How to Plan a Wedding as a White Person Without Appropriating


Intersectional feminism means woke wedding planning

by Najva Sol, Brand Director

White bride held by groom with lace gloves

Growing up as a Persian immigrant in America, one of my biggest young adult joys was getting to spend evenings at my friend Sarah’s house. Why? Because Sarah’s mom cooked up foods I only saw on TV or in restaurants… exotic delicacies like apple pie and meatloaf. My level of excitement was such that Sarah would look at me like I was crazy, shake her head, and say something offhand like, “But it’s so boring, I don’t know why you like it.” She was also stumped when I would giggle with abandon because her parents let us try a little harmless Irish cream in our hot chocolates while we watched her box set of Twilight Zone. That confusion would reverse whenever my friends would come over and have third helpings of dill rice with yogurt or kebabs, or get hyped, like smoking hookah or dancing with adults was a big deal.

As an adult, I get it. Everyone else’s normal is your exotic. Most of the time, that’s awesome. It’s what makes us want to travel, to try new foods, to experience other cultures. But as much as we love and visit and enjoy one another’s homes, we don’t show up on someone’s doorstep and say, “I like it here! I lay claim to all of your house.” Why? Because that would be incredibly rude.

That same concept of “that’s awesome, but it’s not yours” extends to weddings. We’ve written about the concept of cultural appropriation before (and if you haven’t read that piece first, you probably should), but I keep hearing some version of “but I have no culture…” when it comes to wedding planning, and I’m here to definitively say: you do. And it’s not even boring, I promise.

As someone foreign to white culture, I know with complete certainly that you have a culture, because I live in it, and it’s not mine.

(Note: if you aren’t sure if you’re white, that makes sense! It’s not a real thing, it’s a made up political/economic distinction that’s been used to historically oppress other people. But chances are, if you’re of European descent, you’re probably considered white in America. This dynamic isn’t the same in every country, but it’s important to understand how we got here, and why white folks still hold most of the power in the US.)

Why white doesn’t mean bland

The first time I went to a “white” wedding, I was completely out of my element. I’d never been in a church, I didn’t know any of the songs, the vows were strange and wonderful… basically, it was an adventure. However, I doubt all of the guests felt similarly. As our digital director, Maddie, reflected:

I think when you grow up in a homogenized area (in my town the dominant population was Italian Catholic), all the sameness can make it feel like you have no culture. It wasn’t until I left home that I realized Italian Catholic WAS my culture. Looking back, I actually missed out on a couple of awesome traditions (cookie tables, guys) at my wedding, because I was so busy rejecting what I thought was #normcore I failed to see that those traditions were special and unique to my heritage.

When I read that, all I could think was: 1. What is a cookie table? 2. Why would anyone not want a cookie table?

It’s wild to me that Maddie could think her wedding would have no culture, while I could attend the same wedding and experience legitimate culture shock (like I did at a two hundred-person wedding in rural Ohio, where I was the only person of color).

SOMETHING BORROWED… ISN’T Always YOURS TO TAKE

Every element of a wedding is rooted in tradition or ritual—from the engagement, to the showers, to the ceremony, to the reception. Want proof of how ritual-laden it is?  Let’s try this: imagine a wedding. Now take away an obvious aspect. Would you miss it? Would you miss an aisle if there wasn’t one? What about a first dance? Or singing a song that you grew up with? What if nobody said “till death do you part”?

Well, my people don’t do any of that. Which means those aren’t just boring actions everyone does. Those are rituals that are part of American culture.

Just like the English folk poem about weddings goes “something borrowed, something blue” (pssst: that’s another bit of white wedding culture), I understand the idea of culling elements of the wedding from your community to feel part of something bigger. But there’s also a limit.

I get it. So many cultures’ weddings (far eastern, Middle Eastern, Hawaiian, Jewish), with their boisterous colors and endless days of dancing and ornate setups might seem way, for lack of a better word, more exciting, than what you think you’ve got to work with. And frankly, as we become more interconnected as a society, it can feel like all the rituals of the world are at our fingertips.

So, what exactly is the problem with having that Moroccan-inspired wedding, or hula dancing girls, or tipis for the kids to run around in, or jumping the broom and then breaking a glass?

Remember what I said about how it would be rude to go over to my friend’s house and say, “I like this, I’m taking it”? You’d never do that IRL, right? Culture is like that. It’s a tangible, existent, meaningful (and sometimes sacred—we’ll get to that in a second) entity. And you know what feeling like you’re owed the entities of other people seems like?

Imperialism.

