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Check out this Jewish-Muslim gay couple’s inspiring wedding album, in 24 blissful images

"Two religions can absolutely work together": To mark 10 years of marriage equality in the UK, Adam and Ali reveal all about their multi-faith wedding at Braxted Park - and the road to acceptance that preceded it

By Amy Thabit & Kate Marvelyan

Two men on their wedding day walking among their guests and confetti
”My favourite part of the day was seeing everyone mixing and chatting – there was no divide between people or groups” says Adam [right] (All images: Beki Young Photography/provided)

Essex-based couple Adam and Ali wed at the impressive country house estate Braxted Park in the summer of 2023 after six years together. 

Surrounded by 160 of their closest supporters, the couple incorporated traditions and symbolic elements from each of their cultural backgrounds into their wedding day, with friends and family embracing every word, custom and detail. 

However, the journeys that led Adam and Ali to this day have not always been smooth sailing.

Despite both families being incredibly supportive of their sons, cultural expectations did affect their formative years, which resulted in questions about acceptance and whether faith and an LGBTQIA+ identity could really coexist.

Fortunately, theirs was a story with a happily ever after and with many lessons learnt along the way.

Adam and Ali have chosen to share their tale of personal growth, familial acceptance and cultural union in the hope that it helps inspire others to stay true to themselves and choose love every time.

A modern-day love story

In May 2017, the pair swiped right. Adam, a Jewish Financial Services Recruiter from East London, scheduled a date with Ali, a Muslim Local Authorities Manager from Crouch End, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Both from big families, Adam had a fairly religious upbringing, attending a Jewish school and feeling a close connection with his faith. Ali’s family were less religious. However, they were still immersed in Turkish-Palestinian culture thanks to the vibrant local community and a loving group of 30 aunties and uncles who would drop by at all hours to sip tea and gossip.

Adam was the first partner Ali had ever introduced to his family. Despite his family being largely accepting of his sexuality, Ali says that it was never really spoken about. 

“My dad knew but we didn’t need to talk about it. He was very protective of me and would always check in to make sure that I was safe.

“I came out to mum over a bottle of Bacardi. It took her a long time to get her head around it – I think there was obviously an element of embarrassment for her having a gay son in our community, and she was worried about me.”

In contrast, Adam’s parents hadn’t guessed he was gay, and his mum was initially quite shocked, whereas his dad was supportive right away. “Dad was amazing – he even called in to the radio station LBC on a debate around homosexuality a few weeks later to say that he had a gay son and was proud of me.”

Adam and Ali each had family members who had married outside of their culture and met resistance from family members, so both were a huge support to them individually and as a couple. In fact, it was after a conversation with his aunt that Adam’s mum came to understand more about his sexuality, which helped set her on the path to acceptance.

As the couple went from strength to strength and bought a house together, both sides of their family could see what a wonderful match they were and began to truly accept their relationship.

In May 2022, in Central Park, New York, Adam found a quiet spot by the lake and proposed to Ali. One year later, the couple wed at Braxted Park.

The wedding

Every element of Adam and Ali’s wedding day was personalised, with important traditions being treasured and celebrated. Equally, the grooms were happy to disregard those traditions they didn’t feel matched their personal values with confidence. Their wedding day was an honest reflection of their individuality and an exciting glimpse into what their shared future might look like.

“[Jewish] traditions were important to me to make it feel like we were being blessed. It wouldn’t have felt like my wedding unless those traditions were there, and Ali was fully supportive,” says Adam

The day began with copious cups of tea as the couple got ready together, just the two of them. “It would feel strange getting ready without him”, Ali said.

The couple wore black and white tuxedos and chose to give away their phones so they could be completely present in the moment. 

Once dressed, they went outside for photographs. “We didn’t want loads of breaks in the day, so it made sense for us to have photographs before the ceremony, with just the two of us at the start and then family photos before everyone was seated.”

What followed was a truly unique and inclusive ceremony led by Rabbi Rebecca, who spoke about both cultures. The ceremony included Turkish readings and Hebrew blessings, which were read in Turkish and Hebrew and then translated into English.

A beautifully dressed Chuppah sanctified both families as they joined beneath it before lighting candles known as the licht bentschen or ‘light-blessing’.

