Organising a multicultural wedding: 5 things you should know

After organising a wedding day in just under three months, I now understand why so many books and movies portray the process as chaotic – that is, because it is…

You get engaged and you feel over the moon excited about getting married. You speak to your friends and family, look through wedding magazines, follow various wedding profiles on Instagram, and create multiple Pinterest boards. Everything looks so beautiful and you cannot wait to begin planning your special day. Eventually, you sit in front of your laptop, open Google and blankly stare at the screen: “Where on Earth do we even start?”

As you begin discussing your wedding day, you quickly realise that you and your soon-to-be spouse have completely different ideas of what a wedding should look like, when and where it should take place and how many guests you should invite. Suddenly, you feel more than overwhelmed and, for the first time, the idea of eloping looks somewhat appealing.

The above tends to be true for almost all couples. However, it is especially true for brides and grooms that come from different parts of the world. For them, it is not simply about deciding between two venues or seasons. For them, it is about choosing between two different countries and two different wedding ceremonies. It is about giving up traditions, inevitably disappointing one another, and putting together a wedding that honours both cultures.

Having organised a Bulgarian-English wedding in only 90 days (and having had various surprises and arguments along the way), my now-husband and I believe we are qualified to share a few tips. Together, we came up with five things that couples like us should know before planning their big day:

1. Accept that neither of you will get the wedding you imagined

Although it will upset you to do so, you must accept that you will not have the wedding day you have always dreamed of. You must also understand that this does not mean that your wedding day will not be as special or that you will not be as happy. Frankly, my wedding day was nothing like I thought it would be – and yet, it was better than I could have ever imagined.

It is also important to acknowledge that your partner will be giving up their idea of a dream wedding too. As such, you can use this shared feeling as something that brings you closer together rather than something that pulls you apart. Sympathise with one another and focus on the bright side of doing something different.

2. Communicate: What traditions do you insist on incorporating?

Once you have both come to terms with the fact that your wedding day will include sacrifices from both sides, discuss what traditions are most important to you.

Taking a case in point, my husband insisted on standing up at the altar and waiting for me to walk down the aisle. For him, it was important that we follow the English custom of not seeing each other before our wedding ceremony. Although I had seen this in movies before, it was not something I was used to as Bulgarian tradition dictates that the groom should pick up the bride from her family home before arriving at the Church together.

It was only through communicating openly and honestly that I understood that this part of the wedding day meant more to him than it did to me. Similarly, he listened and understood when I explained the various Bulgarian traditions that I insisted on incorporating – even when they seemed foreign to him.

Remember, you can use the wedding planning process as an opportunity to get to know your future spouse even better and to familiarise yourself with their culture.

3. Make your day unique to you as a couple

After you have understood what is truly important to you both, figure out how to incorporate the things you want in a way that makes sense and flows smoothly. Although people may be surprised at the way you structure your wedding day or the times at which you choose to do certain things, remember that your day is about you and your partner uniting your lives. As such, it should reflect what is important to both of you and be unique to you as a couple. Embrace being a little different and stand by your decisions as long as they make both of you happy.

4. Consider having a bilingual wedding officiant or host

If you and your soon-to-be spouse are from different nationalities, I would highly recommend having a bilingual wedding officiant for your ceremony and a bilingual host for your reception. In this way, you will ensure that both sides can understand what is happening at any given moment and that everyone feels included. Otherwise, you may risk offending guests who are important to you.

If you can only afford one of the two, definitely opt for a bilingual officiant as your vows are far more important than your reception. Plus, you can always print out bilingual information cards that explain the different rituals your guests will witness at the reception.

5. Livestream your event (and/or celebrate twice!)

Inevitably, one of the two sides will view your wedding as a ‘destination wedding’ if you and your partner are from different countries. In such cases, it is best to hire a livestreaming company that can help broadcast your special day to those who cannot travel out and attend your wedding day. Alternatively, consider organising a second celebration for those who could not witness your unity in person.  

Although the planning process is challenging and tiring, I assure you that your guests will love being a part of a nonconventional wedding. More importantly, you will be happier than you can imagine, having had a wedding day so unique to you and your partner.

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