Planning a wedding is already one of life’s biggest stressors, especially for the couple trying to blend different faiths and cultures
Planning a wedding is already one of life’s biggest stressors, especially for the modern couple trying to blend different faiths, cultures, or even visions for the anticipated day. Here, we break down five ways to fuse two backgrounds into one very meaningful wedding celebration
Before booking a single thing, Charlotte wedding planner Carla Eustache of Style Perfect Weddings and Events asks couples to first list the eight most important aspects of their special day. “Ranking the items creates excellent conversation about what’s most valued to them,” she says. Perhaps the groom wants regional cuisine at the reception, or maybe the bride is particular about who’s wearing what in the wedding party. After a few honest discussions, couples are left with a master list of priorities and a better understanding of each other’s wishes. “As a couple, you’re individuals coming together,” says Eustache. “And compromising during the wedding planning process is a great starting point for decision making down the road.”
Don’t forget to check in with family members, too—especially if they are the ones footing the bill. “Since a lot of parents pay for weddings, couples feel like they have to abide by their requests,” says wedding planner Erica Stawick of Sweet November Events. “But most of the time parents are very reasonable, so stick to what you think is most important.” What’s more, consulting with relatives about how you envision the day may reveal treasured family traditions or ceremonial heirlooms passed on through generations. For example, Stawick fondly recalls a Greek Orthodox family who provided his-and-hers wedding crowns for the ceremony.
DO YOUR RELIGION HOMEWORK
Discuss with your partner what religious practices or ceremonies you’d like to include in the wedding weekend. “You may find out that one person is more attached to certain religious traditions than the other,” says Stawick. Then, head to your places of worship and find out exactly what rituals are allowed during an interfaith ceremony. Finally, consider having a non-denominational officiant perform your wedding ceremony. “They have tons of ideas,” says Eustache, adding that they may also share their roster of local wedding resources such as alternative places to host a ceremony.
Navigating two sets of spiritual beliefs may be tricky, so it’s important to be as flexible and creative as possible. Puja Bhalla donned two entirely different gowns for her wedding last year to Michel Sumner at the Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark Hotel: the first, a handmade red-and-cream saree for an afternoon Hindu ceremony, was followed by a strapless white gown for the evening Christian service. In addition to conducting two separate ceremonies, they also held traditional events throughout the weekend, including a pre-wedding Sangeet party and a Mehndi henna ceremony. In the same spirit, Stawick worked with a couple who was first married during a traditional three-day wedding in Argentina. “But after the celebration abroad, the groom’s parents hosted another reception here in Charlotte.” During the second fete, the newlyweds displayed pictures and the traditional garb from their South American ceremony. In other words, you don’t have to do it all in one day.
Respect your past and entertain guests in the same beat through traditional dances. Whether it’s the Jewish Hora or a choreographed first dance, give customs center stage by showing them off early. “One of my clients kicked off her reception with Arabic music and dancing, but then the night segued into current pop songs,” says Stawick. Incorporating a genre of music is especially valuable for heritages that put a premium on song and dance. “That way a family from the Caribbean who really views music and dancing as a way to celebrate can do so,” says Eustache. To avoid overwhelming guests, keep special performances short and sweet—a gospel choir can greet guests outside the church or a bluegrass band can send off the newlyweds after the reception, for example. A more economical way to add a soundtrack to your wedding is to simply personalize a playlist with meaningful songs from different regions or experiences. (Note: alma maters and sports anthems are always fan favorites.)
“Food is a great way to integrate both sides of the families, whether it’s ethnic or geographic,” says Stawick. “It’s just a nice, small tribute to someone’s background.” Throwing in a few extra desserts is the easiest way to give guests—especially any picky eaters—a taste of something new. Indulge in Southern sweets such as Coca-Cola cake, peach cobbler, beignets, and (of course) pecan pie, or go a bit broader and add an Italian cookie table or kosher cupcakes to the spread.
Signature drinks can also add both variety and conversation to any cocktail hour. Or maybe a craft-beer bar is an option, displaying bottles from special places in your lives. Charlotte alone has at least half a dozen brewing companies, including NoDa Brewing Company and The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.
PUT IT INTO WORDS
You’ve worked hard to incorporate cultural traditions and diverse desires, so be sure to acknowledge it all when the wedding weekend finally arrives. “Explain the different parts of your wedding so guests know what is going on,” says Stawick. Use the ceremony program to define a certain ritual, or take a moment while exchanging vows to share the uniqueness of your marriage. The literature potential is limitless: slip a note into guests’ welcome bags to describe the regional or local goodies inside, or stamp each place card with a symbolic icon—be it religious or geographic—from the couple. Guests will appreciate having the details spelled out for them and, in turn, will be able to genuinely celebrate the meaning behind your day.