Adam and Ali created their own marriage contract, using elements from the Ketubah and excerpts from Turkish blessings. The personalised contract featured the Hamsa, which represents power, strength and protection in both Jewish and Islamic cultures and is believed to protect against negative energies. The contract was read aloud on the day as their declaration to each other.

After a shorter-than-usual drinks reception that featured rainbow-coloured smoke bombs and a saxophonist, the couple entered the wedding breakfast pavilion to the thunderous, electrifying rhythm of Turkish drums, which saw guests on their feet dancing to the celebratory Turkish and Arabic music. 

The mood was set, and an enchanting evening of energy, togetherness and fun followed. 

“My favourite part of the day was seeing everyone mixing and chatting – there was no divide between people or groups. I remember just looking around and taking that in. It was an incredible feeling,” says Adam

An image of the Jewish-Muslim couple lifted high in the air on chairs as the Horah dance commanded the attention and energy of everyone in the room will likely remain with guests for a long time to come. The Horah was followed by the return of the Turkish drummers, who concluded celebrations with their raucous rendition of Şımarık by Tarkan, better known as the song ‘Kiss Kiss’.

A tale of triumph 

Adam and Ali represent a new generation of love. One that transcends the limiting beliefs that people of different religious backgrounds can’t, or shouldn’t, be together. This is a couple whose self-belief gave them the courage to own their sexuality and whose families ultimately supported their decision to be unashamedly themselves and share a life despite the historically complex relations between their differing communities.

“You can be proud of every side of who you are”, says Adam, who, between the ages of 18 and 21, felt that he had to choose between his religion and his sexuality. Adam forged connections with other gay people in the Jewish community, which was ultimately the catalyst for him to accept that the different facets of his identity could coexist.

Despite their largely positive stories, both Adam and Ali confess that there are still lots of issues around racism in the gay community and that revealing religion can quickly end a conversation if the other person holds different beliefs. Their advice is to find your tribe and make those all-important connections with the right people.

Religion can be divisive, and that can often stop relationships from progressing. But religion can also offer a sense of purpose and peace to those who believe. With two hurdles to overcome – sexuality and religion – Adam and Ali are an incredible example of how perseverance and strength can prevail in the name of love.

“You will never be happy if you don’t believe in yourself, even if that means detaching yourself from those who don’t support you. Being dependent on a family that isn’t supportive of who you are will affect your mental health and stop you from becoming the best version of yourself,” says Ali.

“Once you believe in yourself, everything good will come after. I made the decision not to live my life to please others – I’m going to live to please myself and Adam. Find people who are in a strong position to support you, and if you ever feel unsafe, find someone who you feel comfortable expressing yourself with,” says Ali. 

Adam and Ali’s wedding day was about honouring and celebrating their individual stories and backgrounds and inviting each other to embrace a future of both shared and differing beliefs. Ali and Adam and share how their new world now includes both of their religious celebrations including Eid and Hanukkah and getting the whole family together to dance, sing and celebrate – something they adore.

“Two religions can absolutely work together. You just need to realise that there’s no textbook – you do what you want to do,” says Ali.

Moving forward

Despite the ardent acceptance of Rabbi Rebecca in holding their multi-faith, same-sex wedding, unfortunately, Ali was not met with the same enthusiasm from his Imam, who would only agree to bless the couple in their own home. 

“In my culture, it’s getting there but it’s not as liberal still,” he says. 

The wedding was not a legal Jewish wedding because Ali isn’t Jewish, although same-sex weddings are permitted. Adam shares that apart from the Orthodox community, homosexuality is generally very accepted in the Jewish faith.

Ultimately, the feeling we get from the couple is one of hope that LGBTQIA+ identities and religion will one day coexist without judgment. Progress seems to be happening, albeit more slowly in some areas, religions, communities, and families.

What cannot be denied is the hard work both Adam and Ali have done to ensure they can exist in a world where being ‘you’ is enough.

As a result, they could both enjoy a wedding day filled with love and authenticity, representing the joy that can be found in combining families and religions.

A story of hope and love

This is a story of love. Real, boundary-defying love that serves as a beacon of hope for people around the world faced with conflict and resistance in their own lives. 

Their message is to always stay true to yourself in the pursuit of happiness. 

In a world where we’re surrounded by so much uncertainty and rejection of different groups, we must all hold on to the fact that love is what makes life worth living.

Love for ourselves, love in family, and love in a partner – whatever their story or background. Love transcends all.