We are living in a time where mixed marriages are becoming increasingly common.
Mixed marriages can be great; however, the wedding can be very difficult, which is why we're devoting this blog post to the challenges surrounding weddings involving brides and grooms from different racial backgrounds.
How do I know? Well, I have an interracial marriage (and, by God's grace, a great one !) My husband is Lebanese and I'm Australian.
The challenges facing interracial couples are, depending on the parents and families, many and varied. For example, first there is the issue of whether the parents even 'approve' of the spousal match (both sets of parents approved of ours and that made things infinitely smoother).
Then, assuming they do, we get into the nitty-gritty of whether the parents and family want their cultural traditions included in the lead-up to the wedding, the wedding itself, and the wedding reception.
Because the issue of parental acceptance of interracial marriages can be a difficult topic, I will only be commenting on the wedding side of things.
That is, I am assuming that everyone agrees to the match (which thankfully was the case for me) and the wedding is going ahead. Although, even if families and parents are supportive, you will inevitably run into conflicting desires for how the wedding and reception should play out.
You might be expecting this blog to focus on the details of whether you should have Lebanese drums or whether you should have the Chinese tea ceremony. Not quite.
This blog post will actually focus on conflict resolution. Because, at the end of the day, what matters is being able to navigate conflicting desires of different cultures.
I'll outline some practical tips that will hopefully allow you create a wedding that everyone will enjoy.
The first thing that brides and grooms need to keep in mind when planning an interracial wedding is that it generally is not possible to please everyone.
For example, when organising our wedding, I knew my future in-laws were keen to have Lebanese drums accompany my husband and I into the wedding reception. We were more than happy to agree to that.
Experience at other interracial weddings involving a Lebanese bride or groom had taught my then fiancee and I that the non-Lebanese attendees could grow tired of the drums after 10 or so minutes.
However, some of my husband's extended family wanted the Lebanese drums and Lebanese music to go for longer than 10 or 15 minutes. We communicated this with my husband's parents and they agreed that more than 10 to 15 minutes would be too long and that we'd play western music for rest of the reception.
The end result? An awesome introduction with two Lebanese drums at our wedding that went for roughly 10 minutes. Most guests had an amazing time (some commented that it was the best wedding they had ever been to - including theirs!).
We received word after the reception that some of the older Lebanese attendees had wanted more Lebanese music at the end of the night.
However, we suspected that would happen and were nonetheless happy with the amount of time dedicated to the Lebanese drums based on the positive comments we received from the majority of guests.
We mentioned this in an earlier blog post when discussing how many people to invite to your wedding ceremony and reception, however, it is important enough to restate: make sure you begin discussions about controversial topics early in the planning process.
It may take some time to resolve particularly difficult topics and you don't want to be sorting it out a week before the wedding. For example, we've heard some horror stories about arguments around who to invite to the reception (e.g. the bride and groom want a smaller and closer group while the parents want a large group - including acquaintances).
This isn't an argument that will be sorted in a week!
Discussions related to interracial weddings can lead to a lot of tension and arguments, especially between the bride and groom (many parents will be too polite to argue directly with the bride and groom - but it does happen!).
When deciding how many people to invite, what traditions to include, and what you want to break to vent your frustration (just kidding), you will probably be getting frustrated and angry.
Remember that people say things they don't mean when they are frustrated. Also, remember that people dig in when they get frustrated and don't want to listen to the truth. In both cases, you need to put aside your emotions and develop a thick skin to ignore the things said in frustration and be confident enough to speak the truth when required.
Coming back to the Lebanese drums analogy, my husband and I went back and forth for a long time. At first, I was hesitant to have them and my husband wanted them. Then the tables turned and I was the one who wanted them and my husband didn't.
We switched sides so many times and had so many heated discussions that we eventually got to the point where we realised we were saying things out of frustration that we didn't really mean.
And in the midst of all of it, it turned out my husband's parents didn't care either way!
This is self-explanatory: be ready to compromise. You can't have everything your way (and neither can anyone else).
You may need to make some concessions if some things are important enough to your future in-laws and future spouse. They may also need to make some concessions to you.
At the end of the day, don't lose sight of what you're doing - planning a wedding that you and your family are meant to enjoy and celebrate!
In our case, we decided to have two Lebanese drums accompany us for 10 minutes. In hindsight, the back-and-forth with my husband about the drums was needless and silly and the end result was a great time had by everyone.
Following on from the previous point of finding a compromise, it is crucial to be aware of what your fiancee's culture considers important. If you aren't aware, then you won't know when you need to compromise.
For most Lebanese, it is the Lebanese drums. For Chinese, it might be the tea ceremony. For Australians, it might be the father walking the daughter down the aisle.
Make sure you speak with your fiancee and their family in order to identify the cultural traditions that they simply can't live without.
Remember, you and your fiancee are on the same team. At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is that you preserve and foster your relationship.
You're in it for the long haul and arguing/bickering about the cultural hangups of a wedding is only a momentary thing. The wedding day will come and go faster than you realise and you will see in hindsight that all the fretting was really insignificant in the scheme of things.
Interracial weddings can be difficult. However, the hard work required to organise one can really pay off and provide you and your guests with memories that will last a lifetime.
Don't lose sight of the fact you're planning your wedding and will have your closest family and friends in attendance to celebrate your big day.
Leave a comment and let us know if you have any other suggestions.
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