Great! You’re engaged! And your fiance is Indian. Now it’s time to plan a multi-cultural wedding.
You’ve worked through so many cultural difference in your relationship, this one can’t be that different, right? Maybe. But more likely, this will be the most complicated and fraught merging of cultures so far. Just to start, it involves the complexities of culture, religion, emotions, social pressure and In-Laws! I’m going to walk you through our process (or more like my process, because as much as I love my Husband – we haven’t mind melded just yet.)
First thing first, I took some time and asked myself, “What do you want?” A lot of people will ask you: “What has your dream been since you were a child?” But I think this is more harmful than helpful. There is no guarantee your image has stayed the same or that you even have one. The question is: What will make you happy? What will you not regret (regret doing or not doing)?
Second, what do your two families want and how much do you care? It’s a fair question – you can disregard their opinion all together. But when you’re in the moment, that may be harder than you think. I know I would have regretted not at least asking my parents opinion on certain things.
Side Note: One factor in our decision was that my in-laws pleaded that we not move in together before we got married. We already lived separately, but we were so ready to start the next phase of our lives and be together that this was a big concession. However, it did mean our wedding planning would not linger. We got engaged Jan 1. And we wanted a wedding August – October of that year. Good news – it can be done!
This is what we netted out with after some soul-searching:
I want: A modern American ceremony (loosely structured on Christian traditions) in central Massachusetts where several generations of both sides of my family have lived.
He wants: To go to Court tomorrow, move in together immediately and save a bunch of money
My family wants: Whatever I want as long as they’re there
His family wants: A traditional South Indian Hindu Ceremony with as many of their family members involved as possible – close to 300 invites
Everyone wants: A really fun party
Conclusion: Since my Husband respects and loves his parents dearly, he was inclined to do what it took to make them happy. **Note: This decision was debated and fought over on at least one destroyed date night. We almost decided to not have the wedding and save the money. But only minutes later, I caved. Life is short. What if one of us died young? I wanted the memories. I wanted my family to feel involved in creating our new family unit. As they say, “You can’t take it[money] with you!” So, Court was out and at least one wedding was in…
But it was then that a running theme emerged from the discussion: equality. If we had an American wedding and not an Indian wedding, it would be difficult socially and emotionally for his parents. So it was either court or two weddings.
Now, how do you make it work? The easy answer might seem like – have two ceremonies and one reception in a day! But this is easier said then done. We had friends, a North Indian and Chinese couple, get married this way. It worked because the North Indian ceremony is relatively short and the Chinese tea ceremony was even shorter. However, the Tamil ceremony can run 2-4 hours.
Here’s how it broke down for us:
My Worry #1: Could we find a space that holds that many people that would also give me the ceremony I dreamed of? I’m a fan of nature, historic buildings, gardens… I would need a hotel ballroom to hold 300.
Answer: I would do the American ceremony elsewhere and then end up at a ballroom for the reception. No problem!
In-Law Worry #1: If I feel strongly about Massachusetts, can we get the Indian family there?
Answer: “It might be too difficult, so let’s do a completely separate Indian wedding. Sunshine, be free and go plan your American Wedding. We will plan separately, that way we won’t interfere with your dream.” This was difficult for me as I wanted everyone to feel involved, but I was overwhelmed and trusted it was the right course.
In Law Worry #2: If not Mass., Where? And how much would it cost?
My husband’s parents live in D.C. – wouldn’t it be easier to orchestrate something there? The prices would be higher than India, but fewer people would attend since price and visas would be an issue for international visitors. Most of the extended family lives in India – wouldn’t it be better to have a full Hindu wedding in India? Their family would be closer, but amongst their peers, his parents would have to fully embrace the traditions, making it much larger and more expensive than holding it in America.
Flash to me on the venue hunt for the American wedding. I was trying to balance atmosphere, price & convenience. I was torn between the Colonial Inn and Chocksett Inn – the pros and cons were not the same but seemed to balance themselves out. I would wake up at 3am unable to sleep and tortured by the choice. My time was running out. Each venue had only one Saturday or Friday date left that year, and it was going to go fast.
That is until my mom insisted that we check out The Harding Allen Estate in Barre, MA. The historic mansion was built to be a replica of the Newport Mansion by an eccentric, wealthy New Yorker. It had the exact “Jane Austen” feel I wanted, with immaculate gardens and a real historic flair. Plus, the ballroom was built to look like an elegant tent, but with climate controlled. The owner was the caterer, making the packages extremely well-priced. I made sure to read between the lines and found a few hidden charges/rules, but felt I could comply. They could fit 225, way above the 180 that my Husband and I felt was the maximum we wanted to attend. The one major con… it was 30 minutes from any hotels. I felt guilty for giving on the convenience category, but promised myself that we would hire transportation. There was one Saturday left – Labor Day weekend. Crap… that means some people would be upset that they had to spend the vacation at the wedding. My parents insisted that anyone I truly want to be there, would make the effort to come. After a quick call to my Fiance, who wasn’t able to make this trip up North (we made a venue trip up 2 weeks prior), I wrote a check for the deposit on the spot.
My parents, sister and brother-in-law sat with me at an Au Bon Pain to digest what had just happened. I was slowly letting myself accept that I committed and get excited. I called my future MIL to tell her the good news. But right after I told her, she replied, “Good. We decided that we’re going to have the Indian wedding following right after the American wedding. That way our closest relative traveling from India only have to travel once. We’re heading up to MA to check out venues that can accommodate our number next weekend.”
Then I did something unexpected: I burst into tears. I had just made a commitment on a venue catering solely to my dreams based on one set of information. Now, I was being told my base information was incorrect, and there was a whole other set of variables. I couldn’t handle the pressure or the guilt. His entire family would be traveling from far and wide to the middle-of-nowhere Massachusetts and go to an American Wedding 30-50 minutes from their hotel and 2 hours from Logan airport. Both sides of my family worked to calm me down. They emphasized that at some point you have to make a decision and move forward and told me everything would be perfect.
And they were right. Everything did turn out perfect, but it was a long road to get there. Part Two of this post will include how we determined the location of the Indian Wedding and exactly how we would schedule two weddings in one three-day holiday weekend.
Thanks for reading!
Please email me at samosasandsunshine@gmail[dot]com if you have any questions about this post or want me to elaborate further.