Do you know why I married her? teased Johannes his Franco-German wife Apolline whilst chatting with friends. Because she is bicultural and speaks another mother tongue, her voice sounds slightly different in each language, and she behaves differently as well. It’s like I have two brides in one, that’s the mystery of bi-cultural couples. Let’s hope that this is not the only reason!
Usually weddings, even if they take place in one country with people from the same town, are quite tricky. The expectations are different from family to family and make the plans difficult. In a bicultural wedding the differences are exacerbated: two or more cultures, languages, relatives abroad, various customs. It looks like a never-ending headache.
But this should not stop you from a multicultural marriage! The people I met to talk about their bicultural life remember their wedding with pleasure!
One or two countries?
It often occurs that bicultural couples have two weddings in each of their home countries. Some of them like the idea of honouring both sides of their families and also some practical sides.
That’s what Satsuko from Japan and Wolfgang from Switzerland underline: We planned to live in the United Kingdom but were living in France. Getting married there seemed just impossible and involved too much paperwork. We decided to have our civil wedding in Zurich where it was more expensive but realistic to do as we wanted to do it quickly.
Satsuko adds: One month later we celebrated the wedding in Japan, and the following summer we were back in Zurich to have a big celebration with family and friends. I didn’t wear the traditional wedding kimono, it’s far too expensive and not really comfortable, but I wore a fantastic French dress from Paris; we were living in Grenoble at that time. I love this dress and wore it twice, first in Japan for the wedding and then for the big celebration in Zurich. In Japan we had some culturally-specific wines like saké to drink and I there swapped dresses in the evening and wore a festive kimono.
In-laws and relatives
Wedding preparations may sometimes be challenging because of varying expectations between you as the bride- and groom-to-be and your families. Special rituals, historic traditions, ancestral costumes… I am only slightly joking when I think of all the comments the couples shared with me. I remember the “do it this way or that way” or even worse “it’s unthinkable for our family not to invite him or her”. The most frustrating comment was probably from one French mother: Ale at a wedding, no thank you. If you dare do this, I won’t come! Tricky, when you think that her son was going to be married to a British girl. But weddings are like this. Suddenly and unexpectedly, mentalities and cultural expectations you may imagine to be buried under modern and new points of view are dug out and become most important.
My father couldn’t imagine me married to a German, says Nathan from Israel. He made a long face for a while, underlining that she hadn’t the same cultural roots as we have. But in the end, he admits his mistake and apologised for his lack of confidence in front of both of us.
Nathan’s wife Melanie adds: From my side it was a bit strange. They didn’t say anything particular, but on the day itself, they wished us “all the best and good luck” in a concerned way as if they couldn’t imagine our marriage would work.
And to finish with a wink and not to leave you wanting more about the ale story at this Franco-British wedding: in the end there was ale, but only after the dinner for those who wanted it. The groom still doesn’t know if his mother noticed it, but she stayed the whole evening and longer!