Couples Who Honored Their Heritage

Meet six real-life couples who chose to honor their cultural heritage in their wedding ceremony. Get useful tips for honoring your unique cultural traditions on your big day.

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Hide CaptionShow CaptionThe Couple: Carmen Hope and Jason Thomas; The Location: Beech Valley Ranch in Alachua, Florida

All About

Carmen'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 '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."