I know! I know! Nobody’s invading a country and killing off indigenous inhabitants for rich soils, but if you’re confused why POC bristle at the idea of appropriation, it’s because the mentality seems eerily familiar. Listen to the common train of thought and see if you can spot the problem: “It’s cool, I want it, I can afford it, I have the power and resources to have it, why can’t I have it?”

Short answer: It’s not yours to take. And just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Because you have your own things. And sharing and taking are very different concepts.

Is nothing sacred?

There’s a hidden element to all this cultural exchange that isn’t discussed enough: faith.

For much of the world, marriage and institutions of faith are interlinked. Religious leaders might be the officiant, the venue might be a house of worship, and on and on. And in America, where the concept of a structured faith is no longer working for a lot of folks, it can be easy to throw out the baby with the bathwater. In short, because you’re rejecting religion, you feel you need to reject all cultural elements around weddings… and then because you have no cultural elements left, you need to find new ones to create your ceremony.

That poses a huge issue, because even without organized religion, weddings are still intended to be special and sacred occasions. So now as you’re looking for new ritual elements, you start to consider ideas like jumping over the broom, getting ornate Mehndi, or smashing glass. They seem like meaningful symbols, and great “replacements,” mainly because they don’t come with the religious burden of your own spiritual community.

But the kicker is those are other people’s religious and spiritual rituals.

By using them as fun activities, without any context or connection, you’re disrespecting a whole community of people. And specifically, if they aren’t Christian-rooted activities, those communities have probably fought a whole lot of stigma and prejudice just to hold fast to those rituals. Chances are, you don’t even understand the nuances of what those (often religious, always sacred) rituals represent. Jumping the broom is about slaves not having the legal right to marry. Smashing the glass represents the destruction of second temple, and the responsibility to Tikkun Olam—repairing the world. Hula dancing is traditionally only done by men, and accompanied by creation myths.

Pinterest photos of those wedding traditions might be pretty, and those rituals might be “imbued with personal meaning,” but let’s not pull a Rachel Dolezal and pretend we have ownership over another’s culture without the burdens and baggage associated with living it.

They won’t ever take the country out you

You know it, I know it, even Beyoncé knows it (hence the hot sauce in her bag): we can’t shed where we come from. But also, we are imperfect. For some of us the grass is always going to be greener on the other side. But since it’s not your grass, and you’re an intersectional feminist (right? Of course right.) then you have two real options:

  1. DIY: Think about what makes your relationship special and come up with activities that are truly your own or honestly unattached to any culture. Perhaps, making your own herbal infused drink for the ceremony, or reading poems, or synchronized dance, or glitter bombs, or live video manipulation.
  2. DIG Deeper: Sure, Maddie didn’t want the traditional cookie table. But maybe she could have had a mini-donut table. Or a cookie cake table. Maybe hymns from the Bible aren’t your thing, but folk hymns from your grandparents still feel really meaningful for you. There’s lots of ways to make subtle (and not to subtle) adjustments to your community’s traditions to make them fit who you are.
  3. Do The Research: It’s okay to not know stuff! So hit the Internet, and check in with people from the cultures in question. Because sure, airlines pass out leis in Hawaii (even Hawaiian Airlines does it!), so it seems like a chill thing to borrow for your wedding decoration. But a little research will inform you that leis are a really incredible part of Hawaiian culture used to welcome others warmly and hence, probably not yours to borrow and casually distribute without meaning.

Either way, the only way to make it work is intention, intention, intention. Intention and awareness are generally byproducts of learning the complexities of the history of cultures, AKA being woke.

And being woke is hard work. But a wedding is huge moment, a marker for the values that are being carried into the next chapter of life. And doing the work to make sure it’s entirely reflecting how respectful, intentional, and, well, woke you are, that’s nothing compared to actual marriage, is it?

HEY apw, what traditions did you incorporate into your wedding? What are the best-kept secret rituals of your culture? Tell us all about cookie tables and dollar dances and something blue. 

Najva Sol

Najva Sol is a queer Iranian-American writer, photographer, branding consultant, artist, and ex-poet.  She’s the token staff Slytherin and—while formally based in Brooklyn—tends to travel as much as possible. Storytelling is her life, but making chicken broth is a close second.

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  • Kari

    So everyone who is white has the same culture?

    • Alexa

      I’m pretty sure the example of Maddie’s community’s Italian Catholic culture & cookie tables makes it clear that that’s not the case. I’m white & grew up/live in the US midwest, & I don’t think that’s something I’ve ever seen before.

      And I’m not sure how that connects with the idea of the article, which by my understanding was that appreciating/enjoying other people’s cultures/traditions doesn’t give someone the right to borrow/use/incorporate them in their wedding?

    • Ashlah

      That was really your main takeaway from this piece? Really? I’m pretty sure Najva didn’t suggest that at all, and in fact gave examples that showed cultural differences among white people.

