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Creating ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Weddings & Lasting Marriages with Rev. Dr. Samora Smith

Published Friday, Nov. 17th, 2023

Rev. Dr. Samora Smith officiates during a sunny outdoor ceremony in New York City. (via @revdrsamora)


Rev. Dr. Samora Smith is a wedding officiant, interfaith minister, and relationship coach who specializes in creating ‘spiritual but not religious’ weddings for interfaith and intercultural couples. The elopements she performs with New York City based Common Ground Ceremonies blend the faiths and backgrounds of unique couples into new traditions that perfectly celebrate the ‘spiritual home’ these couples build together in marriage. 


“A lot of the couples that I attract,” Samora says, “are either interfaith – where they’re both coming from totally different cultures or totally different faiths – or they’re creating their own definition of who they are.”


As is so often the case, there’s a story behind it all. Dr. Samora was raised in an interfaith and intercultural home, which makes her work with diverse couples both personal and professional, as well as a part of her own spiritual practice.


“There’s a term that’s called SBNR, which is ‘spiritual but not religious,’ and I would say that’s a better description of who I am,” she says. “I was raised in a very interfaith family… My mom’s Jewish, my father’s Muslim, and my step-father, who raised me, was Catholic… They all come from different faiths, but I wasn’t raised religious, so that was kinda what put me on that odd quest for a spiritual home.”


That ‘quest’ has led to her role as Associate Director of The New Seminary for Interfaith Studies in New York City, and to her service as a relationship coach, ordained wedding officiant, and educator. 


She began officiating weddings and elopements over 13 years ago and served closely with the LGBTQ+ community as same-sex marriages became legal in New York. Over the past decade, she’s continued to deepen into her study of spirituality and her work as an officiant and minister to interfaith couples with her business, Common Ground Ceremonies.


Learn more: An Intro to Interfaith & Interspiritual Wedding Ceremonies


Rev Dr Samora Smith performs a rooftop elopement in NYC on a sunny day, beside them a small live band plays acoustic music, the background is a skyline of tall city buildings

Photo: @revdrsamora

"Rooftop ceremonies are so NY!!" Samora says of this beautiful sky-high elopement. The ceremony included an acoustic music performance, candles, and a stunning view. 



Spiritual but not religious 


This ‘spiritual but not religious’ approach to faith – and weddings – has been building momentum for years, as American families become increasingly diverse and individual. Modern couples are moving away from strict religious customs of the past, in order to create personal spiritual practices and traditions that fit them better, are more meaningful to them, and that better reflect all the qualities that make them who they are.


In a wedding, this can look like referencing scripture from multiple faiths, blending the wedding traditions of multiple cultures into a one-of-a-kind unity ceremony, incorporating traditional music or dance from more than one country or region, or adding a moment of silence for reflection instead of a traditional prayer.


In this way, ‘spiritual but not religious’ weddings leave room for boundless creativity and unique expressions of faith, joy, and love.


Learn more: What is an SBNR Wedding Officiant & How Do You Become One?



Rev. Dr Samora Smith performs a stunning elopement ceremony outdoors under a large wooden gazebo.

(Photo: @revdrsamora)

"I love spring weddings!!" Samora says. "This couple travelled from Portland, OR to elope in Central Park on the Spring Equinox." Dr. Samora specializes in ceremonies that are sacred and spiritual but not religious -- ceremonies in which couples can create new traditions that honor who they are and what they want their marriage to be.




Educating other wedding officiants


Dr. Samora’s expertise has been so well received and is in such high demand, that she now educates other officiants on the best ways to serve couples whose spiritual practices fit outside the mainstream.


She will be a featured guest speaker and presenter at AMM’s Officiant Accelerator: Jacksonville on November 29th, 2023, following an incredible presentation at Officiant Accelerator: New York earlier this year.


During her talk, she’ll discuss how to work closely with intercultural, interfaith, and LGBTQ+ couples (and other diverse families), and even demonstrate unique rituals and ceremonies that can be included in spiritual weddings. 






Watch Dr. Samora at Officiant Accelerator: NYC:


In the video clip below, Dr. Samora demonstrates a Native American-influenced wedding song during her presentation at Officiant Accelerator: NYC. Over the past two years, Samora has worked with a Lakota medicine man to deepen her spiritual practice and education, and incorporates that knowledge into her wedding services and ministry.


She says of her journey studying Indigenous faiths: "Little did I know that I would step into a portal that would completely change my life." Now, she's sharing that experience with other celebrants around the country. 



Premarital coaching for lasting marriages


Recently, Dr. Samora has expanded her services by founding The Lovesmith Academy – offering a unique type of pre-marital coaching and spiritual exploration to engaged couples. The courses at The Lovesmith Academy are designed to help couples create longer lasting bonds and prepare them for the realities of marriage… Instead of just ‘winging it.’  


The concept of The Lovesmith Academy was conceived two years ago while Samora was officiating weddings and simultaneously working on her dissertation at The New Seminary for Interfaith Studies.


She says, “Part of my dissertation was to find a way to support couples beyond marriage, because I would check in with them [to] wish them a happy anniversary, and find out that a lot of them were not necessarily divorcing, but kind of on the brink of separation… I was like, well, I really think there’s got to be more preparation and more thought put into what marriage is, before you get married… [more] than just winging it.”


The Lovesmith Academy is being launched in stages, beginning with an initial course called The Marriage Success Blueprint, which helps couple’s get on the same page in the weeks leading up to marriage. Rev. Dr. Samora has offered this ‘blueprint’ to many of her wedding couples individually in the past, and now that it’s refined and ready to go, is offering it online to couples anywhere, where it can be completed in the comfort and privacy of home and at their own pace. 





Rev. Dr. Samora stands between a husband and wife during an outdoor wedding reception. They are smiling and posing for the photo.

Photo: @revdrsamora

"Ran into these two hotties at their friend’s ceremony I was also officiating. I love when I run into my couples and see them thriving," Samora says. Dr. Samora often checks in with couples she's married to wish them a happy anniversary and send encouragement.



Interfaith & Intercultural Wedding Ceremony Scripts


Custom elopement ceremonies are Dr. Samora’s specialty, and she offers a variety of wedding packages to her couples through her officiant business, Common Ground Ceremonies. 


To help couples and wedding officiants create their own unique ceremonies, she has written two inclusive interfaith wedding ceremony scripts for free AMM’s Ceremony Script Library. These scripts can be used just as they’re written, or personalized with details from a couples life and favorite readings and rituals:






Close up photo of a Muslim and Jewish interfaith couple holding hands during the wedding ceremony

Photo: Vershinin / iStock


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Illustrated rendering of the cosmos with the AMM logo

People of all faiths -- or no spiritual beliefs at all -- can get ordained as an interfaith, nondenominational minister with AMM! Read the full article here. 



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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