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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Oh, what to wear? (No, seriously)

So, at the end of the month, I'm privileged and more than pleased to be co-officiant at the Interfaith Wedding of the daughter of an old and dear friend.

I've known this child since she was nine years old and I am deeply honored to have been asked to do their premarital counseling and act as co-officiant at her wedding to a very fine Jewish boy. Well, Peruvian Jew. It's a long, fascinating story.

Both prospective bride and groom are nominally religious. The wedding is taking place in a very 'swankified' club the next town over. This is a Very Expensive Wedding. No joke. We're talking Big Bucks.

Both prospective bride and groom are very clear that they are having a 'religious' ceremony for their parents.

The prospective bride was adamant that I be part of her wedding day - did I mention that I've known her since she was nine years old (Impossible!!) - but that my involvement is more about our relationship than any religious preference or denominational affiliation.

Oh, they both believe in God, and think Jesus was a pretty cool Rabbi, but . . . . religion? . . . .Well, they just aren't too sure.

"Christians can be so mean," she said.

"Religious Jews can be so impossible," he said.

I appreciate their honesty.

So, after a Very Long, Hard Search for a Rabbi, they finally found a "Rent-A-Rabbi" online. He's of the Reform Tradition. He charges a whole whack of money - almost triple the usual and customary fee for Christian clergy.

He knows a market share when he sees one. Apparently, not only do most Rabbis discourage interfaith marriage - especially when the boy is Jew and the girl is Christian - they scowl at the ones who do officiate at such events. Assimilation is a Very Hot Issue here in the North East Corridor.

I get it. I do. I also suspect that the high fees are also meant to be discouraging. Ya gotta Really, Really want to make your girlfriend a shiksa, ya know?

The Rabbi is a real character. When they FINALLY met with him (he gave them exactly 45 minutes of his time), he handed them a bunch of Xeroxed papers with some Jewish prayers and an outline of how he runs an Interfaith Wedding.

The Service Outline ran down the middle of the paper. On the top of the page there is a column with "Rabbi" on the left and "Priest/Pastor/Minister" on the right. As he reviewed the outline of the service, he made check marks as to who was doing what.

He asked, "The priest is not going to do a homily, is she?" "Yes," said the prospective bride. "Oye," said the Rabbi. "What?" said the prospective groom. "Are you having lamb chops?" asked the Rabbi. "Well, yes," said the startled prospective groom, "Why?" "Well," said the Rabbi, "I love lamb chops and the longer she talks, the longer I have to wait for the lamb chops."

Like I said, a real character.

Oh, we're doing a Chuppah and a Ketubah, blessing the wine and breaking the glass. The bride absolutely refused to do the Sheva Brachot with her going around in a circle seven time.

I think the prayers are lovely, so I've adapted them so we're both doing them. The Rabbi and me. It's very cool. Even he says so himself. But, no body is moving anywhere when we say the blessing prayers.

The one reading in the service is from I Corinthians 13:1-13. A cousin of the bride is reading that. The couple also absolutely refuses to do the "Unity Candle". "Tacky," said the groom. A man of very good taste. His mother is very upset. He also nixed the playing of "Sunrise Sunset" during the wedding ceremony.

His mother cried. "But she can have the Ave Maria." He stood firm. "The Rabbi said the ceremony can only take 30 minutes. If we add music, we can't do the other blessings. "Oh," she said, "If the Rabbi said . . . ."

The Ketubah says this: "Ani L'Dodi V'Dodi Li" which translates: "I am my beloved and my beloved is mine. No man without woman and no woman without man, and neither without their faith."

"Faith," the couple emphasized to me, "Not religion."

Everything seems to be in place. We've agreed on an order of service that is different from the original order first proposed by the Rabbi. There's more sharing of the service between us. Less "Now the Rabbi speaks, then the Priest speaks."

It's going to be lovely, I think.

So, this is where you come in. Here's my question: What to wear?

No. Seriously. Very, very seriously.

The Rabbi is going to wear a business suit, his Kippah and his Tallit.

It's different not only because I'm Christian and he's Jew but because he's man and I'm woman. He automatically has cache because he's a man. I don't have that automatic cache.

I'm torn. Do I just wear a suit, clergy shirt and stole, or do I wear a cassock, surplice, tippit and academic hood - and then change, of course, after the ceremony?

Is the suit, clergy shirt and stole too understated or is the cassock, surplice, tippit and hood too much?

Remember: We're going to be standing under the Chuppah, doing almost all the prayers in Hebrew (him) and English (me), signing the Ketubah, blessing the wine and smashing the glass. It's mostly a Jewish service in which the Rabbi is graciously allowing me to participate.

