Given that we live in such a multicultural society, it’s unsurprising that many couples are from different backgrounds and cultures. That’s why Honeypot co-founder Katie has put together her top tips for making a bicultural wedding a joy for all.
Shane and I got married in March last year. One of the aspects of our wedding I often get asked about is how we balanced and celebrated our two cultures; while we are both Kiwis, Shane’s family is Chinese Malaysian and mine is Pakeha. So let’s break it down – what are the top four things you need to consider when planning a bicultural wedding?
Managing and communicating expectations
It may sound obvious, but the real key to managing family expectations is communication. Early in our planning, we sat down with Shane’s family to discuss the cultural aspects. Shane, who has lived in NZ almost his entire life, would be the first to admit he was completely clueless about Chinese weddings!
One of our discussions got a little heated as Shane’s mum was certain we should do the tea ceremony (an important part of any Chinese wedding) the same day as our reception. The conversation went round and round, with us saying there just wasn’t time. Eventually we realised that my mother-in-law was assuming there wouldn’t be any other ceremony, since we weren’t getting married in a church. We had always planned to have an outdoor ceremony with a celebrant, but hadn’t communicated this at all!
Be prepared to compromise
I’m sure many couples planning weddings have needed to reach compromises between families, and bicultural weddings are no different. However, we are very lucky to have families who get along well and were happy to mix things up!
For us, the best compromise was to have two celebrations – this allowed us to have the western-style wedding we had planned, and then a tea ceremony and Chinese dinner with our families two days later. Thankfully Shane’s family did most of the planning for the Chinese dinner, leaving us time to plan the main event.
Having the two separate events meant everyone felt they were included and had a part to play. Shane’s relatives from Malaysia were invaluable at the tea ceremony, showing us the correct way to serve tea and explaining the meaning to my own family.
Don’t see it as a challenge – there are some serious benefits!
Bicultural weddings have their challenges, but the benefits far outweigh them! I think embracing both cultures helped to bring our families together in a meaningful way. Plus, who can complain about two parties (or getting to wear two dresses, amiright ladies)?!
My advice for multicultural couples
I’m sure there are plenty of other couples in a similar situation to us – maybe you also come from different cultures, or religions, or backgrounds. Whatever the case, my recommendation would be to have an honest discussion with your families about expectations early on in your planning. Like us, you may be surprised how much you or your partner will learn!
Our solution may not work for everyone, but there’s other ways to include both cultures. You could have two celebrants (or ministers, priests etc.), or ask a member from each family to do a reading of their choice. When it comes to choosing food, drink and music, make sure you have a few options to suit both cultures.
Last of all, enjoy yourself! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your partner to conform to other’s expectations – work out the compromise that works best for you and your loved ones so you can all have a great time!