Talking about multicultural ceremonies with Carly Petracco




How do you want your wedding ceremony to make you feel when you look back?

When you’re thinking about being in the moment, what is the feeling that you want to have? Do you want to just be full of jubilation, do you want to feel like you’re wrapped in this blanket of love by all of your guests. Or do you just want to feel like your eyes are only for your partner and that this is all about the two of you? Think less about what the ceremony is in its structure, and more about how it makes you feel.

Carly and I have such a similar purpose and goal when it comes to educating couples about what matters most. As a wedding photographer I say instead of creating a fake environment or interrupting the moment, just focus on how you feel and let the memories be documented!


About Carly

Carly is an American wedding celebrant and founder of the Your European Wedding Celebrant, based in Portugal. In this episode she shares her journey traveling and moving to different countries, and how she had three weddings with her Portuguese husband.

When Carly was planning her own wedding, she had a difficult time figuring out how to incorporate languages and cultures into her day. “I didn’t feel like there was anything out there. And that’s exactly what I thought to focus on. Because I’ve been there, and I can just emphasize and understand what it was like to come from another country, to marry into a Portuguese family. I understand the differences and expectations you may run into.

I can be there to guide and help couples along the way. It just felt like a really natural extension of my own experiences to then share that knowledge with other couples in the same situation.

How amazing is this job!? People who I’ve never met are sitting down with me to share incredibly intimate personal stories about themselves and about their love. They’re asking me to then be a part of one of the most intimate rituals that we have as a culture, as a people, as a species. That was the moment when I said, okay this is what I want to do! This sort of intimacy is something that I really cherish. It’s a big honor and a responsibility that couples invite me to be part of their day. And I do everything I can to honor that trust.


Carly talks about:

  • The 3 multicultural weddings she had in London, America and Portugal.
  • What was her biggest culture shock when learning about different cultural wedding traditions and rituals?
  • How does she help intercultural couples create their personalized wedding ceremony that’s not dry, boring, too long and overly formal?
  • What do wedding celebrants do beside marrying couples and creating personalized wedding ceremonies?
  • What’s the best way to blend different cultural traditions together? Should couples have two separate ceremonies, or one blended?

My job it to make our couples happy!

As somebody who is always thinking about the logistics and reality of things, I always had a hard time understanding why American wedding ceremonies put the focus only on the rituals and vows. Meanwhile the marriage certificate is signed in the dark behind the scenes, where nobody can see it.

Our legal wedding in London is the one that I remember the least, but or weddings here in Portugal and one in the US just meant to must more to me, because they were personal. It was making the promise and the vow to commit to this other person in front of my community. So rather or not the state recognized it, that didn’t really matter to me.

Yes, marriage is a contract between two people, but I think you can also approach it in a much more beautiful way. And I think you just have a lot more flexibility when doing a symbolic wedding ceremony.

Carly really helped me understand that in the end, it is really about what you believe in. Religious, legal or symbolic ceremony. It doesn’t matter!


“Let’s bring cultures together, instead of blending them!”

Blending makes it seem like, when you blend spinach and strawberries together it kind of makes this murky color. But you want to still have the spinach and strawberry bright and vibrant in their colors. So maybe mixing isn’t the word I would use, but bringing it all together. Because for me that’s what your marriage, -not your wedding day, but your marriage- is going to be. It’s going to be a combination of your histories, your cultures, your pasts, your languages. It’s going to all come together to create this beautiful multicultural, multilingual future.

Families and parents who come from different cultures would usually have different expectations and requests which can make the wedding planning even harder for intercultural couples.

Carly had some great advice on what to do if you have family members who say “No, you have to have this specific ceremony, because this is just how we’ve always done it!”

Try and work with your family members to break apart what is tradition for traditions sake, and traditions because it’s significance.

If that wedding ceremony is creating friction with your family, you may want to tackle that. It may be a sign that future things, when you have to blend your culture together, (example: choose to have children, where do you want to live, type of carrier that you want to pursue…)  that familiar pressure or tradition may come back into place. So your wedding ceremony is a really good time to set some boundaries about what your marriage is going to look like.

Some of the greatest things about being in a multicultural relationship is that you never get to take things for granted. When you marry someone from your own culture, there are a lot of things that you can just take for granted. That this is just how things are always done, and this is how we will do it. But when you’re both raised in different countries with different languages, different expectations, that’s not how it is. You have to talk through everything! And I think that’s kind of beautiful. It makes for a healthier relationship.


Check out the second part of my conversation with Carly: How to create a bilingual wedding ceremony with Carly Petracco


Connect with Carly:


Instagram: @yourweddingcelebrant


Udemy courses: How to write your perfect wedding speech

How to write your perfect wedding vows


  1. […] Check out the first part of my conversation with Carly: Talking about multicultural ceremonies with Carly Petracco […]

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Although I was born in Serbia, graduated in Italy and have been living overseas for 14+ years, I'm very proud of my Hungarian heritage.
I love documenting my life adventures, trying out healthy recipes and herbal remedies, or going on family trips in our new home, Canada.

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