It might appear surprising that when two people fall in love and decide to spend their life together, they often face their first real test as a couple when they start organising their wedding ceremony. Organising weddings can be quite a challenge for the couple and their families, especially when the wedding unites two people from two or more different cultures.
Intercultural weddings are becoming increasingly popular as people become more prone to global mobility and cross-cultural relationships. Although the number of intercultural weddings is on the rise, many couples still lack the fundamental understanding they need to make sense of and successfully cope with the numerous cross cultural differences they will face in their intercultural relationship. A high level of cross cultural awareness is vital to successfully bringing together two families through an intercultural wedding.
An interview by Helyn Trickey on CNN highlighted how the number of intercultural weddings grow as the number of people living and working in different countries increases. Often when people of two or more different cultural backgrounds get married, they tend to blend their different nationalities and cultures into one to form a new family culture. In many cultures intercultural weddings have traditionally been seen quite negatively, but an increasing number of people feel more optimistic about the positive possibilities a long-term intercultural relationship can bring.
When a couple starts planning the wedding ceremony, they may struggle at times to both celebrate and respect their own cultural traditions and heritage. Susanna Macomb, author of the book Joining Hands and Hearts: Interfaith, Intercultural Wedding Celebrations says that one way to make an intercultural wedding ceremony an enjoyable experience for all members of both families is for the couple to consider and clarify the different cultural traditions and values they believe in to create a mutual understanding before attempting to plan the ceremony.
This allows the couple to identify any aspect of the other culture which is either drastically different or perhaps considered offensive to the other culture. This in turn will not only help to ensure that they deal with any cultural differences of how they’d like to celebrate their wedding ceremony, but it will also help them to further discover the things that they have in common which will strengthen their relationship even more. Being aware of the symbolism used in both cultures can make a wedding more meaningful for both families.
One Hindu-Catholic couple who recently celebrated an intercultural wedding were able to combine traditions to create something even more special. Candles and fire play an important role in both Hindu and Catholic weddings. In Hinduism, an oil lamp with five wicks resembles the five elements wind, earth, fire, sky, and water. In Catholicism the lighting of candles is a symbol of devotional intention. Rebecca and Jayant Menon were married by interfaith minister Macomb who took into account both of the meaningful elements from Catholicism and Hinduism to build a bridge between the two different cultures and religions.
Making a wedding work between two people representing different cultures is not too different from making any intercultural interaction work, whether social or professional. An awareness and consideration of what each person values and respects can create more fruitful relationships and reduce cultural misunderstandings. Cross cultural awareness can help both intercultural couples and multicultural team members to be more open and understanding of each other to communicate and love successfully when encountering the adventure of a different culture and might thus even make the walk to the couple therapist redundant.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2011