Photo: Julia Robbs of Our Labor of Love
Chances are, you've attended or know someone that's participated in a multicultural, interfaith ceremony. With the blending on the rise, couples with different religious and cultural backgrounds face unique challenges when putting together a wedding: How incorporate the most important elements of each, make everyone happy, and still stay on budget? Here are eight tips to help it go more smoothly.
1. Educate each family to ensure they understand all the customs and expectations.
Take extra care to help your guests, too. Get on the same page, whether it's how much you want to spend or who is comfortable (or not) wearing cultural garb. Without similar expectations, couples set themselves up for disappointment throughout the planning process. For your guests, add an area on your website or wedding program with details on ceremony etiquette.
2. Check with religious institutions before setting any dates or placing deposits at venues.
While most religious officiants are open to interfaith unions, some stodgier officiants are not. In some causes, such as Jewish and Christian, the rabbi and the priest will perform the ceremony together. In others, such as Catholic and Hindu, that's not an option — it has to be two separate ceremonies. Also check for respective holy days, as most religions have devotional seasons when weddings cannot be held.
3. Pick a venue and vendors that will accommodate your wedding and out-of-the-box ideas.
Many venues have standard wedding packages and introducing new ideas can be problematic logistically. For example, many ballrooms won't allow the open flame needed for an Indian wedding due to fire code, and full ceremonies for some religions take longer than the typical 30-minute window.
4. Personalize the ceremony and take advantage of cultural traditions.
Determine what traditions are important you and your fiancé. When merging styles, not every tradition will be feasible logistically, no matter what parents say. Personalize the ceremony and reception by picking what matters to you, such as a Filipino money dance or Chinese tea ceremony. Not into the bouquet and garter toss? Skip it.
5. Get inventive with the food and drinks to incorporate specific ingredients or family dishes.
Replace the traditional surf and turf with items like or enchiladas with mole and play with specialty cocktails using native ingredients. Amy Shey Jacobs of Chandelier Events recommends looking for restaurants and caterers that embrace fusion ideas from the start and have fun brainstorming.
6. Be daring with your fashion.
Look for modern interpretations of traditional outfits by progressive designers and find ways to blend cultures, such as wearing a red ballgown for a Chinese wedding. Jacobs recommends convertible dresses to brides who need covered shoulders for religious ceremonies but want strapless dresses for the reception.
7. Use music and décor.
Add decorative elements that evoke the feel of the wedding, like art, sculptures, and furniture, or choose a venue with decorative elements that fit your culture. Talk to your DJ or band about incorporating traditional music throughout the night and get your guests to the dance floor.
8. Consider hiring a planner, not only for unique ideas, but as a confident.
Sonal J. Shah, who specializes in Indian weddings, has organized more than 650 weddings with her event company, says half the weddings she does each year combine different religions or cultures, and she often finds herself as an intermediary between families. She explained that many times parents do not fully understand the wedding customs. "As a bride, it's nice to have an ally on your side, a credible source," Shah says. "I back up your ideas and help families understand why they work."
Stephanie Cain is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She became passionate about multicultural and interfaith ceremonies after attending half a dozen and planning her own Catholic-Hindu wedding weekend.