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Fri, Jan. 6th, 2006, 12:36 pm
tsukata: Some status updates - the hunt for an officiant

Wedding date: 2 Apr 2006, Location: Flamingo Garden Gazebo in Las Vegas

My FH is Jewish. I have no religious preference, so I was fine with using a Jewish structure for the wedding. We aren't having kids, so that's not an issue. My FH doesn't actually believe in God much anymore, although he's respectful of his family's traditions. He did think his parents and grandparents would be happier if we had a Rabbi, so we asked our chapel to help us find one. This was back in April when we first booked the chapel.

The Flamingo offered up two names: Rabbi Hecht and Rabbi Schachet. Rabbi Hecht has a wife, Dr. Micki Hecht. We had previously met with her and decided not to use her. We tried contacting Rabbi Hecht, but he wouldn't return our messages. We contacted Rabbi Schachet, set up an appointment to meet with him back in June. He agreed to do the wedding, sounded like he was perfectly fine with our situation...it was cool.

Last month, I send e-mail to Rabbi Schachet. He had told me he was moving to Seattle, but that he was going to continue to do weddings in Las Vegas through mid-2006, and he didn't mind flying in to do ours. So, I sent e-mail to ask how the move went, and to find out if he needed anything from me at this point...just as a check-up since we're nearing the date. I never heard back from him, but a week or so later, I got a call from another Rabbi, Rabbi Mintz. She was calling because Rabbi Schachet had forwarded my e-mail to her and asked if she could cover the wedding.

She sounded very cool and organized over the phone, which I thought was a good sign. She agreed to honor Rabbi Schachet's quoted price, another good sign. She was very apologetic for how this was coming off to me. She mentioned that she generally asks that in interfaith marriages, each person take a class in other's faith. Well, this irks a little given that I don't really have time with work and such to track down and take a class between now and then, but I'm so happy to have someone who sounds put together that I'm not complaining. But then, the e-mails start. And not only does she want me to take a class, she wants to talk to the Rabbi that I take it from "to make sure issues are being covered."

Then we meet with her, on 1/4, while on our New Year's trip to Vegas. I had specifically told her a few things that we didn't want to include, and she kept trying to pressure us to put them back in. She was bothered that there was no one Jewish my wedding party, and she didn't want to let my Man of Honor sign the Ketubah because he isn't Jewish. She asked us to find some Jewish people to sign it, saying it'd be a great honor for whoever we pick. I'm like "No, I want my best friend to be my witness. I'm not Jewish; it shouldn't matter that he isn't either." And she acquiesced. But it bothered me that it was even a question. Keep in mind that we hadn't even planned on doing a ketubah until she brought it up, and then we decided to do one. That is, if she was uncomfortable with an interfaith ketubah, she shouldn't have brought it up. Lastly, I brought up the class, fully with the intent of explaining that I've had considerable exposure to the Jewish faith previous to dating my FH and that with my work schedule as it is, it's very difficult for me to do a weekly class, but that I'd be willing to try to find an online course with self-study or something similar. And, I get a lecture that this "has to be a priority" and that "Jewish roots run deep." At which point, my temper kicks in...after everything I've been tolerating up until this...and I still manage to be polite, but I say that my family's traditions and beliefs have history as well, and that I'd like to understand what she is hoping to accomplish by having me take this class. Her response is that I need to get to know my husband's beliefs better and that if I have a problem with it, maybe she's not the right Rabbi for us.

And it kills me, because what I should have said back was that the best person for me to learn that from is my FH, and I've been doing that for three years now...but instead I was just flummoxed and bothered and near tears and I just sat there steaming, angry because she was presuming that a) I'm ignorant and b) that I wouldn't have done that already before agreeing to marry the guy! And I'm also ticked because she *knows* that she's our last hope at this point. We're three bloody months away. We had someone booked; he backed out on us...and she knows this and she's threatening to drop us basically...knowing that I really can't drop her even if I wanted to.

I don't take ultimatums very well. :( The thing is, I was almost excited about the class when she initially mentioned it. But when it became something that she was clearly making a requirement for me and wasn't doing the same for my FH, it felt like...like because I'm not Jewish, I'm second class to her. And then that just got reinforced throughout the conversation when we met her, with all the little things she kept trying to do. She also wanted to start the service in Hebrew and then switch to English. We had specifically asked for there to be very little Hebrew, because most of our attendees won't understand it...but again, she pushed back on us.

She also had us fill out a questionnaire...which we thought was so she could learn some anecdotes and things to customize the ceremony. But it turns out that she asks for about three questionnaires and it's far more like wedding counseling than anything else. And honestly, I think we'd "pass" without any trouble. We're both very honest and open, and we've discussed money, retirement, kids, jobs, etc. But, it bothers me in concept. It's not her job to decide if we should get married or not. And what's going to happen? If she's not happy with the answers, is she going to back out?

Before we leave, too, she starts pulling out like five books from the seventies that she wants me to read. Now granted, if all she were asking is for me to read these books and give her some clue that I'd read them, I'd happily do that. I'm a fast reader, and I have lots of time on airplanes to read. But at this point, it felt like adding insult to injury.

