Rabbi Robert Silverman is one of the most celebrated and progressive Rabbis in America. The Boca Raton-based Silverman has been a wedding officiant for over 40 years and was one of the first South Florida wedding officiants to preside over same-sex unions. The following interview was conducted over the course of a few weeks in September 2017.
Describe a recent beautiful wedding you officiated. What was the most memorable moment?
A couple from New York planed a destination wedding in South Florida. We spent a lot of time on Skype, Emails and phone calls. The wedding was in beautiful Coral Gables and the bride was very nervous. After performing weddings for over forty years you would think you would have seen it all. The bride’s parents walked her down the aisle. The Father of the Bride, when giving his daughters hand in marriage, gently put both of his hands on her hand and gave her hand to her Groom. It was one of the most touching moments.
What would be your number one piece of advice for anyone thinking of having an interfaith wedding service?
Early on in the planning process, spend time with both of your families, and let them know that you want to talk to them about the wedding ceremony. Explain to them that you want to have a wedding that celebrates both of you and the different faiths you come from, and that you are interested in hearing what is important to them for your wedding. Listen gratefully and let them know you hear them and appreciate their suggestions. Then the two of you can decide together what is most important for YOUR wedding. If you feel comfortable with their imput then include their ideas, but if not, you will still have an understanding of what they wanted and be able to incorporate pieces of it in ways that feel true to both of you.
What makes a Jewish wedding so unique?
Traditions! Although there are many, The Ketubah is one of the most important traditional features of a Jewish wedding. This is a marriage contract is signed just before the ceremony and becomes a lifelong contract to be honored by the bride and groom.
What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen happen at a wedding?
The wedding was on an island where it was only assessable by boat or sea plane. Everyone was required to wear white. A band was not permitted on the Island. After I walked down the aisle one man stood up and started singing. Another man and another man and another man etc. This was the most incredible acapella group. They sang all night.
Describe the needs and requirements for both families when putting together an interfaith wedding.
Involve your families in the planning, but don’t let them steamroll you or make the decisions. Find a wedding officiant (or two!) from both of your faiths to conduct your interfaith ceremony who has had done this before.
Be Creative! Have all the important conversations before your wedding and ask questions:
- How would you want to raise kids, if you want to have them?
- Which holidays do you want to celebrate and how?
- How will you navigate difficult decisions and ensure that both of you feel heard and understood?
- Who will you both turn to for advice and support when things get tough?
- Do you have friends who have an interfaith relationship that you admire, and who can give you guidance.
Do you feel that your role officiating same-sex unions is important?
It is very important! When two people love each other so much that to them joining together as as one it is my responsibility to perform their ceremony to show that it is appropriate for them.
Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They Are A-Changin'”
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.
What, in your opinion, makes a wedding beautiful?
Writing your own vows.
When one begins to write their vows for their wedding it is important to know that this is the time to express their truest and deepest feelings. It may be words and feelings that have not been said or expressed until that moment. These words are said heart to heart. Their guests feel the emotional connection between the couple.
In the years you’ve been officiating, how have weddings changed?
First look- the groom seeing the bride before the ceremony. Moms walking the Bride down the aisle has become common. Many more destination weddings. Delaying honeymoon plans. The first dance has changed to a more choreographed routine.
Are there common things that couples don’t seem to take into account when planning a wedding (especially in Florida)? What are they?
Knowing the number of guests before looking for the venue. Having a planner or at least a day planner. Confirming that invitations were received. Creating a time line to keep you on track. Set a realistic budget. Know the weather of your destination especially in Florida. The summers months are not comfortable for the wedding party and guests.