Indian Ceremony Meets Italian TraditionsAnita's story: "Our goal was to make our wedding fun and unique. We wanted the food to be great and the entertainment even better. We weren't afraid of color, we used oranges and hot pink. Our ceremony honored both my Indian heritage (Indian ceremony and attire) and my husband's Italian heritage (Italian food station and singing at the reception) to create a truly memorable event."
Have fun!: "We started the festivities by hosting a traditional henna party the day before at a local restaurant, the women all got henna tattoos, while the men sat at the bar and had drinks. The wedding itself began with a parade of sorts, with traditional bangra dancers and the priest followed by the groom on a horse and all of the wedding guests following behind, dancing. As Michael made his way around the hotel to the beach-side, strangers started joining in the procession. One of my cousins stole his shoe (Indian tradition) and in order to get it back Michael had to pay up, so we made sure he had lots of cash with him."
Ensure that guests from different backgrounds feel included and understand the traditional elements of the ceremony: "We provided each guest with a scroll that outlined the ceremony so they could follow along. The groom's Italian family all wore traditional Indian clothing, some bought their own and others borrowed from my family and they all got henna tattoos. The groom's mother and father were included in the ceremony by sitting alongside the bride’s parents on the mandap. The bridesmaids all had a great time dressing in traditional Indian saris, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The groomsmen also wore Indian outfits, they loved them because they are almost as comfortable as pajamas — beats wearing a tux! During the reception, we served a variety of food, Indian, Asian and Italian, so our guests had a choice. We also had belly dancers perform after dinner and before dancing. Because they were so attractive they managed to get the guys out on the dance floor!"
Don't forget to honor your spouse's heritage: "To make the wedding a truly memorable experience, we also incorporated traditions from the groom’s side, such as playing Italian music during the dinner hour, having his father sing 'The Wedding Song' during the ceremony, and doing a traditional cutting of the cake — of course I smashed the cake in the groom's face. We made sure the priest conducted the ceremony in both English and Sanskrit and kept the ceremony reasonably short, no more than hour, which is short by Indian standards. For the reception, I changed into a white dress. We also had all the children in the family walk down the aisle, so the kids felt really involved. By including both heritages, we had a wedding our guests will not forget!"
Honoring Jewish TraditionsGaren's story: "Embrace what makes you unique. For us, it was highlighting our mixed cultural backgrounds and interests. I am a multi-generational American and Igor is a Russian Jew. It was fun mixing traditions from both sides of the family. We also chose a site that is meaningful to me, I am passionate about Art; so, we chose to have our ceremony in the Union Station Rotunda, with its soaring dome and breathtaking Dale Chihuly glass chandelier."
Utilize your family's talents: "To honor Igor's heritage, we incorporated several Jewish and Russian traditions that really made the ceremony and reception unique. An essential part of a Jewish wedding is the huppah, a canopy that the couple stands under during the ceremony symbolizing the future home they will create together. I had a few ideas of how I wanted ours to look but I was astonished at how pricy the quotes were that I received from local florists. My family decided they could make one for less. It was a bit of a struggle at the beginning, but with a little imagination and teamwork, the results were beautiful."
Add traditional elements: "In addition to the huppah, we decided that a ketubah was another element we would like to include. A ketubah is a traditional marriage contract that acts like a ceremonial marriage license. Igor and I chose a wonderfully decorated one that reflected our hopes and aspirations for our marriage. We signed this document with the Rabbi before the ceremony and we now have a beautiful framed reminder of our love and commitment to one another. Another part of the wedding ceremony that we wanted to incorporate was sharing wine from the kiddush cup. During the ceremony, Igor and I drank kosher wine from a silver cup that had also been a part of Igor's bar mitzvah. Drinking from the kiddush cup is a meaningful way to commemorate the wedding blessing the Rabbi gave. Finally, no Jewish wedding ceremony would be complete without the groom breaking a glass. Crushing a glass at the end of the ceremony acts as a reminder to the couple that relationships are fragile and must always be tended with care. It was great having our first kiss as a married couple among the shouts of Mazel Tov from all our family and friends."
Have fun: "At the reception everyone feasted on traditional Russian and American dishes and we all danced the Hava Nagila. American music mixed with Russian tunes as guests from both sides mixed it up on the dance floor. The combination of our cultural backgrounds infused the ceremony with an energy and sense of community that I hadn't experienced at other weddings. It is a feeling I will always remember."
Traditional Greek WeddingEleni's Story: "Having been born and raised in Greece, I couldn't imagine having the wedding in any other place. I needed to do this at my birthplace where I could share this precious moment with my friends and family. We chose to have the ceremony at a beautiful 1000-year old Byzantine church, at the very top of a hill surrounded by evergreen trees, where the view was extraordinary. The bonus of having the wedding ceremony in the place of my birth is that I got to spend the days prior to the wedding showing my hometown to friends who had joined us from abroad (UK, US, Italy, etc)."
Honor your faith. In Greece, 98% of the population is Greek Orthodox. Religion is very important to the Greek people. I was lucky enough to get married to a man who honored me by choosing to become Greek Orthodox so that we could be married in an Orthodox church. I don't think I would have 'felt' married unless the wedding was performed in a Greek church, where I could see the saints' icons all around us, have the ceremony conducted by the traditional priest with the beard, have the candles, the hymns, the stefana or wedding crown and the red wine, my hubby's favorite part of the ceremony."
