here and there that “Daddy” (or whomever) is technically celebrating. That’s OK, that’s your choice, but be courageous and acknowledge it from the get-go by hiring a rabbi to officiate. Don’t begin your married life with a bunch of mixed, contradictory messages.

Create a wedding ritual and wedding day that reflects the future home you intend to build together.

Here’s another way of framing the question: Are you sending your future children to Hebrew school or Sunday school? Because they both happen on Sundays, and you can only choose one. How you answer that question might help you answer what kind of officiant you hire for your wedding.

I hope some of this helps! Good luck!

And, if you have any questions, I’m always happy to talk these ideas over with people (at no charge), so just drop me a line.

Finally, I heartily recommend a nonprofit association called interfaithfamily.com. They have great resources for interfaith couples about not just wedding ceremonies but all aspects of interfaith family life. They are a wonderful organization with many great resources free of charge.

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This is part of a series of posts about my experiences officiating weddings. Most of my weddings are Jewish in one fashion or another. But many incorporate readings from other faith traditions, or even secular tradition.

Many of the couples I work with are devotedly “agnostic” in their beliefs (whether “Jewish” or not). They bristle at the classic hierarchical God language that so dominates traditional blessings and liturgy. Hey, no problem, here; I do too! For me, this discomfort is a bright open door inviting me to create the words that do capture my heart and soul. It is my deepest honor to be asked to do this for others too…

Here, in these posts, I am sharing some of the most common questions couples have asked me along the way of their wedding journey.

“How Can I Make My Wedding Unique, Funny or Even Funky?”

No cookie-cutter weddings here!

Wedding are supposed to be times of great joy – not somber sobriety! They’re a time to bring out the best of our traditions, but not bury ourselves in them. It IS possible to create a wedding ritual that mixes meaningful words of love with joyful, even unexpected elements that will have your guests chuckling about your wedding for years to come.

There is no “recipe” for creating a funky, unforgettable wedding. It comes about by brainstorming, thinking creatively, and most importantly of all – giving me the license to go! Once I know what you are open to a funny curve ball, I promise you, I can come up with one!

Example 1: “No God, Two Cultures, Please Make ‘Em Laugh”

Eric and Maria wanted a non-theistic wedding that was light-hearted and not overly serious. They were an “older” couple, with grown children, who each had small parts in the ceremony (playing instruments, for examples). I came up with two surprise elements in their wedding that I felt proud of:

1)    First, I read, in Spanish, a poem about love by Pablo Neruda. The bride is Spanish, and I knew her family would be watching the wedding later via YouTube, and would be delighted to suddenly hear some of the ceremony in Spanish. I practiced it for hours and think I got the accent decent enough!

2)    Then, with a little behind-the-scenes sleuthing, I dug up some dirt about the couple’s younger lives. Then, when it came time for the vows, the “repeat after me” part, I mixed in serious vows, with funny ones they totally didn’t expect.

“Repeat after me. I, Eric, promise to not get drunk and wake up naked beside the Colorado River.” {Insert riotous laughter here!}

“Repeat after me. I, Maria, promise to always make you really great mojitos” …

You get the idea. It was the best part of the ceremony!

Example 2: “No Religion, No Time To Plan, the Funkier the Better”

Claire and Collin got a sudden job offer in Europe so they had a quickie wedding with very little preparation time. But they were careful to throw in their own quirky touches in all aspects of the day.

First, my favorite, they had the groom’s sister dressed identically to all the groomsmen, and she was also called a “groomsman!” Then they had a wall of tea lights, before which we conducted the ceremony. It was gorgeous! They also had everyone pitch in. The bride’s 13-year-old sister played all the entry music on the violin; a friend sculpted the bride’s hair.

Their main ritual request was that I not use any traditional God liturgy (either Christian or Jewish). They also had an aunt and uncle whom they wanted to honor by doing a blessing or reading for them.

After giving my rabbi-ly advice on the secrets to lasting love, with quotes from the great poet Kahlil Gibran, I called up their aunt and uncle to dispense their marital advice. That advice, much to everyone’s surprise, was a spirited reading of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You Will Go!”

The audience loved it. A few days later, I received a nice note from one of the moms, Ruth, telling me that their crowd of Jews, atheists and Christians of all stripes had been touched by the ceremony. As an officiant, I couldn’t have hoped for more!

Example 3: “Christian-Jewish Interfaith … And Honor Both Religions”

My last example is a showcase of how it’s possible to do a wedding that is religious both Jewishly and Christianly, without offending either side.

For this wedding, the couple was not personally religious, but they had agreed to raise their children Jewish. Thus, they wanted a Jewish wedding and rabbi officiant. The groom’s family, however, was very devotedly Christian. While they weren’t upset about having a Jewish wedding, the groom didn’t want them to feel “left out” or to feel like they were watching some alien scene out of a movie they didn’t understand.

I’ve officiated many Jewish or Jewish-lite weddings for interfaith couples. But this was the first time I was asked to do such a wedding actively incorporating something distinctly Christian. The million dollar question was: What to incorporate without totally “crossing the wires” of the two traditions? What Christian thing could we say that was authentic to Christians, but not alienating to Jews?

After much discussion, we did two things:

1)    The mothers came up and lit a unity candle. This beautiful ritual, which symbolizes the creation of a new light by a new family, comes from Protestant tradition. But there is nothing “Jesus-specific” about it.

2)    We also included a reading from the Book of Corinthians on the nature of love. The passage, while from the New Testament, does not quote Jesus, and thus would not have made the Jewish members of the audience uncomfortable.

At virtually every interfaith wedding I have been blessed to officiate, some very old Jewish grandmother or great-grandmother comes up to me afterward with tears in her eyes, grateful that a rabbi officiated. She is, I know, scared for the fate of her grandchildren. Will they still be Jewish? Will the Jewish family lineage live on?

This wedding was the first time I also had the Christian grandmothers come up to me, crying. “Thank you,” they said, “for making our faith feel so respected. We feel so apart of this family now.”

Ah, what a joy. What an honor. I would have made my dear Christian grandmother, Zelda, of blessed memory, proud. I felt proud too.

This is why I love what I do!

I love to hear from readers. Please post your comments below. To inquire about my wedding services, write me directly at joysa@aol.com.

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