There are, of course, no crosses allowed - not even during the benediction - and I'm not allowed to say "Jesus."

When I told them that during the Sheva Brachot, I'll be wrapping their hands together in my tippit, the prospective groom jokingly asked, "I won't go up in flames, will I?"

Cute kid.

So, I'm feeling a need to go a bit more "official," but maybe that's just my needs.

The prospective bride and groom have left the decision to me. So, I'm asking you: What to wear?

Thanks for your help. Seriously. It means a lot to me. Thanks in advance.

Oh, and by the way, just so you know: I won't be wearing what the woman is wearing in the picture above. It's just not me.


Unknown said...

Cassock, surplice and stole, that's stole, not tippet, if you're doing any blessing of any sort. If you get off on having a doctorate, wear the hood.

Caminante said...

When I did an interfaith wedding similar to what you describe, I wore a dress and a white stole that had no Christian symbolism (a Hmong one I got at General Convention!). I don't recall I wore a collar. What I loved is when I came out to start the ceremony, someone cried out, 'Here's the rabbi!'

Allie said...

I think you should go with the cassock and surplice look. What you discribed the rabbi as wearing could be considered formal reform Jewish garb, so you would be wearing the equivilant Episcopal garb.

Even if it was a relgious service, I wouldn't think the rabbi would be wearing anything different.

So basically, there isn't any reason for your to be dressed inappropriately if he is dressed appropriately.

If you think that would make the couple uncomfortable, that is another story, but realise the tallis looks quite official :-p

Allie (episcojew)

winnie said...

imho--i learned to dress like a priest in l.a., so i would suggest --alb because it's light weight, stole for wrapping, cope for drama, golden slippers because it's a party.

Father Bob+ said...

Hi Elizabeth, This situation seems to cry out: suit, clergy shirt and stole. Wrap up with your stole and smile. You are on God's candid camera.

I am sure you will be terrific. My son was married by a cantor in Arizona. I don't know how much it cost, but they could not find a rabbi to do it. I did not participate other than standing near by with video camera in hand.

My son's bride was very religiously Jewish and my son was happy to follow her expressed needs as was I.

I hope that helps. Take a photo and post it on Facebook. Bob

suzanne said...

Oy! what's a girl to do?

Well, you are the priest, and should wear the cassock, surplice, and tippet, but maybe not the hood.
Understated, but elegant. Try to find a way to subversive way to interject a cross somewhere, maybe on your shoes.. What's with that anyway??

Jon M. Richardson said...

I ABSOLUTELY agree with your sensibility. You should definitely not wear what that woman is wearing.

You should wear what that man is wearing! The shoulder cape really completes the ensemble!

Fran said...

Well, what to wear or not, that was one delightful post!

I loved that the only item I had to click into to know what it was, was the tippit.

As for your attire... Hmmm. You've got me, I must say I am not sure. My inclination is to go for the latter, but who knows. Maybe the suit and collar and stole is better.

I know, I am not helpful.

Mazel tov!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Allie. I especially appreciate your perspective. The Couple is really fine with whatever I decide. They're great kids.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Fran. It's amazing how much we already know about the cultural diversity and religious plurality, isn't it? I think we know more about others less about our own tradition. Says something, doesn't it?

Kirkepiscatoid said...

I vote cassock. Then you can wear whatever you want to wear underneath. But then again you are talking to a person who goes to medical school graduation wearing a cap and gown on the outside, and a t-shirt and black jeans beneath...oh, and purple snakeskin cowboy boots.

Jane Priest said...

Elizabeth- Cassock, surplice, and STOLE. Wrapping hands in a tippet? The wrapping with a stole is the yoke of Christ and the symbol of unity in marriage (vs the tacky unity candle). So, you won't mention Jesus by name, but Jesus is there nonetheless. All this is, as another comment noted, equivalent to what the rabbi will be wearing.

Josephine- said...

Yeah I would be inclined to go with a cassock and surplice as well. Hood I'd say is totally up to you. My area of the country no one would ever wear an academic hood but I rather like them. Tippet if you're preaching, stole if you aren't.

Lindy said...

I don't see what's so official about a tallis. Everybody in my congregation wears one, not just the rabbi.

It sounds like the rabbi is wearing his regular schul clothes so you should wear whatever you'd normally wear to preach. And, I'd keep it as uncomplicated as possible. It can get pretty crowded under the chuppa... and hot.

So, have fun. You're going to be great no matter what you wear.

Another great post, btw.


Elisabeth said...

The suit, clergy shirt and stole is too understated for a COUGAR!

doug said...