It's all about family. "One of the strongest values in the Greek culture is honoring your family. My husband had suggested several times that we have the wedding in Vegas or some other far exotic destination, but I knew that this would not work for me simply because my family wouldn't be there. In the Greek tradition, a wedding isn't just a ceremony binding two people, instead it is really a ceremony uniting two families. It was very important for us, and especially for me, to have our families around us for this milestone in our lives."
A few of the Greek traditions Eleni and Gopi chose to honor on their big day:
- Breaking a glass of red wine in order to avoid the evil eye.
- The father of the bride puts her shoes on her feet and inserts some money in the shoe
- The single girls write their names on the bottom of the bride's shoe. If their name gets erased by the end of the night, they'll be the next to get married.
- The best man drives the bride and her father to the church.
- The bride steps on the groom's foot when the priest reads the scripture "the woman shall be afraid of the man."
- And what's a Greek wedding without dancing? Eleni says, "The party started at 9pm and went on till 4am. There was a lot of dancing and everyone had a lot of fun.
- We had a variety of songs and dances, from the traditional folk dancing Greek children learn in school, to the more modern Greek pop songs. Old and young went to the dance floor and showed off their groovy moves."
A Nod to Asian TraditionsStephanie's tips:
Overcome cultural challenges: "There were definitely a few challenges, since there are some big differences between the cultures. For example, in Chinese tradition, the groom with his family would normally go to the bride's family's house to pick up the bride to take her to the wedding. In American tradition, it's bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other before the wedding."
Don't be afraid to break with tradition: "There's such an opportunity to truly make your wedding 'your own'. It's customary to change dresses in Asian weddings, but instead of the traditional Chinese red dress, I opted to change into a more casual wedding dress to party in."
Traditional African CeremonyCarmen's story:
"Jason and I really wanted a great wedding. Something that was meaningful and powerful. We decided to have a traditional African wedding. Most African weddings are at least a week long; but we were able to accomplish all of the elements in a 3-day weekend, with each of the ceremonies designed to help Jason and I prepare for the big day. We had the ceremony in the perfect location, a 480-acre ranch in north Florida. The location offered two huge homes which each slept at least 20 people comfortably. The use of the homes was included in our rental of the property, so our entire wedding party stayed on site which was truly a blessing because we were all together for the entire weekend."
African traditions Carmen and Jason honored:
"First, on Friday, we had a 'Right of Passage' ceremony. Many of our guests said this was the best part of the wedding event. The women were in one home and the men in the other. Jason and I were instructed not to speak but to listen. The elders in our family gave us instruction, just as they do in the African villages. Our grandparents were the highlight of the event; as the elder members of our families, they told love stories of their marriages to all of our guests. There were few dry eyes — it was beautiful.
Then on Saturday, we had the 'Court Wedding' ceremony. This was held in the afternoon under a tent. The weather was perfect and we had traditional African music and singing and a great lecture from Pastor Kwame Vanderhorst that helped to tie the event and its meaning together.
Then on Sunday, we had the actual African marriage ceremony. In most African tribes, the groom actually buys the bride with a dowry — and that's exactly what happened. The entire exchange was acted out in a skit that was funny, exciting and emotional. Our guests were on the edge of their seats the entire time. No one knew what to expect next. It was so different. There was no bridal march...no 'here comes the bride,' no 'dearly beloved.'
At the reception, we had African dancers and drummers. Plus we had an African griot or storyteller. It was wonderful! We had 300 guests and we hear great things almost every day about our unique wedding."
Chinese Bride Marries Jewish GroomPatty's Story:
"Dave and I had many cultural differences to sort through — he's Jewish, I'm Christian Chinese & my parents are Buddhist. And did I mention the language barrier? In the initial planning stages, my husband and I sat down with our parents to discuss traditions, both religious and cultural, that were especially meaningful and important. Both sides of the family were very involved in the planning process. We were married under a simple Chupah held-up by members of Dave's family. The Rabbi worked closely worked with us to provide a ceremony that was spiritual and inclusive of both sides."
The more the merrier: "Friends and family added another level of depth and meaning to our wedding. In addition to the usual bridesmaids and groomsmen, we had friends acting as greeters to help guests sign-in, Dave's friend played an electric violin, my friend sang our wedding song, my brother designed the photo montage, a close family friend was the DJ and another was the bilingual MC to help translate. To this day, Dave and I feel incredibly blessed to have all of these wonderful people in our lives!"
Delicate details add to the overall theme: "In retrospect, the details added to the theme of diversity. The bridesmaids wore the traditional Chinese Qi Pao, but each selected her own fabric and color. Asiatic lilies and orchids worked double-duty, they added to the Asian theme & unified the bridesmaids. Guests signed in on an embroidered red silk cloth & offered a fortune cookie. The music was coordinated prior to the wedding as well, the play list had a bit of everything — my Dad spent hours selecting music that appealed to all ages and cultures. The food was amazing and diverse. During cocktail hour, we had a sushi bar, my favorite; little hotdogs, my husband's fave, and an endless parade of food to appeal to even the most picky of palettes. It was absolutely delicious!
Let it go & let it flow: Balancing sanity and wedding planning was very tricky and I wasn't always very good at it. But on the day of the wedding, it was time to let it go and let it flow. We tried to toast from table to table, a Chinese tradition, but Dave tore his ACL just before the wedding & his knee was not having it. Later in the ceremony, my parents were somehow lifted up in the chair during the hora. We had great fun and on that day, we were on top of the world!"
"The wedding was a mish-mash of everything that identified who Dave and I were as individuals; and who we are now, as a couple."