Although intercultural weddings have become more common than ever, they still raise many issues for the bride and groom, their families and even wedding guests. If not handled properly, I’ve seen what’s supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life can quickly turn into a time of resentment, hurt feelings and ill will between families. How do you successfully pull off an intercultural wedding?
Sharon Schweitzer is an international etiquette expert, author and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She gave me her 10 tips for planning a successful intercultural wedding:
- Keep Communication Open. Create and encourage open communication with both sides of the family early in the engagement. Discuss the planning process and select certain traditions from each culture that you and your finance’ wish to highlight. Having an awareness of customs and showing parental respect goes a long way, especially when families are paying for the wedding and will become your new extended family.
- Compromise. Graciously coordinate with both families, respectfully state that this is your wedding, and you plan to honor some of the customs of both families during the wedding. Summon up your best diplomacy skills, compromise and remember: you can’t please everyone, all of the time.
- Premarital counseling. In any marriage, pre-marital counseling is worth its weight in gold. Spirituality, belief systems, budget, children, boundaries and career aspirations should be discussed before and during the engagement, before the wedding.
- Licenses & Prerequisites. When planning a ceremony in a church, mosque or synagogue, you must obtain special documents, attend classes, and follow specific protocol to receive approval. If you are planning the ceremony in a park, garden or on a lake or beach, special licensing applies.
- Location. Location. Location. Select carefully, read, understand and keep a written copy of the contract and rules of conduct. Provide the location’s event coordinator with written notice of your intercultural ceremony details to prevent confusion on the big day.
- Two Ceremonies. If your cultural backgrounds are too elaborate or too different to combine into one ceremony, consider holding two wedding ceremonies. I see this option often
- Personalize your ceremony. Many religious officiants are more than willing to conduct the ceremony jointly and provide creative ideas to honor both traditions. Due to the combination of more than one belief system, provide seating and time the rehearsal to be sure the ceremony is not too long.
- Custom Explanations. Ask the officiant to provide a brief interesting explanation of ceremonial elements, or provide one in the written program.
- Master some dance moves! Enroll in a traditional dance class from your respective cultures with your love 6-8 months before the big day. Wedding guests will be entertained and you will have a blast!
- Personalize. Honoring your family culture is important, but don’t forget this is a celebration for you and your loved one. Remember to showcase your own personalities. Create a wedding playlist with favorite tunes from your first date, or select food from both cultures that you both enjoy, or your favorite colors for the décor, for example.