We had to deal with learning a new language and communicating in a foreign language with the love of our life… And now we have to plan our wedding around this bilingual craziness too??? Oh boy!
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like after speaking English for 10-11 years, I should be better at it by now. But then other times I’m thinking how easy it became for me to speak a foreign language. My husband doesn’t even notice or think about it anymore when we are having a conversation.
I have shared my personal story about growing up in a multilingual country, learning a new language as an adult, easiest ways to learn a language, how somebody told me that I shouldn’t teach my kids Hungarian, and my weird shame of speaking my mother tongue in front of strangers.
But let’s talk wedding planning! More specifically; incorporating multiple language into your multicultural, intercultural wedding.
Now, if you are lucky enough to plan a multicultural wedding with same languages (English, Spanish…etc.), that you are in a little bit easier situation and should totally skip this post!
But I think most of us had to learn, and get cozy with other languages, so we really shouldn’t forget this important piece of the wedding planning. We want to make sure everybody feels included and understands what’s going on during the ceremony.
You have not idea? Send out questionnaires with Google Forms if you have to. Super simple and it’s free. You can also attach the survey link to your website.
Does half of your guest speak a completely different language that the other half? Or is one of the languages more common? Would the ‘foreign language speaking guests’ still understand the main language? For example, my family would understand an English ceremony -more-less- even though they are Hungarians. Is your family (or your partner’s family) also multicultural? So they also split up into different languages? Grandparents, spouses, relatives, friends from other countries… I could have friends coming from Italy and relatives from Serbia. Which would mean that more than 2 languages will be present. I’m generalizing here, but intercultural couples would often have friends from different countries and nationalities.
Your fiance may just learned your languages, so you two feel comfortable using it, but let’s not forget that his or her family hasn’t. And they don’t have to!
When Adam and I applied for our marriage certificate and made an appointment at the courthouse, a pre written vow was given to us. I translated it and started practicing immediately! Not memorizing it, but at least I had to know how to read and repeat the words after the judge. Back then this was really really hard and challenging for me because my English wasn’t as good. All the difficult words and sentences freaked me out! It’s really funny to watch the video of our ceremony, and see how I got confused. Our judge ended up saying the vow word by word to me. So embarrassing! Thinking back now, I wish I would have put some time and effort into writing my own vow. (Even if it would have been in Hungarian.) Just so I can speak from my heart to the person I’m marrying. To be able to feel that emotion and realness.
Foreging languages, I think for some of us will forever feel foreign. So in some situations we should be expressing our feelings in our own language! It would be a plus if your partner would actually understand what you are saying, but even if he or she is not, (and you have somebody translating), that is still a very sweet gesture you can gift to your partner.
Is there a language you feel connected to? That’s not necessarily your first language? We are an american-hugarian couple, but I love Italian and slavic music, dancing and signing.
Is there a language that you and your partner used in the past? It could be a fun memory and connection to use on your wedding day. You don’t have to always focus on the may language. For us it’s Italian. It was just for a very short time right after we met, and not only because we were in Italy, but also because I didn’t speak English.
No matter if you and your fiance speaks a common language. You still need to take your wedding guests into consideration, and make them feel included. Especially when everybody is sitting and looking at you. If they don’t understand what’s going on, it can be a bit boring or even awkward. Make them feel part of the ceremony, so they don’t wonder why did you even invited them!
It can be really fun to surprise your partner with a few sentences on his or her language during ceremony or at the reception. You saying it in front of everybody is a cute gesture and shows how important you two are for each other.
Don’t forget that some of the alternative ideas mentioned above could take twice as long. Two vows, two readings, two prayers…whatever you do. Or maybe more that two?! Well,… at least everyone could understand the words.
So let’s take a step back from the Babel Tower, aka your wedding ceremony, and talk about the planning and preparation.
Sending out multilingual invitation is a pretty obvious choice. But we tend to forget about it, because for most couples it’s not part of the wedding planning process.
By putting this extra effort into writing everything in multiple languages you are setting up the expectations to your guests. What kind of wedding is this going to be? Are you going to speak in two languages, or not? Are you prioritizing multiple languages or just one? So if you have mixed languages on the website and invitation, they can see that you equally value both languages. It sets up that foundation for your guests.
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Remember! You don’t have to take this so seriously! It’s exciting to mix all the languages! Make it personal, use terms and phrases that you two are using. Insert inside jokes, quotes from movies, songs…etc. For example if your languages are English and Spanish, you can use “spanglish” words. It’s funny and makes people connect.
When you have something to laugh and talk about, it brings families and friends together. Especially if they’ve never met before, and don’t speak each other’s languages.
Keep that diverse culture alive, and make everybody feel included! You are going to be one big multicultural family!
Spice it up! Have fun with this! Make up your own names and sign.
Especially if you are having food and drink from different cultures that you think some guests won’t know what it is or where it’s from. You can even write down the ingredients, the names, pronunciation, origin, and display them by the snack table. When you are designing these signs, decide if you want to divide everything on one page, or have two separate cards.
Same on the website. Make it multilingual or translatable. Think about writing your story in both languages, adding important instructions, details and even videos for everybody to understand. Have a page that explains some of the cultural traditions you’ll be incorporating, so your guests can understand and appreciate the symbols. Put up videos that can teach your guest some dance moves and steps. Tip: make sure you use a font that has all the different letters or scripts your language needs.
This can be a really big plus if you are having a big reception with programs, activities and traditions. They can make announcements in both languages, mix songs, talk about the music, and conduct the speeches and dances. It’s great to have somebody who understands the flow, and can even introduce some of the rituals that are about to happen.
It’s a really good plus, if you have a lot of family members who don’t understand the primary language. So they feel a little bit more comfortable and connected to the stranger who is photographing them all day.
So, if you have the option (and opportunity) to hire bilingual vendors, not just photographers, DJ/MC and officiant, but caterers, waitresses, wedding coordinators, florist,…do it! Anybody who can give you ideas, tips and advice, and help you to make this bilingual event go smoother.
Your main goal is for everybody to feel included and honored. Set up this foundation that says; this is who we are as a couple, this is who we want to be as a married couple, and this is who we should be as a whole multicultural family together. Because when we get together for events like this, and celebrate, we are equally including both of our cultures.
But don’t take it too seriously! I only had a courthouse wedding, and that definitely didn’t determine my married life! But if you have this amazing opportunity to plan a beautiful wedding, and the chance to incorporate everything that you want, is amazing!!
Your wedding guests are going to understand the dynamics of your relationship.
When we are blending cultures together, using multiple traditions and languages we want both of our families to come together and accept our differences and who we are.
Keeping up with our culture when living abroad is very important, and it’s all about making this mutual compromise in each others lives. So we can be part of each other’s holidays, fun rituals, and traditions. But ultimately, no matter what option you choose, or how you plan out this wedding (spoiler alert: it may not turn out how you imagined) it really comes down to what the two of you honor in a relationship. What is important to you? How the two of you communicate, and find that common communication process? The way you two tell each other what you feel or think is really what matters!
Be authentic, use the language that feel the most comfortable, and your guests will feel the love! And love anyway is a universal language. A feeling that we all can have, even if we don’t speak each other’s languages.