At this point, I do think we're going to end up dropping her. We talked to the Flamingo before we left to find out if we could still use the "default" officiant that comes with our package, and how friendly those officiants are to doing non-religious ceremonies, what the structure is, etc. I'm thinking that's our best option at this point, but I *hate* that this is going to disappoint FH's family. I hate that it went down like this. We really liked Rabbi Schachet. He does gay marriages. We loved that about him. :( We told him he was welcome to make a statement in support of gay marriage in our ceremony. I mean, he was really disorganized...he never remembered who I was until I reminded him of things we'd talked about...and it worried me that he was going to be flying in...but he was a good guy. We both liked him.

So, that's our officiant story to date. I'm not sure that I'm really looking for advice...more just sympathy...and also to let others in similar situations know what to expect.

FYI, price comparisons:
Rabbi Hecht - unknown
Dr. Micki Hecht - $250 as of 5/2005
Rabbi Schachet (when he was doing LV weddings) - $400
Rabbi Mintz - $800
Default Officiant at Flamingo - $50

(x-posted to several wedding related sites and a version to my own LJ eventually)

Fri, Jan. 6th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)

I'm sorry to hear about the trouble you're having. I had a somewhat frustrating experience myself. I'm Lutheran and my husband is Jewish. We wanted to have an interfaith ceremony officiated by both a Rabbi and a Pastor. We live in Miami which has a very large Jewish community. There were only two willing to do interfaith weddings. Most either laughed at us or scolded us. We were even rejected by a female Rabbi, which technically isn't even REALLY considered a legitimate Rabbi by most. My mother in law spared me from making the calls so that there would be little opportunity for me to be offended. The Rabbi we used is not considered legitimate. He would marry a chicken to a dog if he were paid enough. We paid $1000. I grew up in a Jewish community and I already knew that interfaith marriages were frowned upon. We had one hotel that refused our business when they found out about our "situation". Apparently, it made matters worse that it was the woman that wasn't Jewish since the woman is more likely to be involved in the religion factor of the potential children's upbringing. I sent a Jewish girlfriend of mine to Judaica stores to try and get an Interfaith Ketubah. She lied and told the store managers that I was Jewish and my husband wasn't. One store kicked her out after informing her that they refuse to carry any such thing. Another store was nicer and informed her that they didn't carry them, but only after making her sign up for a Jewish Singles organization so that she could "avoid suffering the same fate." (We inevitably ordered one online). The good news is that not everyone is like that. My inlaws are wonderful and couldn't care less that I'm not Jewish. Our Jewish friends, with minor exceptions, don't care either. Of course, our situation is made even funnier by the fact that my husband is Russian and I'm German. Depending on who we're with, it can either make for hilarious conversation or a subject best not discussed.
I think you should call your original Rabbi and let him know about your frustrations. There is a very small group of Rabbis willing to do this sort of thing and they all know each other. He may know who to ask if he doesn't change his mind and fly in after all. I definitely understand that your FH's family will be saddened to have the default officiant. An expensive option would be to fly in a Rabbi from another town (not uncommon given the situation). I think that if your FH's family knows that you've trule exhausted all of your options, they'll appreciate it, and, if they REALLY feel strongly about it...they may be willing to help with the added expense. Last resort...you'll have to suck it up and bear with this Rabbi, as terrible as that may be.

Mon, Jan. 9th, 2006 01:09 am (UTC)

Reading your story made me feel better. :) Rabbi Schachet is of the "would marry a chicken to a dog" sect...he was a mercenary Rabbi, as my FH calls it.

I think we've decided to just give up and go with the default officiant. It's cheaper, and we'll still do the Mazel Tov and glass-breaking at the end, plus our own vows and ring vows. FH's family is totally understanding. I really think FH worries about their opinion more than they actually have an opinion, y'know? But we've told them about our Rabbi troubles all the way through and they have been very supportive.

We wrote to Rabbi Mintz to tell her we didn't think it was going to work, and she wrote back a really mean and hurtful response that very much seemed to be of the "you didn't break up with me; I broke up with you!" vein...so that just made us even more glad that we weren't using her!

Sat, Jan. 7th, 2006 12:29 am (UTC)

I think I still have a list somewhere, which isn't quite current, since it's from last year when I was hunting for an officiant, of rabbis who will do interfaith marriages and what requirements they have (they'll do same sex weddings, they require courses in the Jewish faith for the non-Jewish partner, etc.) We found ourselves a rabbi who we loved who didn't require us to take courses, who met with us at our convenience a few times, and allowed us to write a good part of our own ceremony.

If I can find it, I'll forward you the list in an e-mail this weekend if you like...just provide me with an e-mail address.

Mon, Jan. 9th, 2006 01:10 am (UTC)

I think we've decided to just give up and go with the default officiant. It's cheaper, and we'll still do the Mazel Tov and glass-breaking at the end, plus our own vows and ring vows. Thank you for offering to help though. :)