My number one suggestion for adding culture to your wedding day is the food. This one’s a no brainer- make the menu follow one or both of your cultures. Fusion cuisine is incredibly popular right now. If the cultural dishes clash a little too much, consider doing one culture for the cocktail hour and the other for dinner- or have one featured a the rehearsal dinner and the other for the reception. You can even have elements of each other’s cultures cuisines spread throughout your entire engagement period- have cultural food at the engagement party, the shower, the bachelor and bachelorette parties. Jazz it up and have fun with it- the food is one of the best and most memorable parts of any special event!
This is another easy one. Music adds great atmosphere and emotion to an event. If your fiance is Caribbean, walk down the aisle to a steel drum band- if you’re hispanic, some Spanish inspired acoustic guitar for the cocktail hour, African drums for your grand introduction- You can add cultural music to your ceremony and to the reception- you can have as much or as little as you’d like- from one song, to an entire dance set.
Speaking of dancing, that’s our number three! So many cultures have traditional dances that are performed during weddings and other milestone celebrations. Do the hora, the tarantella or any other traditional folk dance. Not only is it a ton of fun, it’s a great way to get both sides of the family involved and learning about each other’s backgrounds. In fact you can have your families learn a traditional dance together- or bring in dance instructors for the reception to get your guests in on the action too! Sounds like a fun pre-wedding activity to me!
Here is one of my favorite thing about planning and designing multicultural weddings- they tend to be just GORGEOUS! Culture usually translates to color, texture and pattern, and your wedding day decor can totally pull that in. If you’re having an interfaith ceremony, say, Hindu and Christian - you can still marry under a gorgeously decorated mandap. If you’re having a Jewish ceremony, talk to your florist about designing a chuppah with elements of other cultures infused. Your flowers can reflect lucky colors, your centerpieces can incorporate sacred symbolism, even your stationery - from the invitations down to the menu cards, can pull in a cultural motif.
One of the easiest ways to bring in a cultural motif is through your big day attire. So many cultures have traditional wedding costumes- they can be incorporated into either the ceremony or reception. Maybe wear the Western style gown for the ceremony and then you can do a costume change for a special moment, and create a whole new feeling for part of the evening. If you were ever looking for a reason to get that 2nd dress, this could be it! You can do a costume change for a special dance, or ceremony- or you can have your parents dress in traditional attire and set the tone that way. Or you could switch it- wear your traditional costume, be it a sari, a gele or obi, for the ceremony and switch into western style for the reception. You can also rock traditional wear all night long.
Another way, is to find designers that incorporate a traditional feel into their western style gowns- perhaps one with an obi sash or dramatic sari-style draping.
In current pop culture there tends to be a lot of glossing over of the ceremony (an idea of let’s get to the party!), but in my mind it’s VERY important (it’s the reason for the party after all!) Some people don’t realize this, but you can customize the heck out of your wedding ceremony these days. There are wonderfully talented officiants who specialize in creating and customizing ceremonies to your exact cultures, history and love story. This is awesome for multi and intercultural couples because you can have a ceremony that reflects where you came from AND where you are going, and make it just as fun as the rest of the celebration! You can add ceremonies to the main ceremony- a celtic handfasting after the ring exchange, or jump the broom when it’s all over. You can even add elements from other religions- breaking the glass if one of you is Jewish, crowns if one of you is orthodox christian, walking the 7 steps if one of you is Hindu.
Ceremonies can also be added to other parts of the wedding celebration- a mendhi ceremony for the bride and her maids, a Chinese tea ceremony to honor your parents.
Another great way to bring in culture is through Entertainment - bring in dancers, musicians, performers, acrobats, anything that you think would pique the interest of your guests and agree with the culture you are emphasizing. Entertainment is an often overlooked part of weddings, but it really does well to fill in the slow moments that tend to happen between grand introductions and dinner being served.
Other celebrations - when planning a multicultural wedding, don’t discount the other pre-wedding celebrations. You can add any of the previously mentioned aspects to all of the other festivities as well- the engagement party, the shower and other family gatherings.
A few things to remember- first, this wedding and marriage is about both of you coming together to create something greater than either one of you separately. Don’t forget to give equal billing to each other’s cultures, as it’s probably a big part of why you are together today.
Second, American IS a culture!! So if you’re feeling like maybe only the “ethnic” side of the equation is getting attention, speak up for your regional culture too (a love of New Orleans Jazz could lead to quite a unique ceremony or reception)! You’re embarking on a great journey of love and excitement and compromise- enjoy it!