As a marriage celebrant, I am increasingly asked to prepare a ceremony that reflects cultural traditions. Weddings are often a fusion of cultures, with ceremonies that are individual celebrations that reflect the ethnicities and cultural and religious beliefs of both bride and groom, merging historic family traditions of cultural significance with a modern twist.
The ancient tea ceremony is a great example of a fusion element in ceremonies. Cross-cultural couples and second or third generation Chinese are merging this tradition within their western ceremonies. The Chinese tea ceremony shows a great level of love and respect to family. It serves to introduce the new couple formally to all family members and to express thanks and respect. The sweet tea symbolises sweetness, harmony, togetherness and the wish of bringing children into the family. The tea ceremony could take place at the conclusion of the western ceremony for all of the guests to witness, with a brief explanation of what it represents.
Couples often like to add a small cultural element or identity within their ceremonies. This can be included as a welcome in their language at the beginning of their ceremony such as “Huang Ying” or “Haere Mai Eng a Iwi Haere Mai Mauria Mai Te Aroha”.
Similarly, their families may have a Christian or religious identity and want to begin or end the ceremony with an opening or closing prayer or blessing in their native language.
At one wedding, I was asked to include some Hindi traditions within a western ceremony as the bride’s cultural background was Hindu while the groom was from Melbourne. Rather than a traditional Hindi wedding, they decided to break tradition and create a hybrid ceremony that was based on their values.
A few of the Hindu wedding traditions they included are:
1. Garland Exchange – Exchanging garlands presented from family, symbolising the spirit of partnership
2. Mangalphera – Circling a fire four times. The fire represents enlightenment happiness and knowledge. As they encircled the fire I read out four values : To be respectful and keep true to your beliefs; To strive for success whilst being mindful of the needs of others; For love and eternal dedication to one another; To liberate each other from pain and suffering with a marriage filled with love and happiness.
3. Seven Steps – They take seven steps representing their seven vows in marriage : May this couple be blessed with an abundance of resources and comforts; May this couple grow together in strength and complement one another; May this couple be blessed with prosperity and wealth; May this couple acquire knowledge and happiness; May this couple be blessed with a happy family life; May this couple live in perfect harmony; May this couple remain the best of friends.
4. Mangalsutra – A sacred necklace that is tied around the bride’s neck symbolising the inseparable bond between husband and wife.
The golden rule for ceremonies is that there are no rules. The key to a fusion weddings going off without a hitch is to make sure the ceremony reflects what makes the two of you unique and to make it fun.