Interfaith marriages are legal in Nigeria. However, couples often face resistance and hostility, both from family members and religious leaders. Occasionally both Muslims and Christians feel pressure to convert to another’s faith in order to avoid fallouts and possible conflict in the future. Those with experience of inter-faith marriages say couples often face a variety of difficulties. In Islam, men are allowed to marry “people of the book”, Christians and Jews. But Muslim women are not allowed to marry outside their faith. Many of the more conservative or evangelical Christian denominations, meanwhile, insist spouses convert or promise to bring their children up as Christians.
Planning an interfaith ceremony can be tricky. Chances are you’ll face three major challenges: finding an officiant; combining two sets of traditions without upsetting your families and creating a ceremony that reflects your commitment and your common values. How can you prevent a religious hurdle?
1. Communicate: Always communicate in order to identify and work on reconciling issues likely to arise during your marriage. The issue of religion – its role in your wedding, marriage, and future family. Discuss the religious practices you would like to continue observing, especially when you have children. Nothing need be set in stone, but it’s important to be open about your expectations for the future. Also start discussions early on what religion you want to incorporate in your wedding and how.
2. Gather Information: Take courses in each other’s religions. Even if you don’t intend to practice either religion at home, the study will give you a greater understanding of each other’s beliefs and assumptions. Also check with your Church or mosque to see how it’s done.
3. Counselling: Consult clergy from each of your religions, preferably someone with training in family counselling, to help you two discuss the issues you may face.
4. Indulge The Parents: If the parents are having a hard time dealing with the religious differences, try to understand that they are mourning for their own unfulfilled expectations. Give them time to adjust to the idea, and try not to get defensive.
5. Choose an officiant (or two) Imam or Minister who makes both of you feel comfortable and who believes in your union. Ask around – there are bound to be other interfaith couples who have used local officiants willing to perform interfaith marriages.
6. Carry Both Faiths — And Both Families Along Early in the process, listen to both families’ views and expectations for your wedding day. You and your partner should then decide how to proceed — and lovingly (or at least nicely) discuss your choices with your families. Be open and honest with everyone from the jump so they know what you’re planning and why. Many couples create a wedding program that includes explanations and transliterations of specific religious customs, so family and friends can understand and participate in unfamiliar religious traditions
7. Give Your Ceremony A Personal TouchTake great care in planning the ceremony. Some interfaith couples choose to follow religious tradition closely, while others stray from convention. Your officiant(s) can help you design a ceremony that works for you. Work together to select readings and rituals that are significant to both of you. This tough-but-worthwhile process will do much more than solidify wedding-day plans — you’ll get a head start learning to compromise, which happens to be the number golden rule of marriage.
8. Weigh In Other Options If most things seem difficult, you need to begin weighing other options like skipping a faith-based ceremony, do a registry marriage only before your wedding reception.