Your wedding is something that incorporates two people together; two cultures, two belief systems, two lives. If you’re from different cultures or religions, how can you tie them together?
4.5 minutes to read
Multi-cultural weddings can be amazing, with deep symbolism, entwining two diverse practices and histories into one future. They also can also be overwhelming to organise, with different religious, family or cultural expectations. How do you get it right?
Talk to both families
Speak to both sets of families and find out what is totally non-negotiable and what they would like. It’s important to actually speak to people involved and find out for certain, rather than risk offending one side, or doing a ritual no-one is that interested in. Once you’ve found out what their expectations are, this isn’t the be all and end all though, because the bride and groom have a say too. This just gives you a starting point and a place of understanding.
If an Indian family want to invite the whole village and have three days of ceremonies, that might be difficult to tie in with a simple Western-style wedding. A Samoan family may want a certain church or ceremony to be involved, but they don’t mind anything else. Every family and whanau are different.
Hit the drawing board with your partner
Now you know for sure what both families want, it’s time for you to talk about what’s important for you. Consider the following Big Important Questions:
- Do you have one wedding in one place, or will you need two weddings?
- The cost. Who is paying for this?
- Where will the wedding be held? Do you need to attend a certain church?
- What is important to the bride and groom? Is it the same as the parents?
- Religious aspects; What is a must-do? It is compatible? Jewish marriages may require a course or sessions with a Rabbi beforehand. Luke Skywalker may be an acceptable celebrant for one side, but not the other.
- Can the bride wear a saree and the groom a kilt? How do you express yourself?
- What language will this wedding be in?
- Overall: What is really important to you? Even though your family is important, is as culture and tradition, it’s about what matters to you and your future spouse.
Often, one culture will dwarf another. One side may have more customs, clothing, ceremonies or expectations. You need to figure out how to incorporate the two so one side isn’t overwhelmed, while still honouring the wishes of the other.
Research customs and cultures
It’s normal that one side of the couple will need to learn, understand, or adjust a bit more than the other side. Spend time asking questions or Googling. It’s easy to incorrectly assume, so even basic questions are good.
Ask your future spouse why they may want to do certain things- not to question them, but to find out more. Does a ritual have a deeper meaning for them or their culture? Is this a religious must-do, or a cultural expectation? What do you have to do in all of this?
Start planning and start having fun
Now you know what’s expected, and you’ve hopefully reached some sort of agreement with your future spouse, parents, and in-laws, it’s time to start your planning. There is a range of basic aspects of a wedding that everyone will need to consider.
Food: Can you have a hangi? Can you blend Kiwi tucker with Indian cuisine? There are no rules, you can do what you think is delicious. Sushi and a BBQ? Serve some slices of kangaroo alongside the lamb? Just be aware that in some religions and cultures there will need to be accommodations across the board: Muslims and Jews won’t eat pork, Hindus will likely prefer no beef, and it’s easiest to just remove these items from the entire menu to limit contamination.
Clothing: Every culture has different wedding wear. It’s actually simple to blend both cultures in one outfit, whether it’s a big white gown trimmed with motifs from one culture or a bouquet with flowers from another. In Chinese culture, red symbolises good fortune; does the bride want to consider a red dress? Or maybe her bridesmaid dresses are red? Consider if you’d like a change of clothes between the wedding the reception, the opportunity to honour both cultures.
Music: While the standard Kiwi hits are sure to get people on the dancefloor, there are certain songs from the other culture to include too. Music transcends language and any cultural barriers, so get the entire family upon the DF. Even better, maybe get dance lessons together in a dance that incorporates both cultures.
Education: how do you communicate the cultural components to your guests and families? Do you need to? Should you have an order of service with translations or descriptions of the rite or process? This not only is helpful for people in understanding the process but prevents any faux-pas.
Your wedding is about you
The most important thing to remember is that your wedding is about you and your spouse. Start your own traditions if you like, maybe doing the chicken dance at your reception is your thing. But whatever you do, honour what’s important to both of you, and make choices about what you two want; not what others expect.