From the Greeks’ fabulously fun tradition of plate-smashing to the serene Chinese tea ceremonies and the festive Jewish hora, multicultural weddings can be lots of fun and particularly special to couples from different backgrounds.
But organising a multicultural or interfaith wedding is more than simply popping in Chinese spring rolls on the dinner menu or learning how to salsa on the dancefloor. How do you ensure that your wedding pays respect to both cultures (or religions) appropriately and how can you organise an event that fits in the rituals that have the most significance to you both as a couple?
Founded by celebrity chef and TV show host Luke Nguyen, Vietnamese restaurant Red Lantern has hosted plenty of beautiful multicultural weddings in the past 14 years since it first opened in Surry Hills in Sydney.
Four years ago, the restaurant and bar moved onto larger premises in Darlinghurst, where it’s now located within a beautiful space reminiscent of French Colonial Vietnam, perfect for romantic weddings.
“The theme of Red Lantern is all about not forgetting where we came from and having authentic cuisine with an appreciation for the ingredients,” explains Luke’s sister and managing director Pauline Nguyen.
Here are some practical tips from Pauline on how you can create a successful multicultural wedding, from getting your family involved (just the right amount) to building a unique menu for your guests to enjoy on the day.
Ask your family for guidance
Your two families will most likely love to be involved in your wedding and help pass on the traditions of your culture.
Pauline suggests asking them about what your culture’s rituals involve and from there, you can work out what will fit in with your wedding.
“With some traditions, so much is squeezed into one day. The wedding might start at 5am and it doesn’t end until late at night. Indian weddings are often spread over three or four days,” she says.
You may also need to manage your families’ expectations of what will take place at the wedding – after all, it may not be possible to fit in a huge celebration that runs for several days, Pauline advises.
Educate your families
“To avoid any unintentional cultural faux pas on the day, talk to your families prior to your wedding about what will happen on the day and what is considered appropriate cultural behaviour,” says Pauline.
To get them involved with your different cultures, if it suits your plans, “it’s a fun idea to perhaps have them take up salsa dance lessons for the night or practice dancing the hora. It’s a great way for both families to bond before the wedding, too.”
Check in with religious institutions
If you’d like to have an interfaith wedding, talk to your respective religious institutions about how they can make it work before setting a date.
“While some officiants are happy to perform the ceremony with another religion, others are not, so you may require two separate ceremonies,” says Pauline.
“It’s also a good idea to double check with the calendars of both religions to ensure that there are no particular days when weddings cannot be held.”
Consider hiring a planner who specialises in cultural weddings
It can be really helpful to bring on board a wedding planner who may specialise in your culture’s weddings.
“Yes, they do exist,” says Pauline. “Not only will the planner have all the vendor contacts that you’ll need at their fingertips, he or she will be experienced in knowing how to include different elements of your faith or culture in the wedding as well as how to manage your families’ expectations.”
It’s the perfect way to ensure your wedding is an authentic experience for both you and your families.
Fill your guests in
It’s very likely that guests outside of your culture will be intrigued and fascinated by the different rituals on the day, so make sure that you explain the meaning and significance behind the different events that take place.
“Perhaps provide an explanation in your program or alternatively, your celebrant can fill them in on what’s happening,” says Pauline, who suggests featuring details in your invitations or in your wedding program. You could also ask your emcee to explain the meanings of the rituals during the event itself.
Showcase your culture through food
At Red Lantern, Pauline’s team has created beautiful Chinese seafood banquets for couples in the past, while traditional Chinese music played in the background and the bride had several changes of dress during the day. Although Red Lantern is an award-winning Vietnamese restaurant, they are happy to offer bespoke Asian dishes to couples, from Thai and Chinese to Filipino and Indonesian.
“It’s a great idea to fuse both your cultures together to create your very own unique menu,” Pauline suggests.
Indeed, food is a wonderful and delicious way of showcasing your culture, such as serving your guests delicious Indian curry puffs for entrees, then Cornish pasties for supper.
Add colourful entertainment
Apart from including different cultural rituals during the ceremony, music and entertainment is another great way of showcasing your culture at the wedding.
“Perhaps an Indian sitar could gently strum away during the drinks between the ceremony and reception, or you could organise for a brightly coloured Chinese dragon dance to take place as entertainment during the meal,” suggests Pauline.
“It’s important to acknowledge both of your different cultures and backgrounds and paying respect to them. “It’s a beautiful thing to honour where you both came from.”