Friday, November 27, 2009

Diversity of Couples In Love

Love has no boundaries. Love is all inclusive. She is Jewish, and he is Christian. She is Muslim, and he is Hindu. She is Buddhist, and he is Baptist. She is Christian, and he is Humanist. She is black, and he is white. She is Asian, and he is Caucasian.

Of course we perform same faith, same culture and non-religious ceremonies, but this rather concise article addresses the greater diversity of couples in love. Also, the greater challenges.

Interfaith, interracial, intercultural marriages are increasing. By the time the couple stands in front of us on their wedding day, we have met many of them, and most certainly had numerous conversations and emails. Of significant importance, we have the answers to the questionnaires we provided to them.

Those questionnaires allow us to get to know a couple on a more intimate level for a personalized ceremony. In many instances we will have had conversations and written exchanges with parents and siblings. Not all situations allow for total family contact, but if we have any doubt, we simply ask the couple if they are open to contact with family members. When possible, our aim is to incorporate religious and cultural backgrounds of both families, and intertwine the elements to include, and bring those differences together, in one ceremony.

On occasion a couple enters into conversation with us with a sense of anxiety of how to please each family’s desire to have their culture or religion recognized. Sometimes, a family can cause undue pressure on a couple, as the couple seeks to please both parents. They are seeking balance , while hoping to have the ceremony incorporate their own ideas for the ceremony.

There are times when the minister must serve as the spokesperson for the couple to families, indicating the couples desire to be generous regarding family wishes. Parents may need to be reminded that their children are diligently seeking to incorporate the families, for it is a time of family bonding; but, this wedding is about the love of their children and their desires to reflect their personal hopes and dreams. THIS WEDDING will seek to personally engage and honor families, while giving priority to the couple.

It is a message which is generally quite difficult for many children to express to their families, especially when parents with strong religious or cultural leanings forget that this wedding must build a very permanent bridge between the families. Therefore the couple, with their minister, are determined to integrate as much familiarity as is possible with selected elements to reach that comfort zone for all.

There are some common denominators with these diversified couplings. Most couples have known each other for many years before deciding to get married. Both are well educated, accomplished in their professions, or highly educated for beginning their journey. Many are financially independent from each other. In a large majority of the cases, the parents are immigrants, and the children were born and raised in this country.

There is definitely a generational culture gap from parents born abroad with children raised in the United States. Couples are deeply respectful and sensitive to honor their family’s background . That objective is pursued and discussed to the degree that it allows for their own self-expression.

Most couples have found their own way of life when it comes to religion or belief, and they have developed their own new cultural rituals. It is always such a joy to realize that young people from such diverse backgrounds show so much compassion, respect, tolerance and acceptance towards the differences which exist in such a diverse culture as is prevalent in this country.

These couples have been further strengthened in finding a partner with whom each partner has determined that each can and will build their family unit through their appreciation of diversity.

Their upbringing and background has laid the foundation for such a positive development of character traits. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone, regardless of diverse differences, could develop the ability to accept, understand, and promote love for one another as exemplified by these beautiful loving couples?

We stay in contact with our couples, and as you can see on our website, we receive baby pictures (which we refer to as our “Spiritual Grandchildren”). It is so reassuring to know that these babies will grow up in a home where the first rule of law is LOVE, Tolerance, Compassion, Acceptance and Respect.

It gives us hope for the future of humanity.

Revs. Elisheva & T. Wade Clegg III

Monday, November 23, 2009

Remembrance of Stephan Mace

The bride looked beautiful and happy. The day was October 11, 2008. Vanessa, the bride, was escorted down the aisle by her son, Stephan, who was in his military uniform which he wore with pride. Standing in front of me, he presented his Mother to the groom, Richard Adelson.

Wade and I remember this day as if it was yesterday. We had such fond conversations and emails with Vanessa prior to the day of the wedding. But most informative were her answers to our questionnaire which revealed her love for her children. She would never have married anyone that would not have accepted her children and given them the love they deserved.

Throughout the ceremony I glanced at Stephan once in a while as he was watching his mom. He had this smile on his face that said, “You go mom! You deserve happiness!” During the reception, Wade and I had a little more time to talk to him at length.

He told us that he was going to deploy for Afghanistan very soon. He expressed his delight at the marriage of his mom to Richard knowing that his mom is going to miss him and worry about him so much. He was very glad that Richard would be there to support her while he was gone.

Stephan did not know when he spoke these words that, for the rest of Richard’s life, that would be his job without Stephan’s help. A year later, we were watching the evening news and hearing of the sad event in which eight of our soldiers had been killed earlier that day. No names were given at that time.

On October 21st I received an email from Vanessa in which she informed me that her son, Stephan, was one of those eight soldiers who had died on October 3rd in Afghanistan. Before I received Vanessa’s email , I was going through my listings of previous weddings to rejoice with them on their anniversary. I was preparing an announcement to Vanessa and Richard of congratulations on their first year. And, of course, I was about to ask how Stephan was doing, and when was he coming home.

I didn’t have a chance to send this email. One can only imagine the pain a mother feels and endures from the experience of losing a child. Nobody can truly understand, unless they have experienced it.

Stephan’s home town didn’t hold back in their support for Vanessa and her family. The funeral procession was shown on television as it progressed through the small town to the funeral home. Thousands of people lined the streets and paid homage to this fallen soldier of 21 years of age. He was buried at Arlington Cemetery with full military honors.

I can’t get Stephan’s smiling face out of my mind. I still see him escorting his mother across the grass on a perfect afternoon. I can still hear his voice telling Wade and me, “I will be fine.”

I will not make any political statements as to my feelings about this war. But one thing I know – this should NOT have happened! Such a promising young man – such a great personality and character – caring, loving, compassionate – I know this because I spoke to him during the preparation of my writing the ceremony. His mother’s happiness was SO important to him. He wanted her to have peace and love.
We will always remember Stephan.

Blessings…Elisheva Clegg

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Marriage Research

I was asked by doctoral student, Cristina Reitz-Krueger, for assistance with her web-based study of engaged couples. This will only relate to a few couples who are not yet married; however, I would like to encourage those particular couples to read the blog entry and participate. Cristina is a researcher in the University of Virginia Department of Psychology.

Thank you…Rev. Elisheva

Engaged volunteers needed!

I am looking for volunteers for a study of attitudes towards marriage and parenthood among engaged couples. The study consists of a 25-30 minute online survey. To qualify for the study, you must be 20-35 years old, live in the U.S., and plan to marry or have a commitment ceremony within the next 365 days. You and your romantic partner must not have children, and this must be the first marriage for both of you.

You can:

  • Help a doctoral candidate;
  • Increase the pool of scientific knowledge;
  • Support research on marriage and families; and
  • Spend some time thinking about your relationship!

I am working with Dr. Charlotte J. Patterson, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. This study has been approved by the University of Virginia Institutional Review Board #2009025800.

If you and/or your romantic partner are interested in participating or want further information, please email me at I will send you a link that you can use to access the study.


Cristina Reitz-Krueger
Doctoral Student
University of Virginia
(434) 243-8558