      But I would argue that, yes, if you are a white person in America, there are probably overarching cultural themes that apply pretty consistently to white people. I mean, the bare basics of what you consider a wedding is part of white American culture. There are going to be differences based on where you’re located geographically, your family’s origin, unique family culture, etc, and, as Najva pointed out, the definition of who is considered white is complex, but I don’t think it’s out of line to suggest there is such a thing as white culture.

      • Meg Keene

        I think this is really well articulated. As someone who is white, but now is part of a Jewish family, I can assure you that we live and breathe white, Christian based culture… and generally pretend that it’s not a thing. Being Jewish at Christmas time hammers that over the head for you.

        So yes, there is a general white culture in America, and we’re kidding ourselves if we deny that. But, beyond that, there is also a ton of diversity under that cultural umbrella, since it’s a REALLY broad umbrella. Different regions, and backgrounds, and families will obviously all have different cultural traditions. Maddie’s cookie table is a great example. That’s not part of my white culture! Though “till death do us part” is part of both of our white cultures. I know, because since I converted to Judaism, I didn’t get to say that at my wedding… and I really missed it.

    • stephanie

      So hey: no, that’s not what the post is saying. Yes, Najva is for sure making a point that there is a general white culture in the US (which varies by region, obviously). I think it would be silly at best to deny that there isn’t a pervasive thread of predominantly Christian culture that runs through white America, and that’s fine. But while I can’t speak directly for Najva, the post isn’t saying “Hey white people, you’re all the same, do the same things.” It’s saying “Hey white people, learn about your specific culture and celebrate it instead of using someone else’s or acting like it’s not a cool thing.” (like Maddie and the cookie table).

      • Kari

        I perfectly understand the point of the article and agree with it. Cultural appropriation isn’t a good thing. But the basic premise is flawed, and not all white people live in America.

        I would argue the same of black culture, of Middle Eastern culture and any other you care to mention. It’s very hard to talk about these things and not miss huge differences. How men and women experience things differently for example. And if you’re telling me that people of different classes experience culture in the same way you are flat out wrong.

        • ART

          So – I get the sense that you’re reading one thing in this post and the responses to your comment, when people are saying something very different. I will say that one tip that helps me (a white lady) reflect better on topics like this is that when the phrase “not all white people” pops into my head, I’m going somewhere unhelpful, and I try to change direction.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            I just popped over here to say #TeamNotAll lol.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            I believe the shorthand for that is, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” ;)

    • Amy March

      Obviously not. Like the post said, Maddie’s culture has cookie tables. Mine has wedding fruitcake. Someone else’s might have a dollar dance.

      What white people in this country do share is a common privilege and obligation to try a little harder to not inflict harm by appropriating other cultures.

      • MC

        Man, I just went to a wedding over the weekend with a dollar dance, and I had never seen that before and it seemed like the oddest thing to me! Definitely culture shock there.

      • pippa

        Dollar dance is definitely part of my distinct white wedding culture. I personally find it hokey so we’re leaving it out – but that doesn’t mean we can just decide to replace it with a Hora, because that’s omg so much more unique or whatever.

      • postmodern

        Exactly. I would add that these examples do all share something specific to whiteness, as they are not laden with a history of racially motivated, scientifically legitimated imperialism that has threatened their continued existence.

        Do a cookie table or have a fruitcake – that isn’t cultural appropriation. None of these traditions is sacred – to my knowledge (?) – but even something that might be, like a Bible reading, wouldn’t qualify. It might be in poor taste, it might be offensive, but it wouldn’t be appropriation. You can’t appropriate whiteness, because whiteness has thrived due to institutionalized racism and the benefits of being the dominant culture.

      • Meg

        wedding fruitcake, are you English? (curious sounds neat!)

        My white wedding tradition came from Germany care of my in-laws, the Germany wedding cup. I have some German blood (and now a partially German last name!) so I didn’t feel bad doing this. It was really fun part of the reception. I will try to post a pic later.

    • Kayjayoh

      Did you read the article or just the headline, because this is well-covered.

  • m

    Agree with the article, you shouldn’t take things that don’t belong to you and that you probably have an insincere and surface level understanding of to start with.
    So said, does anyone have suggestions for ceremony structure that is based in white people culture but NOT religious? Borrowing Christian elements seems just as ingenuous and wrong, since I’m very much not one. Really struggling here to find something that feels Solemn and Important and Ceremonial…. friend suggested doing readings from books and tv shows but all the offbeat style weddings I’ve seen do that seem really… casual? I don’t want to make this into a big joke. Doesn’t help that I don’t have any family history/tradition to go on and haven’t been to very many weddings as an adult.

