My Big Fat Romanian Wedding: Tips on Successfully Blending Cultures and Family Traditions at Weddings
Falling in Love
When a couple falls in love, often times they do not think about what impact their relationship may have on their families. It isn't until the relationship begins to get a little more serious and the talk of marriage begins, that the love birds start to think about how different their cultures or family wedding traditions may be. This is particularly true if there is a difference in religious views or ethnic backgrounds.
Have you ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Well, all you have to do is replace the "Greek" with "Romanian," and you could have been at my wedding. We had the huge wedding party and the large reception. The day was filled culture, traditions, and "we must do it this way." We were married in a Romanian Orthodox Church and had a large reception complete with traditional Romanian music. So how did my family blend with my husband's family? Well, it wasn't always easy, but we made it work. And, no, my mom did not bring my future in-laws a bundt cake! So here are some of the things that we did and some of the things that we learned along the way.
Planning the Wedding
Planning a multicultural wedding can be very tricky. Weddings are emotionally charged experiences for all involved. The bride has most likely been thinking about this day for as long as she can remember. The parents of both the bride and groom probably have a certain picture of what they expect this day will be like. In most cases the groom is just happy to go along with whatever the bride decides. So how do you fit in the expectations of all involved? The wedding does not just consist of the big day. There are four major parts to the wedding that need to be discussed and considered. They are the pre-wedding day, the ceremony, the reception, and the post wedding day events.
Pre-Wedding Day Events
Pre-wedding day events can be anything from an engagement party to the wedding shower to the rehearsal dinner. Everyone has their own ideas about what parts are important. My husbands family typically celebrates the engagement with a gathering of the families few closest relatives and friends, in this case, about 100. My family traditionally congratulated the newly engaged couple but never really had a formal gathering. We decided to make this a part of the celebration because it gave our families a chance to get to know one another prior to the big day. It was a great time because we kept it very informal by having a pig roast and bonfire at my husband's grandparents' farm. Our planning was off to a great start!
One issue for many couples and families is the wedding ceremony. If you are blending two religions, there will likely be lots of discussion around what faith the ceremony will take place in. Many priests and rabbis are willing to share the blessing of the marriage and have some sort of combined ceremony. In my case, I was raised Catholic while my husband was Orthodox. Since the two are very similar, there was not a lot of compromise needed for the ceremony. I did not have a church that I felt truly connected to and my future inlaws did. We decided that we would marry in the Orthodox Church. One thing that I did find very important was that part of the ceremony was conducted in English. This was a big compromise for everyone since some of my husband's family did not speak English and none of my family spoke Romanian. We were able to find a second priest who spoke English well enough for everyone to understand him and be able to enjoy the ceremony. The ceremony was a very traditional one. It was very ornate and full of symbolism. Many of my family members found it quite interesting.
Part of a Traditional Romanian Orthodox Wedding Ceremony
Traditional Romanian Reception
At our reception we kept with the tradition of having Romanian music. I knew that was a very important to my future in-laws, however my family loves to dance as well. Even though I knew my family would embrace the ethnic dancing, we compromised by also having a DJ. This allowed both families to have to dance to their favorite tunes.
in addition to the music, we had a little change in our dessert menu. Not only did we have a wedding cake, which was important to me, we had traditional Romanian desserts. Many of the ladies spent several days baking the sweet treats to share with the guests at the wedding. Not only were they delicious, but it was an honor to have all of that work put in for your special day!
Post Wedding Day Events
Most times, the wedding doesn't end on the wedding day. Many family members from far away have come to celebrate the big event. Many couples opt to have some sort of gathering the next day. We had people that had come from Arizona, North Carolina, Canada, and New York. My husband and I decided to post pone our honeymoon by a couple of days to spend time with the wonderful people who had come from such distances to celebrate our special day. We had a special lunch for all of our out of town guests and were able to spend some quality time with them.
Planning Your Multicultural Wedding
So what tips can you use as a guide in planning your own multicultural wedding? Here are a few to help you out.
My first tip is that you have a conversation with all parties involved about what each person expects the big day to look like. The financial part of the wedding is not the only that needs to be discussed. It is important that all traditions and ideas are presented at this time so that there are no misunderstandings down the road. The more honest that everyone is about what each expects, the smoother the day will be. If anyone is holding back and "surprises" others down the road then trust will be broken and everyone will be walking on eggshells for the duration of the wedding planning.
2. Keep an Open Mind
As with all differences, there needs to be an element of mutual respect for what each side holds important. Family traditions and religious practices are important to the people that hold them dear. Keep an open mind as you move through the wedding process. Some of the traditions may be things that happen prior to the wedding day like a gathering of family a day or two prior to the actual day. Who knows, not only might you learn something new, you might actually like some of the changes.
Be prepared to compromise. With every wedding there is an element of give and take whether it is financial or location or something else that you may feel is a critical component of the wedding. In multicultural weddings, often times there is even more compromise that is needed. Change is ok, change is good. Although it may seem like the world will end if you do not do it a certain way, you most likely will not remember it down the road and your guests definitely will not.
4. Embrace and Enjoy
In the end the wedding will be beautiful and the tough decisions that had to be made along the way will be forgotten. As long as everyone is enjoying themselves then the wedding will be a success. Learn to let go. If things do not go quite as planned on the wedding day, don't obsess about it and allow it to ruin the rest of the event. Take it in stride and release it. Most importantly, if the bride and groom are carefree and having the time of their lives then it will be a day that will live in their hearts forever. And if all else fails in the planning...DESTINATION WEDDINGS!!!!