Weddings with cultural representations are hot right now! The increasingly mobile nature of the globe, along with growing interest in ancestral cultures, has opened a whole new world of inter-cultural weddings to the mainstream wedding world. Many brides and grooms wonder how they should approach the traditional and cultural aspects of their weddings.
When it comes to incorporating your culture into your wedding, you have many options! From authentically traditional ceremonies to slight touches at the reception, there are many ways you can make your wedding reflect your heritage.
Planning a Traditional Wedding
Many couples want to honor their heritage by creating a wedding that is culturally traditional. Whether or not you and your groom have close links to your family’s culture, this can be a wonderful way to get in touch with your roots.
If your family originates from another country, you may consider traveling to your ancestors’ homeland for the wedding. If you want a destination wedding, this is a great way to go about it. Doing a cultural wedding is definitely easier when you have quick access to all the elements of a traditional celebration. Some things are not readily available in certain countries. (But hey, we do have destination wedding professionals!)
If you opt to stay at home for your wedding, start to gather what you need in advance! Although the global market has made pretty much everything available anywhere in the world, you may have trouble locating vendors who sell what you need and might have long wait times to receive packages from overseas.
If you’re not sure what goes into a culturally traditional wedding, you should talk to someone who is familiar with your culture. Perhaps an older relative can help you structure the wedding and plan decorations, food, clothing, and more.
Integrating Your Cultures
If you and your fiancé come from two (or more!) different cultures, it can be difficult to decide whose culture should be represented, and how. With a little strategy, you can create a beautiful, harmonious synchronization of your two cultures.
There are many ways this can look. If you and your future spouse want all the glitter and charm of a traditional mainstream wedding as well as the flavor of another culture, it’s easy to merge the two. I’ve seen a bride wear a traditional Indian dress to her ceremony and bring out the white gown for the reception, for example. Or, your entire ceremony can reflect one culture, while the reception reflects the other.
If you don’t want to separate your cultural elements into neat categories, you can also mix them together! Unite your cultural elements with similarities that tie them together. If you wish to unite Moroccan and Japanese aspects, for example, you can select elements of both in the same color for your clothing and décor. In your ceremony, you can follow traditional practices from both cultures.
Adding Small Touches
If you really only want to offer a nod to your heritage during a traditional, mainstream-style wedding, you can find creative ways to add cultural touches to your wedding.
At an African-influenced wedding I attended, the groomsmen wore bowties made of traditional cloth, and the meal at the reception was prepared like a traditional Kenyan wedding feast. If you like, you could use floral arrangements that reflect what grows in your ancestors’ home country. Or, you could display art and décor styles in your reception. There are many ways to highlight your culture during your wedding day!
What If I Don’t Know My Culture?
It’s surprisingly common for Americans to be clueless about their culture. Perhaps you want to add cultural elements to your wedding, but you don’t know where your ancestors came from. If your family has been in the United States for many decades, those stories and traditions may have been lost.
Fortunately, there are many ways to learn your heritage! Begin by asking older relatives what they know. You can supplement this by tracking your ancestry through government records or online at Ancestry.com. If you want, you can even take a genetic test that will tell you exactly what regions of the world your ancestors traveled from!
How I Planned My Culturally-Integrated Wedding
My husband grew up in East Africa, and I grew up in Arizona. Although we both lived in the United States by the time we met, we actually were engaged in Tanzania! We had our engagement photos taken there, and celebrated our engagement with traditional Tanzanian food. Although we considered a typical Tanzanian wedding in Africa, it made more sense for us to get married where most of our friends and family lived.
When we started planning our wedding, we wanted to blend the mainstream fairytale wedding I’d always dreamed of with the traditions that my husband had grown up with.
My husband and I decided to stick with the usual white dress and suit, but we each wore a necklace that reminded us of Africa, and my husband’s boutonniere was made of a plumeria blossom. Our wedding party was more traditional. My bridesmaids more a wrap-around skirt of African fabric, and the groomsmen wore button-up shirts of the same material.
The ladies in my husband’s home church in Tanzania wanted to be sure he had a traditional wedding shirt, so they pooled their resources and sent him a beautifully embroidered African shirt, which he wore at the reception.
At our reception, we decorated the tables with white cloths and runners made of African fabric. I surprised my husband with an Africa-inspired groom’s cake, which he loved! During dinner, his dad and brothers sang a popular Swahili love song.
We didn’t go all-out with cultural elements, but we did incorporate special touches that reminded us of my husband’s home. Whatever you decide to do, make it all about reflecting who you are!
Your wedding is the time to shine a spotlight on who you are your spouse are! Hopefully, this gives you a few ideas of how to do that. How will you incorporate your culture into you wedding? Let us know some of your ideas in the comments!
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