Bi-Lingual Weddings

This is the full version from the excerpt that is running on APW. Some of this was written after I sent Alyssa stuff to pick and choose from, so don’t judge. ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus we wanted to keep it more centered on language, and not bring up all of the culture stuff, but over here the two are combined, because language is culture and culture if language. Linguistically speaking (haha, get it?), the way a culture talks about things, syntax, and word choice, say mountains about their value system. But I digress…

I only realized that I actually have a bi-lingual wedding when I saw the title of this question during the Ask Team Practicle review last weekend (yes, we talk about you). I also don’t see my relationship as bi-racial until someone points it out or I see a photo of my glowing, relfective white skin in a pool, on vacation, next to Kamel’s lovely bronze tone (true story), but even then I mostly just envy his pigment and I don’t immediately think, MEXICAN! THAT MAN IS MEXICAN!

That being said, it was really important to both of us to include his family (the U.S. living and the Mexico City living) in our ceremony and reception. And maybe include isn’t the right word… because they’ll be there of course, but I also wanted them to feel like they were participants, that they weren’t just showing up to some anglo event as mere witnesses. And of course, we aren’t completely done with planning yet (even when I seem to decide on something, a week goes by and I change my mind), but we’ve made some hard and fast decisions already. The first was to translate 1/2 the invitations, because isn’t putting that document into someone’s native language one of the (if not THE) best way to make someone feel invited? We’re also choosing to do 1 of the 3 readings during the ceremony in spanish (as well as 1 from literature, instead of the Bible,ย  for me).

When it comes to finding other ways to incorporate spanish into our wedding I really think of 1) where is it most significant and necessary, 2) how can we do it where it seems seamless and not “hey everybody! this here is SPANISH! Get it? Cuz the bride’s last name will now be PEREZ”, 3) if I was attending a wedding where my language was not the primary go-to, where would I be pleasently surprised to see english? where would it be most meaningful to understand the full significance of the words? and 4) how much work is this actually going to be? Because if it’s too difficult or stressful, then it’s probably just not that important.

My culture is relatively pervasive. My family picked the venue, most of the food is upscale American fancy (is there a technical term for that?), everyone is flying to Seattle because it’s easiest for me and my guests. So how do I make Kamel’s side feel comfortable, welcome, and included? By having a Mexican main dish option, by including his family members in the service, by including traditional Mexican celebratory things at the reception (vagueness left on purpose), by doing things that I KNOW are meaningful to his family in an intimate way so that they know we listen, we pay attention, we view all of these as a combining of families, and not one over the other. It takes extra thought and energy to do these things, but I think it will be worth it. In the end our wedding will be a combination of who we are and where we came from, it is essentially a representation of who the “we” is becoming, a swirled up baby family of two cultures and languages.

12 thoughts on “Bi-Lingual Weddings”

  1. My relationship is also technically “biracial” (me being the brown one) and like you, I never think of us as biracial. It’s usually pointed out by others which I’m not at all ok with.

    We’re really early in our planning stages and we’re trying to figure out what percentage hispanic culture (this stuff is so awkward for me to talk about) we should include in our wedding. I was raised in the US, so were my parents, my grandparents have been here a really long time, and we don’t have anyone coming from over seas. But when we got engaged my mom asked “well, are you going to play some music in spanish as your reception? you know, for us?” Using “us” in this very generic manner – like our family collectively.
    I was totally knocked on my ass by this comment. I think I mumbled something and ran away. My situation is kinda the opposite of yours but its still and issue of two cultures. I wasn’t raised steeped in “culture” so for me the complete obliviousness about our biracial status comes largely from the fact that I don’t see us as being different culturally. So I guess I am trying to figure out how to make my wedding “american” without unintentionally offending anyone or making them feel excluded.

    1. Weddings bring up so many cultual “needs” that I was never ever aware of before. Everyone wants to be full represented, whatever that means to them, even if during any other time they are by no means SO culturally self aware. It happened with my family too and it startled me. I think it happens when parents and family fear they are losing you to some other family, and other culture. They want you to remember who you were before all of that. But most of the time it’s irrational. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. This element of our wedding got a bit out of control. We had no control over the ceremony (I won’t get into that mess) but we were able to address our international heritage in the reception. We made subtle references to our heritage through food choices and two special cultural ‘wedding’ desserts, with cards scattered through the reception explaining our choices. And our parents were happy with these choices…until the day before the wedding when they suddenly started playing heritage tag team. In-laws wanted Croatian music, then mum wanted Italian music, then in-laws insisted on an extra speech to convey absent-wishes from New Zealand and Croatia family(the Croatian messages they wrote themselves the night before). It was a slippery slope and caused undue stress. I don’t know what the lesson here is, but it was very irrational and knee-jerk attempts to be involved in some way. Perhaps that was the lesson for us. We tried to take care of everything ourselves so that our parents could relax and enjoy. That’s not what they wanted.
        I hope it goes easier for you. I think it will.

  2. Wow! I am so impressed by all of this, Lauren. So many people (especially in our age group) are like, “yay wedding, where’s my champagne and $6,000 dress?” and not that those things aren’t awesome, but what’s the real point of this wedding thing anyway? Um hi, everything you just wrote about! I love how much you are thinking/working/collaborating to make your wedding a cultural blend of awesomeness.

  3. I love your feelings!
    And the important fact that you have no problem showing them!

    I really appreciate all the attention that you are giving your mexican family and, as a token of gratitude, I’m making sure that all coming from Distrito Federal, brings a chicken, a couple of pigs (slim, of course) and the world famous chupacabras!

    No se preocupen tanto, todo va a salir muy bien.

    Los amo in English y en espaรฑol!

    K.

  4. I love this. ๐Ÿ™‚ Beautifully written. No worries, Miss Honey. Whatever you decide we gon’ get LOW at your wedding… Miami-style!
    TREMENDA NOTA! (not quite sure how to translate that…it’s Cubanish)

  5. So I’m not even engaged yet and my mother is already mourning the fact that since I seem to have fallen in love with a Canadian/American non-spanish speaking man, she isn’t going to get the romantic wedding in the ruins of a Guatemalan Cathedral that she always dreamed of. My mom is a drama queen. Anyway, I know that sometime down the line I’ll be in your shoes, so best of luck lady!

  6. It sounds as though you are really making an effort to think of others, which is fabulous and surprising rare in the bride circuit. Plus adding traditions from both sides adds a really fun and memorable atmosphere to an event. Matt and I are both as pasty as white Lilly’s but as I am from another country and I tried really hard to make sure that some English traditions were present at our wedding. I think it really touched my family that traveled over. I am sure your new family will be just as touched at your consideration.

    1. elle!! I love that you commented. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think about your wedding hoopla all of the time. I’m trying to find some zen through all of the crazy planning. haha. And “pasty as white Lilly’s” maybe the most perfect description in the entire world. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Love this. And the best thing about putting this kind of extra thought into including your new family in your wedding is that it will have long-term benefits for your marriage as well!

  8. I know that you are trying so hard to make sure that everyone is a part and involved as family can be. I just have to say that the wedding and reception has been a collective investment of talent and ideas from all sides of the “soon to be” family. The attempt to make sure that both cultures are represented, presented and honored is clearly a goal of everyone. As is always an overall thought, we support, love and take pride in our development of “family”. Even if the “upscale American Fancy” plans were ones that included a collective response from both bride and groom, along with the parents. I also know that everything will be fun, represented and inclusive. Thanks. LYT, DB

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