A Nosh of Jewish Wisdom: Truth wears a halo.

Last minute request puts wedding officiant on the spot

Dear Helen:
Many years ago I got a lay certification to perform weddings. The first few I performed were for my own children; then for children of friends; then for peers who remarried. Happily, a career as a teacher and an avocation as a poet make me well qualified to perform a meaningful wedding. I’ve performed a dozen by now and charge a very modest fee. Many are for couples in mixed marriages, who do not want either partner’s religion to dominate, but like the idea of a spiritual event with elements from both and lots of universal thoughts and imagery. I meet with the couple several times before we come to a final decision about the actual words. This weekend, just before the ceremony began, the mother of the bride came to me and pressed a paper in my hand, saying, “This is my daughter’s favorite prayer. Please read it in the ceremony.” And then she walked away. Let’s just say that my ceremonies do not include “Jesus Our Lord” as a key element as this request did. There was no time to talk to the bride, so I omitted the prayer, as we had not agreed to it. The mother, who was ostensibly paying me, was very rude at the reception and said meanly “That’ll cost you your fee!” I did not mention it to the couple, but the wife sent me an apology and a check. What can I do to avoid this in the future?

Dear Officiant:
You can add two elements to your planning process. While you are meeting with the future marrieds, tell them this story as an example of things that can “go wrong and mar your happy day.” Say you do not want to disappoint anyone, but that you do what you do very intentionally to avoid religious observance, in part because you are not an officially certified representative of any religion, and in part because it’s not who you are, what you do, or what you think they are looking for. Show them examples of ceremonies you have performed, and, menu-like, allow them to help craft the ceremony in a way that pleases all of you. If they want to include religious references, you can choose to decline the honor or agree to officiate.

Follow up with an agreement that specifies what they have agreed to in the service, and with a list of things you commit to doing and also will not agree to do. Include a handout for them to share with their close family about the tone of the service and your collective understanding that because various traditions will be represented, nothing that feels exclusionary will be in the service. Suggest that family members can say whatever they want in the toasting that will be part of the reception. My guess is that the future marrieds will insulate you from these relatives. You might also consider collecting your fee before the ceremony.

Dear Helen:
A friend wants to visit, but only with her dog, who sheds. The last time she visited I had an office, but now I work out of my home. I’m not allergic, but my clients may be. I am not enthused about dog hair everywhere. I’d like to see her, but haven’t been able to convince her to leave the pooch at home, “because he’s a companion animal.” She’s always had high anxiety but yikes! Where to draw the line?

Dear Grinch:
You have the right to say “No.” Or “Let’s Skype more!” She likely won’t be happy with anything but “Yes.” So agree to something that makes you both happy.

Meet in the middle for a fun weekend in a place that welcomes pets. You’re probably better off in a rustic or coastal setting where you can schmooze and stroll while the dog explores. But there are lots of happy city dogs and dog parks. Good friends communicate honestly. Work it out and be happy together.

Helen claims to have black belts in schmoozing, problem-solving and chutzpah. She’s a writer and an artist (kabbalahglass.com). Please email your questions to helen@yourjewishfairygodmother.com and check out the blog at kabbalahglass.com/blog/

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