In 1967, interracial marriage became legal across the United States. Since then, the percentage of interracial and intercultural marriages has increased from 3% in 1967 to 17% in 2015. As intercultural marriage becomes more common, it’s important to identify the unique considerations these couples face when planning their wedding.
DON’T exclude your family. It can be tempting to exclude your family from wedding planning, believing it would be easier to plan without having to explain every little difference to them. Your wedding unites you and your partner, but it also creates a bond between your families. Encourage your families to share the special ways their culture celebrates marriage and work to create an environment that celebrates difference.
DO give family a pass. Both you and your partner have worked hard to understand and appreciate one another’s differences. On the other hand, your wedding may be the first time your respective families have to navigate differences in culture. They might unintentionally say something offensive, or not understand the value of a particular tradition. Be patient with them as they step outside their comfort zone and expand their cultural awareness.
DON’T lose sight of the big picture. A wedding and a marriage are not the same thing. Weddings are the “happiest day of your life.” A marriage is loving one another, day after day after day, especially when it gets unimaginably hard. Instead of trying to resolve cultural differences during your engagement, practice communicating clearly and listening empathically to build a solid foundation for the rest of your lives.
DO seek premarital counseling. Premarital therapy is an opportunity to invest in your marriage. Premarital therapists can help you understand the impact of cultural differences on money, sex, in-laws, parenting, etc. Intercultural couples who complete premarital counseling report a deeper understanding of cultural differences and increased empathy for their partner’s experiences.
DON’T belittle traditions. Traditions form the foundation of who we are. When we belittle or ignore our partner’s traditions, we inadvertently send the message that they are unimportant. No matter how strange you find your partner’s wedding traditions, remember these traditions helped shape your partner into the person you love.
DO try to understand why. What is the significance of the chuppah in Jewish ceremonies? Why do some couples “jump the broom” after they’re pronounced married? Understanding the meaning behind these cultural traditions and finding a way to incorporate them respectfully into your wedding should be at the forefront of your mind. Approach differences with curiosity – you might be surprised how beautifully each culture celebrates marriage.
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