6 Views On Love
You may have heard this tale before: Once upon a time, in a village far, far away, there were six blind men. These blind men were told that an elephant was going to pass through their village, and they were like, “We should totally go and find out what this elephant thing looks like.” (Haha, looks…) So they go to where the elephant is and they climb all over it and touch the elephant. Alas, the elephant is so huge that each blind man felt either its leg, its tail, its tusk, or its ear. “It feels like a pillar!” one said. “A rope,” argued another. A branch, a giant fan, a gigantic wall, a solid pipe. They clung tightly to their elephant, not bothering to move around, apparently, until a wise man appeared and told them, “Dudes, you’re all, like, right. No one is wrong. You’re all looking at this elephant from a different point of view.” The six blind men laughed off their mistake and lived happily ever after.
Point is: We all hold a bit of truth, and if we put it all together, we might see something that neither of us could see alone.
Welcome to the Blind Men & the Elephant interfaith series, where we talk about interfaith traditions and the common core they all share.
I Hear the Wedding Bells
In this first episode, we’re going to take a look at marriage through the lens of six different faith traditions. Marriage, of course, is all about a new beginning. But how people choose to ring in that new beginning can be quite unique, often including ancient traditions and rituals passed down for generations. In a time where marriage can be nothing more than a legal contract, religious wedding traditions are sometimes all we have left to include God in our special day, and to remember how sacred it is to merge two people, and two families, as one.
The Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox church conducts their wedding ceremonies with lots of tradition and support from the families. Just like the wedding scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding—I love that movie.
There’s more to it than what the movie showed, though. For instance, the ceremony is twofold: the engagement and the marriage ceremony. The number “3” is also significant throughout the course of the ceremony: praying three times, walking around the altar three times, and so on.
The stefana, two crowns joined by a ribbon, is meant to connect the couple with the blessings and glory of God. The koumparo/koumpara—best man/maid of honor—help throughout the entire wedding process and are part of the church community.
Traditionally, there will be tea lights (or torches in ancient times) pointed toward the new home to ward off evil spirits. Also, as a party favor, guests receive a small bag filled with five pieces of sugar-coated almonds: the shape represents fertility, the hardness represents endurance, color represents purity, sugar represents having a sweet marriage, and each piece represents health, happiness, wealth, prosperity, and longevity.
There’s also a special dance for the bride where the women dance around her taking off her veil; signifying her transition from girl to woman. A fun superstition that happens during the reception is breaking plates and glasses: the more broken shards, the longer your marriage will be.
Weddings in the Islamic faith are not a necessity. That means that the officiant can be anyone from the community. Traditionally, Muslims practice arranged marriages, with the women having the final say of yes or no.
Traditions for the wedding ceremony are not well-known, but there can be quite festive after parties following a simple ceremony. The ceremony finishes with the couple repeating, “gabul,” meaning “I accept,” three times in front of everyone there. (Here we go with the number three again. Any takers on what that might mean?)
Confucius said, “There will be six precise steps for a wedding.” Okay, he didn’t say that, but there are precisely six steps in a Confucian marriage:
1 – The parents match up the couple-to-be’s birth charts together to select the perfect match. If the woman approves, then the families begin to plan the wedding.
2 – The bride makes moon cakes and sends out invitations to everyone once the date is set.
3 – The bride sends the groom’s parents her dowry. The groom sends a dowry to the bride’s parents of equal value.
4 – The groom visits the bride and her family, and brings the bride back to his home with much fanfare.
5 – The actual wedding ceremony takes place.
6 – The bride makes breakfast for her husband’s parents, and the parents make the new couple breakfast as well.
Simple and practical, I like it.
Weddings in the Jewish tradition are filled with tradition and symbolism. The groom, or chatan, wears his white outfit, called a kittel, that he would usually wear for Yom Kippur. The ceremony always takes place beneath a canopy called a chuppah that represents the couple’s new home (or the Jews’ time in Egypt—depends on what you believe). The groom is escorted by his parents to the chuppah, and the bride, or kallah, follows with her parents.
The altar has two wine glasses and an empty glass set. The rabbi takes one wine glass and prays over it, and the couple drinks it in order to be sanctified as man and woman. In order for the married to be official, the groom puts a wedding band on the bride’s finger, but the bride does not do so for the groom. Afterwards, the rabbi reads the ketubah, the responsibilities the groom must fulfill in the marriage, which is then given to the bride to hold onto. The second wine glass is now picked up and the rabbi cites the Seven Blessings of God to link the couple to God through their faith.
The ceremony ends with the signature stomping of the glass by the groom. This signifies the couple’s connection to the nation of Jerusalem. The couple is then taken to a private room, yichud, to have some food because they fasted the whole day of the wedding. They then join their guests for the celebrations.
Weddings in the Hindu faith are very sacred. They’re colorful, eventful, festive, and joyful.
Marriage is a necessary part of life to Hindus, since it is important to carrying on the lineage. The main events of the wedding ceremony are: Jayamaala, Madhu-Parka, and the Gau Daan and Kanya Pratigrahan. Jayamaala is the event where the groom and his family is welcomed at the bride’s family’s front door to begin the ceremony. The Madhu-Parka is the event where the groom is brought to a room to drink a welcome drink—milk, ghee, yoghurt, honey and sugar. The Gau Daan and Kanya Pratigrahan is the exchange of gifts and the acceptance of the bride.
A significant part of the ceremony is when the couple walks around the agni, or holy fire, three times. They then recite vows in Sanskrit, and the priest points to the North Star telling the couple to be committed and unwavering like the star.
Father Moon said, “Marrying is a statement that we will perfect ourselves and come to possess God. Thus we will eternally remain as a counterpart of God, one who has assisted Him in realizing His ideal of creation.”
The wedding ceremony process of Unificationists is actually open to people of all faiths. It’s called the Marriage Blessing and it’s a festive affair with many couples receiving the Blessing at once.
We’re famous for having mass weddings. Growing up as a Unificationist took a lot of the stress off planning my own wedding—I had lots and lots of people getting married alongside me!
Father and Mother Moon have presided over the ceremony together as a couple since 1960. In recent days, Mother Moon presides over national ceremonies, and officiating couples are chosen to preside over local ceremonies.
The Blessing is unique compared to other faiths in that representatives of all faiths bless the union as well. The Blessing ceremony unites the couples with the blessings from God and purify their lineage by drinking holy wine in the Holy Wine Ceremony. The couples accept in unison the vows recited by the officiators, and then exchange rings.
Was Blind, But Now I See
Studying different faith’s wedding traditions has given me a broader perspective on what marriage actually means. I mean, have you thought about why we all go about walking this earth, trying to find the person with whom we will spend the rest of our life and start a family?
Why is marriage so built in to our deepest desires, that we think something is wrong when someone doesn’t want to ever marry at all? Why, for ages, have people been investing so much in their wedding day, infusing so much symbolism and meaning into this milestone? Why do even non-church-goers happily book the church on a day that could easily exclude God if we chose to?
But where would we, and our marriages, be without God—am I right? I think, whether we realize it or not, the start of a new family is tear-jerkingly beautiful; it’s the circle of life come full circle; it’s something bigger than just ourselves, and we won’t let the day pass without being everything it can be.