WASHINGTON – The main problem for brides used to be what color their bridesmaids’ dresses would be. Now,the new challenge facing many young couples is how to bridge the gap between two cultures.
More and more couples getting married these days are of different races or ethnicities and have weddings that reflect that,though the extent to which they bring in other customs varies greatly.
Crystal Bertram,32,said her May wedding in San Francisco will have eastern touches. Bertram,who is Caucasian,said she never expected a wedding that included Chinese traditions,but is excited to have them.
Both she and her fiancé,Ray Fong,were born in California,she said,and Fong wanted a typical American wedding.
“Sometimes he has to be reminded he's Chinese,” she said,laughing.
She said they are giving a nod to Fong's heritage by planning a Chinese tea ceremony during the reception. The couple will offer tea to their parents and grandparents as a sign of respect,receiving in return lucky money called hong bao,presented in gilded red envelopes.
“It's really neat for me,and I think it will be really great for our kids,” she said,speaking to the future. “I just think about how fun it will be to teach them some of the traditions” of their culture and help bring those cultures together.
Some cultures take cross-cultural to a new level.
Lan-Chi Lam,30,a Vietnamese woman raised Catholic,and her fiancé,Rotha Hong,34,a Cambodian man who was raised Buddhist,will marry in June. Their wedding will be a 16-hour day of festivities.
At the beginning of the day,she said,they'll have a Vietnamese introduction ceremony and pay respects to their ancestors. Cambodian ceremonies and a small family reception will follow. They will have a traditional Catholic church ceremony,followed by a western-style reception.
She said they resolved differences in wedding customs by choosing the ones they were comfortable with.
“In the end,we took ideas from both sides and had some of our own ideas,” Lam said.
“We both believe that we have structured the wedding in such a way as to harmoniously blend in our cultures and religions,along with our families and friends,” she said. “It will definitely be a unique wedding that no one will forget.”
Phyllis Richárd,a wedding planner in Haverford,Pa.,said her company,Your Fairy Godmother,seeks to create weddings that represent both cultures.
“I try to combine both heritages so both people feel comfortable,” she said.
At one wedding Richárd planned between a Jewish woman and a Chinese man,the parents of the bride and groom didn't speak a common language.
Richárd said she had the two fathers find a love poem from their culture to read at the ceremony. She said it helped create a sense of unity between the cultures.
“The inner meaning is something everyone can recognize,” she said.
Rachel Moran,a law professor at University of California at Berkeley,discussed interracial relationships in her book,”Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance.”
She said the rate of interracial marriages has increased over the years. She cited many reasons,including changing immigration patterns and demographics in the United States and cultural pressures.
She also said the Supreme Court's ruling in 1967 legalizing interracial marriages increased the tendency of people to marry outside their culture. In some cases,she said,there have been dramatic increases in cross-cultural marriages since then.
Andrea Chang,a Jewish woman,said she and her Korean husband Ho-Youl Chang found a small way to make a big impact. When it was time for the toasts,her husband made a toast in Hebrew and she made one in Korean. Finally they made one together in English.
“It was phenomenally well-received,” she said. “We got standing ovations.”