How to Have a Multilingual Ceremony That Doesn't Get Lost in Translation

Our experts have six key tips to help you bridge that language gap

Updated 09/03/17

Photo by O'Malley Photographers

Weddings are the joining together of a couple, as well as their families, which means cultures, histories, and languages are all colliding on one beautiful, momentous day. Of course, having multiple languages present on your wedding day can sometimes cause a few hiccups, especially if some of your guests don’t speak your celebration’s primary language. When it comes time to walk down the aisle and put a ring on it, our experts have six key tips to help you bridge that language gap.

Offer a Multilingual Program

This is a great place to start. When you’re creating your ceremony, either design and print a version in each language, or offer translations beneath each line for your monolingual guests. Even if you don’t translate the proceedings themselves, this will help your guests feel included and follow along.

Translate Your Readings

If your ceremony will be entirely in one language, consider offering printed translations of your readings or vows so guests who aren’t fluent can follow along. Ask a friend or family member who is bilingual to help with the translations (instead of using an online translation website) to make sure the nuances are clear in both languages, even if the translation isn’t direct.

Consider a Translator

Do you have a large number of guests who don’t speak the language your ceremony will be in? Consider hiring a translator to provide a live translation of the proceedings. Look for a local simultaneous translation service (like the translators who work at the United Nations, translating proceedings into delegates’ headsets in real time). They may not advertise wedding services, but these companies offer professional interpreters and can rent you the wireless headsets necessary to allow your monolingual guests to follow along.

Keep Readings Concise

To avoid boredom or loss of attention from guests who might not understand the proceedings (whether you’re having a monolingual or bilingual ceremony), keep the readings and sections short.

Include Both Languages in Your Vows

Are you learning the language your partner’s family speaks? Share part of your wedding (the vows, in particular) in both languages. If you’re using traditional vows, repeat them in both of the represented languages. If you’re writing your own vows, you can either read the vows in one language, then the other, or alternate back and forth between each language—offering the full text in both languages in your program.

Translate Key Moments

Even if your ceremony is monolingual, ask your officiant to translate key moments into both languages. Think “With this ring, I thee wed” and “You may now kiss the bride.” Yes, your guests will see what’s happening, but having those major phrases spoken in both languages will help to make everyone feel included in your celebration.

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