I began doing weddings about 5 years ago. I enjoyed it very much, and was very honored to represent Jewish tradition at such an important and spiritual moment in people’s lives.

I often did weddings on Shabbat, although not on holidays (as occasionally requested). I justified this by saying that although there should be rabbis who say “No” to officiating on Shabbat, there should also be rabbis who say “Yes.” The couples who were requesting this were not seeking rabbinic assent for their doing so. They were independent adults in a largely secular culture that encourages individual decisions over traditional ones. I felt that it was better to go along with the couple’s choices and give them a positive memory of their contact with Judaism at that moment in their lives. I would have been very unhappy if a couple remembered me as a rabbi who conveyed disapproval of their choice.

But over time, I began to feel that couples who made such a decision were not always choosing a rabbi for serious reasons. At best, they seemed to want a Jewish “presence” at the wedding — a rabbi, some Hebrew, a chuppah, a ketubah, etc., — but not in any way that would cause them to take other parts of Jewish tradition seriously. It felt to me like I was supporting a casual relationship with Judaism that I didn’t want to support. As much as I understood and empathized with it, I didn’t feel right encouraging it.

At the same time, over the years, I did many interfaith weddings. These usually included a “co-officiant” from the Catholic Church or some Protestant denomination. Many times, these were very pleasant team-ups, of which I have very good memories. But occasionally, I dealt with a priest or minister who insisted on doing some exclusively Christian aspect — especially one that mentioned Jesus by name — of which I was very uncomfortable. I even co-officiated at baby-namings that included baptisms. Again, my initial feeling was that it was good to be a “Jewish presence” at these moments, but as above, I began to wonder whether I wasn’t at the same time encouraging that a couple take Jewish tradition less than seriously. 

As my feelings about this were growing, I was also getting older. Spending the not-inconsiderable time working with a couple, plus the record-keeping and the wedding day itself,  were all becoming increasingly tiring. 

My first step was to choose not to accept interfaith weddings, but in not too long a time, I decided to discontinue doing weddings and other life-cycle events altogether, after the last one I had scheduled for this season. 

I do, however, look forward to expanding my teaching and lecturing. I have certain special themes — the Mishkan; the relationship of the Temple-practices to the synagogue and to Jewish liturgy; Judaism and the Koran — that I hope to have more opportunities to teach in the coming years.

I don’t claim that I found an answer to my discomforts. I’m glad that there are still rabbis doing such weddings and other life-cycle events when asked.

I’m also glad that I’m no longer the one doing them.