One of the things I love about working in the wedding industry is discovering different cultures.
With the universality of love paving the way, families in the UK are slowly becoming more and more blended. Today, millennial couples are more than twice as likely to be in mixed race relationships and getting married is an opportunity to celebrate this unapologetically. It's a time to mark your union by fusing your two families, and their cultures.
Some couples add cultural nods to their wedding day with ease, but often the wedding industry fails to acknowledge anything other than actual white weddings, and lots of people who don't fit that mould struggle to find inspiration. Having featured hundreds of multicultural couples on my blog, I decided to ask some of them how they made it work on their big day; from the subtle finer details to elaborate cultural themes.
"The beauty of a multicultural wedding is when your respective cultures are woven into the fabric of a wedding from the dress, the rituals, the vows, the decoration, the favours, the entertainment and the rest," says Nicola, founder of Love Has No Borders, a project that helps couples from two different cultures navigate any road blocks they may come up against. "Guests at the wedding have the fortune of experiencing what could be seen as 'the best of both' and will leave with a greater understanding for the couple's heritage."
A simple way to add a nod to your culture is in your food. Create an entire menu based on staple food dishes you grew up eating at home, or add subtle, elegant touches.
Recent newlywed Trish says: "We celebrated our cultures by having a mix of foods at our Zambian-English wedding. We had a three-course English meal and in the evening, we had a Zambian BBQ and traditional foods."
So much of our culture is tied up in the music we've grown up with. From elaborate carnival themes to classic songs that get you on the dance floor – making your music a focal point in your wedding is a no-brainer.
Karen, who focussed heavily on music at her African-American and Irish wedding to husband Pearse says: "My father, a prolific black music collector and historian, did the soundtrack to the day, with incredible curated playlists that shared the soundtrack to my childhood as we celebrated."
She continues: "As my father grew up in care and hadn’t met his parents, I’d say those playlists from my dad were a sharing of his heritage and thus mine."
Newlywed Assumpta says: "During both our Western and Nigerian wedding days we made sure we had some Nigerian music for that cultural nod – also we both absolutely love Afrobeats!"
Caribbean-French couple Colleen and Jean-Luc chose to have Zouk music, a carnival beat originating from the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, for their first dance and interspersed throughout the wedding party.
The obvious way to go all out when it comes to celebrating your culture. Londoners Assumpta and Horia shared their British-Nigerian and Romanian cultures with their bridal party through clothes. "During our Western wedding celebrations I gifted each of my bridesmaids with a robe made from beautiful Romanian print fabric," she says.
"The small details really make a difference," agrees Trish. "Although our wedding party wore Western modern suits and dresses, we made sure that we included African fabric in our bridesmaids' bouquets and the pocket squares for the groomsmen."
As families become more international, first languages for many partners aren't always English. Making your ceremony inclusive is a great way to acknowledge this; from language interpreters to sign language, include as many of your guests in your ceremony and wedding party as you can.
This is what husband and wife Colleen and Jean-Luc did for their English and Caribbean cultures during their wedding. "We infused some French throughout our wedding ceremony service, my sister-in-law did a reading in French, at the reception the best man (French) did his speech in French and English," Colleen says. "[He even] helped my dad to do a (short) speech in French as well as English."
The Finer Details
A really clever way to add your culture is to accentuate it in your styling. From decor and flowers to fabric print, or even colours that are symbolic to your heritage – it’s a simple way to make your cultural mark.
Colleen and Jean-Luc, for instance, named their tables after towns in Guadeloupe – where Jean-Luc is from – rather than numbering them.
Your wedding day is about the union of your families, values and cultures, and the most important thing is to make everyone feel welcome and well hosted so they can celebrate your marriage. Use the wedding planning process to explore each other's cultural traditions and discover new ones too. Educate yourself on their meaning so you can authentically include them. Go with your gut instinct; what resonates with you and your partner is probably the thing that's right for you.