When the Wedding Aisle Includes a Country Border

As we prepare for our son’s wedding next month, I was comparing notes recently with a Chicago friend whose son is also getting married. In Mexico. Janet has been getting to know her future daughter-in-law’s family, though they speak different languages and live thousands of miles apart, while she learns about wedding preparations in a foreign country. For example, she and her husband will not be hosting a dinner the night before the wedding. Rehearsal dinners are not customary in Mexico like they are in the United States.

Weddings are joyous occasions but also can be emotionally fraught events, even if you do know what to expect.  With so many blended families and relatives living around the world, people are increasingly likely to experience a cross-cultural wedding.

Janet’s family and the future in-laws are both Catholic, so they share the desire for a wedding mass. But some brides and grooms are blending religions as well as families. Communication is key in expressing family priorities, setting expectations, and creating space for compromise. Some couples plan two ceremonies – some time and distance apart – one according to each family’s traditions. This can often involve travel for some or all family members.

With this potential for international travel, couples who can plan ahead will give their family and friends the chance to reserve vacation time, book flights, budget funds, and make other necessary arrangements with greater ease.

Of course, a marriage ceremony involves certain legalities, no matter where it takes place. The betrothed couple needs to find out what licenses, certificates, blood work, or other requirements are in force at the municipal level or in the place of worship. Language translation help from the family in the wedding location may be necessary.

Finally, there are a few interesting traditions that may take non-natives by surprise: Some couples in Germany take part in Baumstamm Sägen, sawing a log in two at their wedding to symbolize working together through life. A tradition in Fiji holds that a man presents a whale’s tooth to the father of the woman he asks to marry. And a tasty one: Scandinavian weddings often feature akransekake, a cone-shaped confection made of iced almond cake rings and typically hiding a bottle of wine or champagne in the center.


Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group