Leah was born and raised in Canada, but her dad is from Jamaica and her mom is from Guyana, so she grew up in a Caribbean household. Her husband, Thomas was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, but his family is originally from Texas. They met through mutual friends in Atlanta at undergrad school.
Leah and Thomas knew each other since 2001, but through social media they reconnected, and 14 years later started a long distance relationship. In 2017 he immigrated to Canada and 2 years later Leah and Thomas got married.
Although America and Canada are neighbors, and there are a lot of structural similarities, I find that Canada is definitely more multi cultural within communities. My experience as Caribbean Canadian is different than my best friends experience as an African Canadian. And different then Thomas’s experience as a black American. Although there are similarities, we definitely had to blend some of our cultures and traditions. Added point is that we decided to get married in Victoria BC (British Columbia). So it was a cross country multicultural wedding.
Thomas was supposed to join me, but something happened at the last minute, so he couldn’t come. However, every evening we would talk on the phone and that was the time when I really started to have feelings for him. I didn’t know how things are going to work out. But Thomas surprised me and ended up coming in November of 2015. After that we ended up visiting each other a few times, when I jokingly started to call him “The Import”. We even made a hashtag for it, #leahandtheimport . Which was great, because when we had to file for immigration I could say; go find this hashtag and you’ll see little things about us. Thomas officially moved to Canada on July 1st, 2017, which is Canada’s Day.
During my trip to British Columbia was when I realized that he is committed to this relationship. And this is serious. The date we chose is my grandmother’s birthday. Plus his parents honeymooned in Victoria, and since they are no longer with us, that was an added bonus. Also his mother’s middle name is Victoria. So all of these things just kind of pointed us toward what we are going to do. I love how much effort Leah put into the details of finding the date and location for their wedding day.
We didn’t want to spend money on flowers, so instead of a bouquet, I had my grandmother’s purse covered in my mom’s maroon wedding jumpsuit. And I put Thomas’s mother’s handkerchief that his grandmother made for her- as my “something blue”. So instead of a bouquet of flowers I held this bundle of sentimentality. It was so much more significant to me then flowers.
Couples would sometimes try to be creative, and think about doing something different then the norms. But it’s just so hard to come up with a tradition that feels connected to you, to your story and to who you are.
Being out in BC, (where the black community is much smaller then it Toronto), trying to find a good caterer, (somebody who can properly recreate some of our favorite foods) was a challenge. Instead of having an evening wedding, we had a morning ceremony and a brunch reception. We had Canadian “Poutine” (which is fries with cheese curds and gravy poured it). And in honor of Thomas’s Southern roots we also had shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles.
Since it was a weekend destination wedding, and we didn’t have any pre-wedding celebrations, we decided to have a Welcome Dinner the night before, called Kwe Kwe. It’s part of the Guyanese culture. Historically it was a way for the elders to sit and celebrate the marriage with the couple. And teach them the ways of being married. (It has a lot more sexual connotation, but we didn’t allow for that.) My dad facilitated it, we had Jamaican food (including a Jamaican rum cake) and music. So it was more as a party celebration then the wedding itself. My aunt decorated the Kwe Kwe and on the tables she had bits of history as a centerpiece. They were stories to kind of tied everything together.
My favorite part of the wedding was ‘jumping the broom’. Jumping the broom in American culture is where the slaves weren’t allowed to legally get married. So instead they would jump the broom that signified going from their non married life to this new chapter. So my mother officiated the ceremony, and after the kiss, we jumped the broom. We used a Guyanese pointer broom. It’s a bunch of really fine sticks that are tied together and used as a broom to sweep).
We also decided to have a legal ceremony a couple of days before. The commissioner came and did a beautiful private ceremony with just a two of us and a couple of family members. We had this nice moment just for us to be together. It was one of my favorite parts as well.
Thomas and I both read a lot of books. So instead of having wedding favors, we brought some of our favorite books to give away. For example “Song of Solomon” from Toni Morrison, which was the first book we read together.
I think because our differences aren’t so blainted, there is not that huge of a culture shift. But little things can build up, so it was impotent for us to do a pre marital counseling.
You can’t have everything you want! When it comes to blending cultures, I would say that you have to have the conversation about what things are absolute.
Be flexible and have Plan Bs in order. The best laid plans mean nothing, if you can’t adapt.
As soon as you can, write down your feelings about the wedding and recap everything that happened. So you can tell your children or have them for your future.
Sometimes when you are planning multicultural weddings, the industry is easier for some than it is for others. We had to do the research and fit things in ourselves. It’s not always easy to blend cultures if you don’t have the vendors and the support system.
Connect with Leah:
Wedding Website: thesweedestthing.com
Wedding Instagram: @thesweedestthing
Leah’s Instagram: @misslocs
Photo credit: Judah Paemka