Authored by: Rinette Emerson
March 22, 2017
In a country as culturally diverse as Canada, it should come as no surprise that combining two religions and/or cultural backgrounds in marriage is becoming increasingly common place.
Planning a major family event like a wedding that combines two cultures (often called a fusion wedding), is a celebration of two individuals and their families but it can have its challenges and place additional stress on a couple. That said, the beauty of being in a mixed relationship is learning from your cultural differences, and being exposed to new perspectives.
Here are some suggestions that will help you, your families and guests appreciate, enjoy, and understand more about your distinct cultural backgrounds and how you can blend cultures while celebrating your unique heritages without offending one side or another:
Decide What’s Important to You as a Couple
Before announcing your wedding plans, decide which traditions and/or religious elements are most significant as the foundation on which to establish your marriage and bring into your new life together. Consider how important a religious ceremony may be to your partner as well as to his/her family and how, or if, you see yourselves being part of that religion or tradition after you are married. Once you have decided which elements are important to you as a couple, you can begin planning the best way to blend those elements into your ceremony.
Planning a wedding inherently involves interacting with many people especially family members, each offering their well-intentioned advice and sometimes expressing unwarranted concerns.
Compromise and flexibility are the keys to a fusion wedding. Although you and your fiancée probably won’t get everyone’s approval when it comes to certain cultural and/or religious traditions, you may find a middle ground that will appease both families. When dealing with family differences, it’s advisable to reach out early in the process and listen to what’s important to them. Consider your loved ones’ feelings, but remember your ceremony should reflect your beliefs and values – not theirs. However, if it is important to your families and you are not willing to die on that hill, then go with the flow. If you are open to compromise, you will likely find that most family members will support your decisions rather than oppose them.
Taking the time to seek other’s opinions, and support of your decisions, will reduce the possibility of misunderstandings or unfulfilled expectations. Hopefully talking about what traditions are important to you to incorporate or exclude from your ceremony, will minimize the potential of one side or the other feeling neglected or hurt, even if it was unintentional. This will ensure that your families are not surprised on your wedding day, and that your ceremony will reflect your wishes while honouring your heritage.
Blend Rather Than Differentiate
Perhaps the best way forward is to consider two ceremonies! After all, the ceremony is the most important part of your wedding day and your promises to one another are the foundation of your marriage.
If time and money are not a consideration in planning your wedding, you may choose to have two separate ceremonies, each focused on your cultural/religious heritage. Having two distinct ceremonies affords you the opportunity to express and highlight your individual cultural backgrounds. If you do choose two separate ceremonies allocate more time and finances to include those cultural or religious elements which are important to you. Also, be sure to tell your guests, in the invitation, to prepare for two ceremonies.
If however, finances are a major factor, and they usually are, create a ceremony focusing on the traditions that each religion or culture has in common. For example, in the Hindu and Jewish cultures the bride and groom marry under a structure. In Judaism, it’s called a Chuppah; in Hinduism, it’s termed a Mandap. Regardless of the name, the structure represents the new home of the bride and groom.
Another tradition that is common to several religions, including Jewish, Hindu and Greek Orthodox is the breaking of something at the end of the ceremony. Jewish grooms step on a glass; Greek couples drink a glass of wine and throw the glass, while Hindus break a pot.
Another common element in various cultures is the exchange of something special during the ceremony. In India brides and grooms exchange garlands, Jews and Christians exchange wedding rings while Buddhists exchange white scarves.
Finding commonality between religious traditions will make your ceremony more personal and inclusive. To do this effectively, it’s always a good idea to explain the significance of the tradition in your program or by the officiant. That way none of your guests will feel left out. Including some meaningful elements in your fusion ceremony will establish a commonality between religious and/or cultural traditions.
Dishes, Dance and Dress
During the cocktail hour and at the reception, serving fusion cuisine is super popular and easy way to demonstrate how two cultures can blend well together. It will also introduce your guests to new cuisine they may not have tried before while offering guests from both sides the comfort of familiar tastes.
A big part of any celebration is the dance music and your reception is not only a great time to break out your favourite playlist, but also an opportunity to introduce and infuse some cultural wedding dances into the mix.
Some cultures and religions hold traditional clothing and flowers as an important aspect of the wedding ceremony. Choose to respect those rituals especially if one partner has strong feelings about honoring them. Some consider flowers to be the most important decorative element of a wedding, so why not inject your culture into the floral arrangements?
Moving forward as a Couple
Maybe your wedding day is a time to introduce a new family tradition, different from your separate pasts. For example, because you are both concerned about the environment, you may consider planting a tree as part of your wedding ceremony – a tradition you plan to continue on subsequent anniversaries. Just because an element isn’t part of you or your spouse’s heritage doesn’t mean that you can include it in your wedding celebration.
However you choose to honour your cultural and/or religious traditions, remember that your wedding day is about you and your fiancée and what’s most meaningful to you. Listen to the well-meaning advice of family and friends, hold firmly to what you both believe, but be willing to compromise when prudent to do so. If you show sensitivity to those who love you, your efforts will be appreciated and embraced in love and respect. After all, isn’t that what families and friends do?
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