Wedding Weddiquette is here!
Today’s question comes from Lisa L. from Vaughan. Lisa needs some suggestion for planning her multicultural wedding!
“My fiancé and I come from different cultural backgrounds and we would both like to incorporate our traditions into our wedding. How can we celebrate our backgrounds and include all of our guests in the celebrations?”
Great question Lisa!
Weddings are a celebration of two individuals and their families and what better way to celebrate the couple’s unique background then by incorporating your individual cultural that expresses who you are.
Weddings are a great opportunity to give your guests a unique experience!
Whether it’s a custom that is meaningful or a modern adaptation, guests are usually very interested in partaking and want to know the meaning behind its symbolism. It’s one of the reasons why I love my job so much…you have the opportunity to learn about so many cultures and traditions through marriage. Many couples that are from different backgrounds choose to incorporate a few traditions from both and focus on the main symbolisms of marriage. There are no hard fast rules on what you should or shouldn’t do, but here are a few suggestions that may help.
- One of the first major decisions you will need to make is where your ceremony will take place and if you and your fiancé are from different religious or cultural backgrounds than this can sometimes be a hurdle to overcome. Most couples have discussed this at some point even prior to their engagement but if not, you both need to have an open mind for this conversation. Consider how important a religious ceremony may be to the other person and their family as well as how you see yourselves being part of this religion in the future. Some cultures will say the Groom should marry in the Brides families’ church and others say the Bride should marry in the Grooms church. Modern times and modern couples need to choose what works for you both. In some cases, couples have chosen not to be married in a church at all and select an outdoor ceremony space that is nondenominational. Others have had representatives from both backgrounds officiate the ceremony. Perhaps you can also consider two ceremonies! Ultimately, choose what you and your fiancé are comfortable with and what will make you happy. The ceremony is after all the most important part and the foundation of your marriage.
- Depending on your family and their expectations for your big day, I would suggest speaking to both sets of parents and sometimes even the extended family (ie. Grandparents) to ask their advice as to which traditions you should follow. Some are definitely more symbolic than others so let them guide you to which you should select. I feel this is conversation better to have early in the planning process to ensure both families are happy and there are less likely to be hard feelings later on. Depending on when these traditions customarily take place, you can incorporate a few from both families throughout the day. When the Bride is getting ready with her family and bridal party, this may be a good time to focus on her traditions and likewise for the Groom. For example, in the Greek culture, before the Bride leaves for the church, a red scarf is wrapped around the bride three times by the parents and close family and friends and this signifies her virginity & fertility.
- Your Bridal attire is also a great opportunity to incorporate your ethnic background. Some Brides will wear a Western-style white wedding gown while others, may honour their heritage by wearing a South Asian Sari, a Japanese Kimono or a Korean Hanbok, all of which are beautifully coloured and have significant symbolism. Some Brides have worn multiple dresses as a nod to their ancestry as well as their Western upbringing.
- For your reception, the possibilities are endless. From the grand entrance, music choices, décor, to my personal favourite, the food, you have countless options for infusing your cultural upbringing. Someone with a Scottish background may have bagpipes to cue the Bride & Groom entering the reception or perhaps a Bollywood-inspired dance presentation to entertain your guests. In Greek culture, the Bride and Groom take part in a Cypriot Money Dance where money is pinned on the couple as well as showered on them. This symbolized a good financial start for the couple as well as future prosperity. In Macedonian culture, the Bride and Groom will break a round loaf of bread both hoping that they break the larger half symbolizing who will be the “head of the household”.
- Wedding feasts are historic and food has always been a way of uniting and bringing people together. Your menu is an opportunity to infuse favourite family recipes as well as cultural staples for your guests to enjoy. From the cocktail reception, main meal as well as late night treats, customize your menu with your favourites and some that guests may not have had the opportunity to try.
However you choose to integrate your culture into your special day, I would suggest creating a program or guide for guests that explain the traditions, activities or significance behind them so they can follow along and partake in the festivities. As I mentioned before, look to your families for guidance and take your own approach to incorporating your heritage into your wedding. This is, in fact, the start of your own blended family and why not start some of your own traditions!
I’d like to thank Frank and Marina Sultana for sharing some photos from their wedding day (captured by Mimmo & Co.) where they incorporated the Grooms Italian heritage as well as the Brides Greek ancestry.
Did you have a multi-cultural wedding? Or are you planning one? Do you have a question for our next Wedding Wediquette?
We would love to hear from you in the comments below!