Karen and David met in school 14 years ago, and it took them awhile to get on the same page about marriage. Karen never dreamed about weddings or getting married, but for her partner it was an important step in their relationship, so last year they tied the knot.
I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, but I didn’t really see the point of having ‘the paper’.
There were still elements about each other that we weren’t aware of, you know, having grown up in our own culture. His mom is Tunisian Jewish, so I was interested to know how his Jewish and Italian upbringing was. The starting point for those conversations was often centered around food. Like introducing him to Latin/American foods that are very typical to El Salvador that he had not tried before.
One of the things that is very traditional for Italians is for have a big Italian wedding with 200-300 people. We couldn’t afford that so the compromise came more in establishing the budget. I never dreamed of having a big wedding. We ended up inviting 100 guests, which still isn’t a small wedding either. The other non traditional part of our wedding was that we got married in the middle of the winter in a restaurant with brunch, daytime wedding.
It was so overwhelming to sift through all of the different possibilities. You go to those bridal salons and its huge halls and very fancy things, which is beautiful but it didn’t feel like us. Took awhile to figure out what elements are and are not important to us. And being the person who has not dreamed about a big wedding. So it took us some time between getting engaged and actually getting married.
Neither of us is practicing religion, so finding elements that were unique to our cultures but were not religious was a challenge.
There we some things about Latin weddings that I already knew about. From googling, seeing them on Instagram, or from different weddings that I attended. But for me it felt very tied with the church and with religion. So at the end I didn’t do that. Now I wish I would have modified it to fit with us. It was a missed opportunity. For example the beaded necklace that you put around the couples neck. This represents the union, but since it was supposed to be the rosary with beads, it didn’t feel like it fit us.
In terms of Jewish ceremonies, like breaking the glass, doing the hora, having the chuppah. We talked to one another and said ‘what is important to you and what isn’t?’. For me having a part of the ceremony in Spanish was non negotiable. We found an officiant who speaks French and English, but was willing to say certain things in Spanish. My husband David didn’t really care about the chuppah, and I didn’t feel comfortable doing the chuppah, but we ended up adding the breaking of the glass at the end of the ceremony, as a surprise to his mom.
I didn’t feel comfortable doing the chuppah, and we approached it as a team. So it wasn’t like ‘well, Karen doesn’t want to do it!’ We approached it as ‘WE don’t want to do it!’ and that made a difference as well.
Besides having all the signage, save the dates, and invite be part Spanish and English, we had a lot of Latin music on our playlist and my mom made cookies that are typical of El Salvador. Because we were hosting out of a restaurant, it was limited in what we could do in terms of food. It would have been nice to have a few more food elements that are typical of our own separate backgrounds, but we wanted to respect the restaurant. Apart from those elements there wasn’t much else.
A lot of things Karen found about Latino and Latin/American weddings were dark, red, moody, and since her favorite color is red, she decided to implement it into her wedding.
Truth is I don’t see specific colors as being part of a specific culture. It was more about what is our personal preference and style. I had burgundy nails, lips, roses in my hair, red shoes, and the bridesmaids were also in burgundy.
Many officiants in Quebec will definitely speak French. In Montreal many of them would speak a second language, usually English, and some of them speak a third language. I’ve contacted our officiant via Wedding Wire and he told me that he doesn’t speak Spanish very well, but was more than willing to incorporate it into the ceremony, if I translate everything for him. So I looked up examples of ceremonies in Spanish, and asked my mom to help me with the translations. Same for the invite and signage. I googled but also used my friends and family who speak Spanish to just double check and triple check to make sure that it made sense.
For others it may be makes more sense to go with another officiant, who is native in that language. But I had such a great feeling with him over the phone that I thought ‘well, I really like this person so even though they are not hispanophone, that’s fine, as long as they are willing’.
I was struggling a little bit, because apart from the Spanish language, the food, and the dancing, what other elements do I want? Because I’ve removed the whole religious part of it. Religion is a very strong factor in Latin culture, so I was struggling in finding that balance.
When my grandmother from El Salvador was visiting us in Canada, I had her come over and my husband and I put on our wedding wear so we can take pictures with her. I hired my makeup artist and we asked for my grandmother’s input.. So she was directing the show a little bit, which was so nice. It was about how my grandmother would have wanted to see me on my wedding day.
I used Instagram. I looked up hashtags in Spanish and English, so it was very helpful for me to find things that were unique to Latin culture. I used the A Practical Wedding, Bridechilla Community, Rock n Roll Bride. I really tried to look for websites that were off the beat and different. Because I’m a little bit different and didn’t want to have a very typical wedding. Initially I did use WeddingWire more for finding vendors. It was a good starting point to finding venues and sort of things. But I didn’t like the attitude of other people that were planning their wedding on the forums.
I’m a little bit stubborn and don’t like to be told what I should do. I didn’t do a bouquet or garter toss and walked myself down the aisle. The processional song was by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which was something special to us.
Our officiant also surprised us when he saw how much my husband and I just wanted to be close to each other, he moved his podium and told us to stand next to one another facing everybody. So that we could hold hands and look at our guest. It was something that I didn’t expect, I didn’t know how much it would mean to me, because I had never really seen that done. It was really special!
Do what feels right for you and really tap into your friends and family. Ask them what they have seen in weddings that are from your culture. I struggled a lot, so I probably could have incorporated other things that I didn’t end up doing just because I didn’t know how to modify them. So I would say that if there is something that is really important to you, that you find is really cool and different, but there is just one part of it that doesn’t actually fit your personality or doesn’t represent you, modify it! Change it up! Make it your own!
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Photo by: SL Photography