As mixed race marriages in the Asian community in Britain are becoming more and more common, it follows then that we are also talking about dual-religion marriages too. I’ve seen many a wedding photo on Facebook of an English man dressed up in a sherwani (the traditional Indian-male wedding outfit,) posing next to his beautiful Asian bride all decked out in her red wedding sari and full on mendhi for their ‘Indian wedding day’. Conversely, many Asian women have donned a traditional white wedding dress for their church wedding.
So the question is, after the confetti has fallen, and the bhangra dancers have packed up and gone home, do mixed religion marriages actually work?
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are reported to have split up over Tom’s strong Scientology beliefs- Katie allegedly did not want to raise their daughter Suri in the religion. Interestingly, Tom’s three year relationship with Penelope Cruz was also reported to have split because the pair did not agree on religion.
When a couple brings two different religions to the table, how does that play out in day to day life? For example in decision making where strong traditions are held in both religions, whose beliefs get priority? When organising the household finances, do they tithe or give zakat? When children come along, a christening or naam karan?
In my opinion, if both partners have very strong beliefs and very different religious traditions, the marriage would simply not work. Look at Tom and Katie. He has long been a committed Scientologist, but, apparently Katie did not share his views and in the end could not live with Tom’s strong beliefs, either for herself or for her daughter. (Ok, so they were also a Hollywood couple, many of whom split up for other reasons, but you can hopefully see my point here.)
I believe that the partner with the stronger religious view would end up dominating and that would become the family’s ‘default’ religion. The partner with the slightly lesser conviction would end up becoming side- lined or at best, practising what they believe in a quieter more personal way.
For many followers of the major religions, and particularly the way religion is practised in the East, religion is a whole encompassing system. It informs the way its followers eat, drink, dress, relate to the wider community, and yes how we marry. In short, for many Asians (and others of course), their religion is a worldview and all life emanates from it.
If that’s the case, then can two people from different religious backgrounds have a successful marriage? Or, and here’s the big question, can love transcend all barriers and differences?