I decided to write this post after following the recent media articles regarding the protest that took place at a Gurdwara in Lemington Spa against interfaith marriages.
Interfaith marriages have taken place in Gurdwaras for many years, however last year the Sikh Council UK released guidelines on inter-faith marriages saying that Gurdwaras must ensure the “genuine acceptance of Sikh faith” in both partners, proposing the use of signed declarations.
The protest occurred, as it was believed that a Gurdwara was not adhering to these guidelines. As I read a number of articles, I felt a mixture of emotions: shocked that my faith would exclude non Sikhs, empathy as there are some understandable arguments for non Sikh’s marrying in the Gurdwara and most of all upset. Upset for the couple who had their special day ruined due to rules and regulations that are not consistent and agreed by all.
My husband and I had a lengthy discussion when we were planning our wedding about whether we would have a religious ceremony. We decided not to as we were aware of the difficulties of marrying a different faith in a religious setting and we didn’t want to choose one religion over the other. We opted for a civil ceremony, as we wanted a ceremony that we were both familiar with and one that did not focus on religion. This was our personal choice and it felt right for us as a couple. Saying this, it does not mean that I am against interfaith marriages in religious settings, but I can understand why some people have reservations.
Do I agree with the recent protests that have taken place in Gurdwaras? No. I feel there are alternative ways to get your voice heard which doesn’t involve ruining a couples special day. However, after reading around the subject and having conversations with my husband and family, a question was raised among us: ‘do interfaith marriages in a religious setting show religious tolerance or religious dilution?’
- Last year I attended an interfaith wedding at a Gurdwara and was overwhelmed with how accepting and respectful my cousin’s partner and family were with the Sikh traditions and customs. Prior to the ceremony taking place my cousin sent information about a Sikh ceremony to all Non Sikh guests. On the day, fans were handed out that explained the Anand Karaj (wedding ceremony) and its meaning. The atmosphere on the day was one of love, acceptance and respect.
- By having interfaith weddings in a religious setting it allows more people into a faith.
- It allows different faiths to come together and learn about each other.
- Interfaith weddings connect the families as they share customs and traditions that they may have not been familiar with. By doing this it can create a strong family bond as all avenues of each couples individuality is shared.
- By having an interfaith wedding in a religious setting, the follower maintains their ties with their faith.
- A religious wedding to someone from a different faith could be meaningless and therefore pointless.
- Marrying in a religious setting where one does not believe in the faith could be deemed disrespectful.
- People from different faiths cannot relate to the ceremony and therefore it is insignificant.
- Some religious ceremonies are solely for those that are from that faith so should not be changed.
- If you don’t intend to follow the religion after marriage, a religious setting is worthless.
I feel that the decision to marry in a religious setting is a very personal choice. It is not something that should be taken lightly and if interfaith marriages are to happen in religious setting, I feel couples should have a good understanding of the faith but should not be made to choose one religion over another. Interfaith marriages are special in that they entwine two cultures, faiths and customs. They break down barriers, close divisions in society and create an acceptance and tolerance of others beliefs.