In a multicultural community such as we find in Canada, it is more and more common to find weddings that represent a broad cross section of cultures, ethnicity and traditions. Many young couples today want to honor their families’ cultural heritage or traditions. Mixed marriages are common today. Our schools, community programs and volunteer organizations all welcome people from different backgrounds and these interactions bring about new understandings and relationships. The result is an ever-increasing pool of potential partners. Little wonder that marriages have become much more interesting and fun to plan. From the wedding ceremony, to décor, to food and entertainment the combinations today can be very exciting. However, a couple that already have lots of choices and issues to manage, the expectations from family and community around culture can be quite challenging! Here are a few suggestions and some links to web resources that can help guide you in your decision-making and planning.
Know your families’ most valued traditions. Ask questions of the elders in your family and get their insights. Help them feel included and a part of your event. Seek advice and suggestions from your family, your friends and your religious advisor/mentor about how to include some of the most valued components without offending anyone or trivializing the (belief). Use these conversations to clarify that this is your wedding but you want to recognize the importance of your history and background. If you don’t have family who can help, research on-line or at the library or seek out a local multicultural society or club to help you understand the traditions you are want to include in to your event.
If you are blending two cultures together at your wedding, it will be important to look for traditions that complement each other. Be very careful to check that you are not offending anyone by neglecting some aspect of a tradition or treating it disrespectfully. Traditions in the actual wedding ceremony should be treated with respect and thoughtfulness. Many couples have successfully brought their two families together through careful blending of important cultural components that have created an atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance for every member of both families.
Clothing choices and decor
In many cultures wedding ceremonial clothing is extremely important. It can really enhance a wedding and make it a beautiful visual event when you step away from the classic white dress and tuxedo. Chinese, Korean, Japanese and other Southeast Asian cultures have stunning, unique and colourful attire that can really change the look and feel of a wedding. Families with Indian heritage such as the Hindu or Sikhs can draw on the rich and opulent saris and Nehru jackets and turbans for their wedding party and guests. Those with European backgrounds will find a wide spectrum of traditional attire that can bring a sense of respect for the past or even a touch of old world elegance to the event.
You may choose to only use small touches like traditional fabrics or ribbons that include designs from your families’ background that enhance your wedding gown, the groom’s blazer, the wedding party head pieces, bouquets, or jewelry. Give a nod to your joint cultures or traditions by using colours in the décor, florals and lighting. There is no end of possibilities. Remember the old saying “…something old…something borrowed…”
In many cultures the food at the wedding is the most important component of all! As you plan your food you will need to decide if you will have the meal catered or provided by family. This decision could be influenced by the venue you choose for your wedding. Some event locations will only allow their contracted food providers on site. Others will want a percentage for providing services and table settings for food that is brought from off site. Of course, there will be some locations that are open to outside caterers doing all the food provision. No matter what you decide make sure that you are clear about the venue’s restrictions and expectations.
If you decide to use a caterer, it will be important that they meet food safety standards set by the local authorities and have business licenses and insurance. Remember that an event planner may not have the resources in their kitchens to provide ethnic food in the variety or on the scale you may require. With enough advance notice for preparation, your provider may be flexible in offering a few choices of ethnic influenced foods that meet your needs. Check early in the process to ensure that everyone is working from the same understanding. An event planning company may also be able provide you with contacts at reliable local ethnic food providers. As well, don’t forget use your own network of friends and family who may be able to direct you to the other noteworthy local sources.
One of the key elements in hosting a multicultural wedding is how you communicate with your family and guests about the components you are including from both cultures in your new family. As you prepare for the big day, having conversations with the families so that they understand the choices you have made and, where appropriate, engage appropriately in the activity. With elder members of the family, it is helpful to reassure them of your commitment to honouring their past as you move toward your future. It is important to everyone that where there are sacred or religious pieces that these be honoured by everyone in attendance. Providing information in the invitation, describing the ceremony or ritual prior to it happening or asking the emcee at the reception to explain various events or traditions can all make things go smoothly for all guests.
If you are working with a wedding/event planner, a caterer or florist, ensure that they understand the importance of these cultural elements that you want to blend into your event. A wise planner will be quickly on board and willing to do research and ask questions to understand the nuances and significance of your traditions or culture. Start early in this communication, prior to paying for any service, to ensure that you have a great team to support you in your planning. If you encounter any push back or negativity about the multicultural components, you should move on to someone who is more supportive and excited about assisting you. Ask lots of questions and use the opportunity to help educate them as they work with you on this exciting endeavour!
More and more Canadian families are made up of two or even more cultural backgrounds. We live in a great country where diversity is accepted and encouraged. If you have any questions or need assistance in planning your multicultural wedding,
Simply Elegant Events can assist you in finding the best space to make your special day a unique and memorable event. We are a full service provider for any size-wedding event. Contact us, our team will provide you with advice about potential venues, décor, floral arrangements and menu possibilities.
Congratulations and good luck as you start your planning for your special wedding event!