How to Set Wedding Expectations When Your Families are From Different Cultures

Etiquette, Planning Tips

Weddings are celebrated differently all over the world, whether it's a long-standing cultural tradition or a religious ritual outlined in the most sacred of texts. When two families and cultures come together, it's an opportunity to highlight the traditions that the couple finds most meaningful, creating a wedding celebration that's unique and highly personal. Choosing which traditions to include, however, also means choosing which ones to skip. Here's what our experts have to say about letting your families know which wedding rituals you'll be opting out of.

While there are some traditions you know you'd love to include (say, dancing The Hora or having a Chinese tea ceremony), there might also be ones that you're going to choose not to include, whether it's because your soon-to-be spouse is a different religion or it's a practice that the two of you don't think fits into the celebration you're creating. The hard part isn't picking what to include, it's letting your future in-laws know that there are things that they've always envisioned at a wedding that you won't be participating in.

The best way to start the conversation is to make expectations clear from the get-go. Are you envisioning an intimate, casual celebration but your mother-in-law expects you to invite every single family member (plus the whole town!) for an all-out bash? Or does your family usually celebrate with a black tie dinner in a ballroom but your fiané's is more of a backyard barbecue crowd? Make your intentions clear before you've done any major planning so no one is surprised when they're being asked to rent a tuxedo or put the ball gown away in favor of a cocktail dress. Additionally, you might come from religious families but choose to have a secular ceremony, or might not want to include too many cultural traditions that half of your guests wouldn't understand. By letting everyone know you'll be curating your celebration, you're also informing them that some things won't be involved.

See more: 8 Tips for Planning a Multicultural Wedding

Once you've made up your mind about what you will (and won't) be doing, make sure to be respectful when telling your families about the choices you've made. Keep the focus on the elements you will be including, and highlight why you're excited to share those traditions with your guests. Make sure you've really thought through the items you're forgoing, and come armed with reasonable, well-thought-out explanations (Say, you're skipping The Dollar Dance because you feel uncomfortable asking your guests for money after they've paid to travel to your destination wedding). Be prepared for some push-back, but keep aiming for that sweet spot where all the elements you really want will be included.

Give a Subscription to Brides Magazine as a Gift

Get personalized planning advice, exclusive offers and must-read wedding news.

Thank You
for Signing Up!

Check your e-mail inbox for the latest updates from