Image Credit: Joonyoung Kim
Weddings can be so much fun: the dancing, the cake, the promises of love. Just beautiful. I nearly always cry.
These festivities not only celebrate the couple joining together, but also their families. Mixed race marriages are becoming more common. In fact, get this: In 2010, one out of every 12 married couples was interracial. Wild!
I attended a multicultural wedding last week. It was simply fabulous, and I was touched to see the ways they chose to incorporate the heritage and traditions of both parties in the celebration. So I started asking around, doing a little research, and remembering our own bicultural wedding.
Here are 21 ideas for a multicultural wedding:
#1 Bilingual Invitations & Programs
Get this multicultural party started from the very beginning! Personally, we did English only invitations, but most of my friends and family did not know "Billy" was a nickname for "Guillermo" or that he had two last names. There were some amusing "Who is this?" moments.
#2 Local Flowers
Choose floral arrangements that give a nod to your heritage. Rina is Filipino-American and her husband is Dutch. To honor the groom's country or origin, they used tulips throughout the wedding and reception that they had flown in from Dutch florists. No national flower you want to use? Colors can also be meaningful in certain cultures.
#3 Bridal Attire
Wear culturally traditional wedding attire or find ways to incorporate elements from multiple cultures in your dress. For example, in her American-Moroccan wedding, Amanda wore an American-style wedding gown, and donned Moroccan slippers to go with it.
Consider adding cultural pieces or choosing traditional dress for your bridal party. Here's a beautiful example of a bride who decided on a white dress for herself and a silk kimono for her bridesmaid. Stunning.
#5 Recite Vows in Your First Language
The wedding I recently attended chose this approach, and I loved it! I wish I'd thought of it for our own ceremony. There's something so special about making your promises to the one you love in your heart language.
#6 Recite Vows in Your Partner's First Language
One of my girlfriends is American and her husband is from Slovakia. She learned her vows in Slovak and shared her promises to her husband in his first language. I love it! She speaks Slovak and was living there, but she still said it was a little nerve-wracking.
#7 Bilingual Ceremony
If your wedding includes many monolingual attendees... in different languages, you may want to consider a fully bilingual ceremony. Whether you include a bilingual officiant or incorporate translators, your guests will appreciate being able to fully participate. And what a fun, truly multicultural, wedding!
#8 Bilingual Reading
Our wedding attendees all spoke and understood English, so we by-passed a bilingual service. However, we didn't want to have no Spanish, so we invited friends to read Scripture in English and Spanish. It was one of my favorite parts of the ceremony.
Are there symbolic elements you can incorporate into your wedding? Crystal is from Canada and her husband from Northern Ireland. She included a horseshoe in her wedding bouquet, and he added a few sprigs of wheat with his boutonniere as a nod to her home province.
Cultural traditions like jumping the broom or the wedding lasso can be lovely elements of a multicultural wedding. I asked Billy about Guatemalan traditions, and his only suggestion was my father break a piñata of rice over my head during the reception. Um... we did not do that. I LOVED this post about a German-Latvian wedding that included the Latvian tradition of challenges for the couple to prove their compatibility.
#11 Table Decorations
Consider ways to create centerpieces that reflect your cultural heritage. Here's an example where the bride and groom named each table an attribute of a strong marriage in both English and Chinese.
#12 Reception Seating
At least in movies, the seating chart is often the pinnacle of wedding drama. But at a multilingual wedding, you want to also pay attention to the fluency of guests when assigning seating. It can be fun, fresh way to mix guests and enjoy the multilingual buzz of a chatty reception.
#13 Fusion Cuisine
Fusion food is amazing. In Atlanta, my favorite food truck is The Blaxican, which serves Mexican Soul Food. Superb. Go for mixed cuisine at your reception. In her Finnish-French wedding, Annika attests that they "joyously mixed the two culinary cultures" with positive results.
You can go with bilingual toasts or include traditions from other cultures. One of my favorite parts of our wedding was the toasts. Rather than a few select people offering public toasts, Guatemalan weddings allow for the couple to visit each table independently. In a more private moment, just the one table offers a toast to the couple while the other guests continue dining and talking.
#15 Bilingual Surprises
Maybe you decide not to share your vows in your second language, but there are more opportunities to honor your partner's language. Annabelle says her Portuguese was limited and her husband's family had never heard her speak it. That didn't stop her from surprising everyone, including her husband, by learning a short speech in the language to thank guests for coming.
The sweetest way to honor multiple cultures? Cake. You can incorporate flavors, styles, or decorations to share your favorite traditions. Because we're big fans of cake, Billy and I had multiple cakes in different flavors instead of a typical tiered cake. My grandmother later told me this practice is common in my own German heritage. Perfect!
Multicultural wedding music is a fun way to make guests feel at home or introduce new styles. Becky's reception had a mariachi band! If you want multiple musical styles, you may want to provide your DJ or band with songs ahead of time that may be outside their cultural comfort zone.
For their first dance, my friends started with a slower song that transitioned into a fantastic salsa dance. You can incorporate traditional dance into your reception. One idea is that taking dance classes together with family members before the wedding.
#19 Cultural Favors
You can choose to send everyone home with a favor that reminds them not only of your union, but also the blending of cultures. Lana represented both Dutch and Filipino cultures when her guests left with tiny painted clogs in small wooden baskets from the Philippines.
#20 International Ceremonies
Travel costs, visa requirements, or other international hurdles may mean that your multicultural wedding is actually weddingsssss. We had a separate reception in Guatemala City for friends and family to attend and celebrate.
#21 Multicultural Wedding Events
Having trouble including all the cultural elements you want to in the ceremony and reception? Don't forget other wedding events may offer a better fit. Have a Korean BBQ for your rehearsal dinner. Or include henna in your bachelorette party.
Multicultural weddings are awesome. Really all weddings are awesome. Just remember, there's no "one size fits all" when it comes to weddings. Whatever works for your families is the best way to work cultural fusion into your celebration.
Did you (or will you) represent your cultures in any of these ways? What other ideas do you have?