Although you said that the couple left it up to you, you also said that they stressed:"Faith, not religion." Ergo, I think that in this instance, less is more. So, I vote for the outift you have on for the pic for this blog. Simple elegance will seperate you from the Rabbi. Course, since you said the 'end of the month,' the hat you are wearing may be out of season. Maybe you can find one to match the stole :>)

Anonymous said...

Allie has some good points to make. My own thought is that considering the circumstances I would probably be inclined to vote for the suit, clerical shirt and stole.

Now Allie, Fran and I have not been much help have we since it appears to be a tie score.

Chris Larimer said...

You can't say anything about Jesus, yet you wish to dress as a Christian minister and act publicly in that capacity?

Perhaps you should spend less time worrying about what the cup looks like on the outside.

David@Montreal said...

Two thoughts comes to me:

1) the message your clothing will send
2) the opportunities your appearance might spark.

By dressing 'liturgically' you are recognizing the specialness- the remarkable sacredness of the moment and the convenant. As of course, inspite of the limitations imposed as you vest, the resonances of each element will become part of your participation.

In such mixed company, your appearance in priestly robes could be a powerful teaching moment for at least a few individuals present.

Surprising thoughts for someone who instinctively is more interested in unadorned sacredness, but as you've indicated this is a rih and complex situation.

Bottom line, dearest Elizabeth, trust your own grace, do what feels most real for you.


DBW said...

Bugger the no-cross edict from Mr. Hot-Shot, I would wear a big-ass cross. A big honking thing with a massive corpus on it, with your black cassock and a clerical collar. I know he said crosses are verboten, but whats Mr. Hot-Shot Rabbi going to do? Refuse to do the ceremony? He wants his big fee, he wants his lamb chops. He'll be irritated, but he'll survive. You are Christian clergy, after all. You can, of course, change into something sequinned after the ceremony, before you eat your lamb chops.

Elaine C. said...

I had a very, very similar situation about 2 years ago. In our case, the young woman is an active member of the cathedral, the young man a nominal Jew -- for whom raising his children as Jews was non-negotiable. The willing rabbi was older than God, and full of wisdom. He insisted both of us preach a little, and allowed the blessing of the marriage straight out of the Book of Common Prayer. The wedding was in a nice hotel. The rabbi had, I think, might have had a robe of some sort. I wore alb & stole. Your choice of Cassock and surplice is more appropriate. The bride posted pictures on Facebook -- I sent you a message with them. I can't tell what he had on. For me, the simple vestment took the emphasis off me as person and my taste in clothing and instead put it on my role. The vestments could then be shed for the after service festivities. It was the best wedding I've known -- laughter and love and humor!

Fr Craig said...

what Allie said. by the way, send that picture to the 'Bad Vestments' blog!

Curtis said...

I know this is not a Eucharistic liturgy, but perhaps an alb and stole is less "fussy" but distinctly Christian.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks so much, David. One thing is for certain: I won't be wearing a cope as someone suggested offline. I think that sends the wrong message in any place but a cathedral or Very Grand setting.

I am considering what one person wrote - that a white cassock alb with a stole might do the trick. Problem is, I don't have the body for a cassock alb. It's really designed for the male body and I don't look good in men's clothes.

Although, I must admit that there is the paradox that, every time I put on a long white dress (alb) to get ready for Eucharist I giggle at the thought that, in the church, I am in "traditional men's clothes."

IT said...

Cachet, not cache, I think

Paul said...

I am thinking cassock and surplice also, but since this is a sacramental action at which you co-preside and not the Daily Office I would wear a stole rather than tippet.

Anonymous said...

Whatever you decide, Elizabeth, I'm sure the entire experience will be an excellent one for all.

Anonymous said...

Suit and stole. Definitely. The service is not about you and the rabbi, it's about the couple. You are not there to make a statement, you're there to participate in their wedding ceremony. The rabbi wears suit and prayer shawl. You wear suit and stole. Symmetry.....nice.


Fr Craig said...

this about the 4th time you have rejected my benign comments... I don't deny you right, but am offended. You are one of my top 4 favorite bloggers....

Allie said...

I don't see why a cassock and surplus would be overdoing it any differently from a cassock alb.

June Butler said...

No cope! A bikini?

Seriously, I like Allie's idea of the cassock and surplice - liturgical, but not overly denominational.

Athanasian said...

If the rabbi plans to wear a tallis, then surely a cope would not be inappropriate for you. Chasuble, stole and maniple are out of the question, I suppose?

(Besides, does wrapping the couple's hands in a tippet count the same as a stole? Fortescue is silent on the subject.)

And if the rabbi is going to wear a kippah, then surely a biretta is called for.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

A bikini??? Mimi!!!!