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How To Celebrate Your Culture At Your Wedding

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Your wedding celebration is perhaps the most intimate of any you will host. The style and tone of this special day communicates to your guests who you are as a couple. It tells your story. There are many beautiful ways to personalize your wedding celebration. One way to do this is by celebrating the cultures, background and ethnicity of both you and your future spouse.

In the second episode of my new series, "Lidia Celebrates America," which premieres April 17 at 8 pm, I had the honor of getting to know four lovely couples who set out to do just that. It was an experience I will remember always, as I peeked into the window of new cultures and made new friends (and brought some old friends with me along the way!).

Each of the weddings I attended was a unique, fun and touching representation of two people and different cultures coming together as one. More than a trend, I think incorporating a couple's culture(s) into their wedding ceremony and subsequent celebration is a theme that should grow and continue.

So how can you do this? I learned some new tips I wanted to share with you. It's all in the details, big and small.

  • The ceremony -- Are there poems, vows or quotes that are particular to your heritage? Add them to the ceremony and highlight them in your program; make note in the program of the origins and history of the words you include. Ask whoever is marrying you to highlight it as well. In the Korean wedding tradition, for example, special attention is paid by the bride to the groom's parents.
  • Attire -- When I had the chance to experience an Indian wedding, we were entranced by the beautiful saris and the Henna party before the big day. A lovely tradition at an Irish wedding? Wearing your mother's (or grandmother's) veil. Are there special gowns, details, colors or ornaments from your culture? Incorporate them to entertain and delight your guests.
  • The cake -- One Irish tradition we show in the episode is that of the cake being made in Ireland and sent to New York to celebrate the bride and groom -- complete with horseshoe details for luck! Different cultures serve a variety of things for the wedding meal dessert. Something unexpected and unique that celebrates your heritage is a "sweet" gift to guests.
  • The dinner -- Ah, my heart! Choosing what dishes you serve, and how, can be a very powerful and creative way to share your culture with your guests. As I learned more about the Korean wedding menu and the overflowing tables of seafood and beautifully colored dishes in the New Orleans wedding, I was delighted by the variety and celebration of it all. Research local cooking classes that teach about foods of your culture or read traditional cookbooks.
  • Transportation -- Forgo the traditional limo and consider getting to and from the wedding in unique and quirky transportation. A horse and buggy through the streets of downtown New Orleans, anyone? I saw it with my own eyes, and it worked like a charm!
  • Music and dance -- In every wedding I had the pleasure of attending, dancing was a beautiful and fun way to share the couple's tradition with guests. From a Bollywood-style dance to a New Orleans-flavored parade of sorts to an Irish jig, each wedding I attended used dance as a way to communicate the joy of this new union. There are many local classes or individual dancers that can help you learn the dance of your family's culture!
Personalizing your wedding, celebrating your traditions and honoring your heritage are beautiful acts of love and respect, for both your spouse and your family. The jewel of information in regard to all this? Your parents. Your grandparents. Talk to them. Ask them what they would like to see you highlight from their cultures and what memories of their wedding they would feel excited about including in yours. Search the internet, visit your library. There are many resources to help you incorporate your own traditions into your big day, to help you make it your own and to delight and surprise your guests every step along the way. Tutti a tavola a mangiare!

Below, a few of Lidia's favorite dishes:

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See Lidia, Mario Cantone, Isaac Mizrahi and Yul Kwon in the "Lidia Celebrates America Wedding Special" on April 17th at 8pm nationwide. Check local listings here. Visit http://www.lidiasitaly.com/ and http://www.lidiacelebratesamerica.com/ for recipes and more tips.