One of the causes of greatest concern among those who do not belong to the non-semitic religions is the problem of conversion before marriage. While Buddhists and Hindus never demand that a couple must belong to the same religion before a marriage can be solemnized, many others tend to take advantage of this tolerance.
Marriage, contrary to what many romantic novels say, does not mean the total and absolute merging of two people to the extent that each loses his or her own identity. When a religion demands that both partners must have the same religious label, it denies the basic human right of an individual to believe what he or she wants. Societies throughout history have proved that "Unity in Diversity" is not only possible but desirable. Out of diversity comes greater respect and understanding. This should apply to marriage also. There are many living examples all over the world where the husband and wife maintain their own beliefs and yet are able to maintain their happy married life without confronting each other.
Buddhists do not oppose the existence of other religions even within the same household. Unfortunately this generous attitude has been exploited by unscrupulous religionists who are out to gain converts by all means.
Intelligent Buddhists must be aware of this stratagem. No self-respecting intelligent human being who really understands what he believes according to his own conviction should give up his beliefs merely to satisfy the man-made demands of another religion. Buddhists do not demand that their partners embrace Buddhism. Neither should they surrender their own beliefs.
When young people are in love, they are prepared to make many sacrifices so long as they can get married. But after a few years, when the real task of building a successful marriage begins, frustrations begin to set in. When a partner who had given up his deep-seated religious beliefs for "love" begins to regret having done so, unnecessary misunderstandings arise. These provide added tensions at a period when there is boredom in a marriage. There will be quarrels. And normally, one of the main causes of these quarrels will be the question of which religion the children should belong to.
Therefore, it is most important for one to know that if there is a process of conversion involved, it must be based on true conviction and not mere convenience or compulsion. Buddhists maintain the freedom of the individual to choose. This principle should be respected by all.
There is no specific Buddhist ritual or procedure to conduct a marriage. Buddhism recognizes the traditions and cultures practiced by people in different countries. Hence, Buddhist religious ceremonies differ from one country to another.
In general practice, a religious service for blessing and to give advice to the couple is customarily performed either in the temple or at home to give a greater significance to the marriage. Nowadays, in many countries, besides the blessing service, religious organizations also have been given the authority to solemnize and register marriages together with the issuance of legal marriage certificates.
By and large, the most important point is that the couple should be utterly sincere in their intention to cooperate with and understand each other not only during times of happiness but also whenever they face difficulties.
By Ven K Sri Dhammananda ( A Happy Married Life )