Heritage is a very important element in weddings. Each person should have the opportunity to pay tribute to his or her family’s unique background. If the bride and groom hail from different parts of the world, one way to handle it is with a bilingual wedding ceremony.
Bilingual weddings are still not all that common, but their popularity is on the rise. This special type of ceremony will definitely take some extra planning. If you are working with a wedding coordinator, seek out one who has some experience with blending the customs of different cultures into one harmonious wedding. You will also need to find clergymen who are willing to coordinate with one another during the service, or one minister or justice of the peace who is fluent in both languages.
Generally the bride and groom do share at least one of the two languages in common, but frequently their families do not. To get everything just right, it is a good idea to hire a professional translator to help with documents, the service, the vows, and the music. A very special touch would be for the bride or groom to surprise their spouse by taking their vows in the other person’s native tongue. Be sure to practice beforehand the sweet gesture will not go so well if you are mangling your words.
There are many different approaches to take for a bilingual ceremony. If you have one officiant, he may repeat each part of the wedding in the second tongue. Two separate officiants could alternate in repeating each section of the ceremony. If most of the guests can follow along in one language, the second language might be used only for the vows and a special blessing at the end of the ceremony.
Let your guests know your intention by creating bilingual wedding invitations. One side of the inside of the invitation would be printed in the first language, and the exact same words would be printed in the second language on the page that faces the first set of words. You can use a similar format for the programs. Although they are often superfluous, a bilingual wedding is a good reason to use wedding programs. It will help your guests to follow along during the ceremony, and might also be a good place to make a few notes about the heritage of the bride and groom.
Carry the bilingual details into the reception. For instance, if you have a message on your favors, print it in both languages. Do the same with your menu cards. If there are going to be a large number of guests who do not speak one another’s language, find ways to make it easier for them to communicate. You could set out little cards with handy phrases in both languages (such as, “What is your name?”). And don’t forget to play a selection of music in both languages dancing is a great icebreaker.
Some wedding customs are universal in almost every culture and need no translation. Even in countries that have their own traditional wedding garb, the classic white wedding gown is a symbol of brides around the world (which is not to say that you should not include wedding garments that reflect your heritage). Pearl bridal jewelry is another mainstay of weddings in many different cultures. It is even said that a bride who wears pearl bridal jewelry will shed fewer tears during her marriage. The symbol of the wedding band is another internationally understood feature of weddings, as is the idea of the bride carrying some sort of bouquet.
With people meeting all over the world (for instance, I know an American woman who met her Spanish husband in Denmark), it is no wonder that bilingual weddings are on the rise. No longer is it a given that the bride and groom share a similar background, or even the same language. A wonderful way to be sensitive to the heritage of both people is to host a bilingual wedding.