With our increasingly global society, more and more weddings have become a fusion of cultures -- individual celebrations celebrating the ethnicities of both bride and groom, wherever they may be from.
Here are two spirited, delightful examples of what I call "fusion weddings," mixing ancient traditions and creating new ones, Use them as a template for what you may create:
My niece married her very first boyfriend, a blond, strapping laddie she met in grad school across the pond. As she tells it, the American students were celebrating Halloween and this pumpkin with a Scottish burr sidled next to her and they conversed for hours. He had her before she saw his face or body, and he should have been costumed as a frog, because he turned out to be her Prince Charming.
Wedding guests at his Scottish sheep farm on a cold and sunny day four years later included a quirky mix of New York neurotics, Ivy grads, sheep farmers and even a few upper-class British twits. Many of the women wore outrageous hats, and most of the men were kilted. I expected to see Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell flirting in a corner.
We were bussed from our Edinburgh hotel, past rolling countryside and the Firth of Forth (or is it Forth of Fifth?). The ceremony, in an adorable stone church in a vale, blended atheism, Christianity, and Judaism. The kilted minister, who (sigh) looked and sounded like Sean Connery, never mentioned God, as requested. He carefully explained the Jewish customs -- my late husband's prayer shawl hung over the couple's heads, under a cross -- and when the groom stepped on the glass, the Scots shouted what sounded like, "mistletoe" instead of "mazel tov."
The wedding buffet featured whole pig and whole lamb, roasted and splayed. I closed my eyes as I passed, grabbed some meat from a leg, I think, picturing innocent animals gamboling on the pastures around us. But I confess, I did eat seconds.
The Highland Fling and the Hora vied for dance of choice, hopped, swung and stumbled through by members of the different cultures, kilts flying, hats askew. A sheep dog roamed under my table. He was a more interesting companion than most, but alas, he was a terrible dancer, except when he grabbed my leg.
We partied hardy in the tent at the family sheep farm, which will be inherited by my new nephew, as long as he eventually resides there. Which means my niece, my sister's only child, will eventually live there too. I just can't see her as a shepherd's wife, but hey, she's in love.
Another successful cross-cultural wedding experience occurred in San Francisco, at the officers club at the Presidio, the former military base near the Golden Gate. The groom -- half Catholic, half Jewish, wed his fully Sikh bride in a warm, wacky ceremony he dubbed "My Big, Fat Sikh Wedding."
From flower girl to mother of the bride, the women wore classic Indian garb, and walked like exotic orchids down the aisle to a chuppah, this one a swag of saffron-colored Indian cloth. A friend of the groom ministered an original service ("do you promise not to dent your husband's car"?), one way to merge cultural differences, I guess.
This wedding menu offered Indian food as an option, and after the pig and lamb at the Scottish wedding, I atoned with vegetarian. When the rhythmic music began, six nubile Indian dancers appeared, like in a Bollywood chorus line. By the end of the evening, led by the joyous bride and groom, everyone was moving, arms and legs askew -- solos and couples, babies and grandpas -- it didn't matter. Even I skipped the refuge of the ladies room, and danced!
Random things I learned:
Scottish men traditionally wear nothing under their kilts. At least that's what the kilt-wearers kept telling me, and I was afraid to peek. I did note that when the groom's father was hoisted aloft in a chair for the traditional Jewish ritual, a thoughtful Scot kept his hand between the dad's legs to keep the family jewels covered.
I really do like meat, even if it's pulled from the whole animal.
And yes, I truly enjoy fusion marriage celebrations, especially if they offer surprising ethnic dances and spirited melding, and if the couple seems truly in love.
And at least for these two cross-cultural couples -- so far, so good!