Intercultural weddings are increasingly common, with lovebirds from different backgrounds trying to tie their respective heritages into the big day. As a result, they may have relatives who do not speak English, or perhaps a bride or groom is bilingual and wants to include that aspect of their life into their wedding. Of course, there will also be many guests – and members of the bridal party – who are monolingual. Making sure everyone feels included and understands the bulk of what is happening during the ceremony, and even part of the reception, can be a difficult task. The following tips should help make it easier.
Programs can feature multiple languages – whether on the same ceremony program or two separate programs, and they can also be used to help explain various cultural customs that may be unfamiliar to some of your guests.
Consider choosing shorter readings for the ceremony, so that they can be read in each relevant language either by your guests or an interpreter. This is also a great opportunity to honor multiple loved ones at your wedding.
If you are reciting traditional, religious vows, consider having one of you say them in the primary language (likely English) and the other one say your vows in the secondary language. Bonus points if the person who doesn’t speak the language learns how to say the vows. Who wasn’t touched by Michael reciting his vows in Spanish on Jane the Virgin?
Having bilingual signage may take more planning and end up costing a little bit more, but if you want to have everyone feel included, don't stop at your paper goods! If you want loved ones to “choose a seat, not a side,” that message should be clear to everyone.
If a bilingual (or multilingual) wedding officiant is available, that might help to keep everyone in the loop – plus, they're likely pros at presiding over multilingual weddings. While you don’t need to have every line translated, carefully switching between the two languages can be beautiful and inclusive.
If you took the time to make sure everyone could understand the ceremony, do the same for the words spoken at the reception! Try to have wedding toasts either be short enough to translate, or alternate between languages so everyone understands a bit of what is being said.
The parent dances, if you have them, are a great way to incorporate cultures and languages important to your respective families by way of music and dance styles. You can also honor your culture with your first dance or the song that invites everyone to come to the dance floor.
A hired translator complete with wireless headsets may seem extreme, but it will guarantee everyone can follow along without much extra work on your part. This may be particularly necessary for couples who have wedding guests coming from a wide variety of countries and cultures.
Opening photo by Cornelia Lietz Photography; Planning & Design by Bluebell Events; From Real Multilingual Wedding: Fairy-Tale Wedding Abroad at Castle in Groom's Hometown in Germany