    • Ashlah

      There are loads of secular wedding readings that aren’t jokes! Pretty much any romantic literature you find can be used as a Solemn, Important, Ceremonial wedding reading. I promise none of your guests automatically associate non-Biblical with casual and jokey. We used “To Love Is Not To Possess” by James Kavanaugh, and “Union” by Robert Fulghum.

      • m

        I will look those up – thank you

    • Meg Keene

      Such a good complicated question. We have a bunch of resources here: http://apracticalwedding.com/?s=secular+ceremony and I also tried to provide more structured and researched help in the APW Planner, if on paper is good for you: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0738218421/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0738218421&linkCode=as2&tag=aprawed-20&linkId=EBEFUSKWKVLHM2VD

    • BSM

      We used the same reading as Rachel W., “The Origins of Love,” written by Aristophanes for Plato’s Symposium (ancient Greece!), as well as, an excerpt from Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion on marriage equality. I’ve seen some people on APW categorize the latter as appropriation (we are a hetero couple), so YMMV.

      All in all, it felt very serious and solemn. I was actually a little worried afterwards that we made the whole thing a bit too doom and gloom, but the guests I spoke to said it was beautiful :)

      • pippa

        I don’t know if the Kennedy opinion is appropriation, but as a gay girl getting gay married it kind of feels awkward to have straight people use it. Like it waters it down to the level of a lot of other beautiful poems and readings you see at weddings? But for queer people it’s a lot more significant.
        But it’s a new piece of writing and not part of any long tradition so I don’t think you could classify it as cultural appropriation in the same way? Interesting to think about.

        • BSM

          I totally can see that, and I didn’t mean my comment in an adversarial way! I mostly meant it wasn’t something I really thought about beforehand, and I didn’t want to suggest my readings without that disclaimer.

          I wanted to use it as a reading mainly for two reasons, which are somewhat intertwined:

          1. I’m very close with my younger brother, who had recently come out as gay. He was 17 when we got married last summer, he escorted me down the aisle, and I wanted him to know that, even with a kind of fucked up family of origin, my husband and I wholly support him and are his family.

          And 2. There are a few far-ish flung relatives on my husband’s side in attendance who I suspect were not super into the idea of marriage equality, and I also wanted them to know where we stood as a family.

          Definitely interesting to think about!

          • pippa

            Oh absolutely! I wasn’t being negative, either – those are both good thought processes behind using it and it’s definitely not something where I’d feel good about firmly telling anyone not to use it if they feel it speaks to them.

          • BSM

            Cool! Such a civil conversation, haha.

    • Her Lindsayship

      I like that you asked this, as I think my fiance and I will struggle similarly. I’ve been to one or the other kind of weddings – either Christian and deeply rooted in that tradition, or not religious and also not very Solemn and Ceremonial. But I think it’s entirely possible to write your own ceremony to whichever effect you want. If that includes literary readings, there are many to choose from, as @@Ashlah:disqus pointed out. But you can even write it all yourself or have a talented writer friend help you with it, and still have that tone of solemnity present. Best of luck!

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Literature is your best friend. We did not have an overtly religious ceremony (our officiant snuck god in there a few times, but otherwise that’s not really our jam.) But we dug deep into literary references and found some Very Serious readings that exemplified what we were trying to say.

      • Danielle

        Our officiant snuck a Hebrew prayer at the end of our ceremony, much to my husband’s dismay (I’m Jewish and he’s gentile/atheist. We had a rabbi tailor a unique ceremony for us and asked her explicitly NOT to use Hebrew because his side wouldn’t get it. Well, she did it anyway.)

        I spent those few minutes staring into his eyes and trying to ESP: “It’s OK, I didn’t do this on purpose and it’s not part of an elaborate plan to trick you into Judaism. I love you.”

        What is UP with officiants going rogue!?

        • Susan

          Sorry to hear that — maybe she just went on autopilot or something? In a similar vein, I did a reading in a (not very traditional) Jewish wedding led by a cantor who totally rearranged a bunch of things in the program DURING the ceremony. She skipped my reading and put it in later, leading to 10 minutes of me totally confused and wondering what to do. She also entirely cut out the couples’ personal vows/letters which (surprisingly to me) they were not upset about.

          • Danielle

            Ugh. That would have personally upset me.

            I don’t know why our rabbi did that. She actually did a similar thing to our friends who got married… but in general we really like her and she was open-minded about officiating an interfaith ceremony — something that was surprisingly not easy to find.

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          In hindsight, I realize it’s just really hard to ask a religious leader to leave religion out of it. I mean, we didn’t explicitly ask him NOT to, so it’s a slightly different scenario. I just realized in the moment how inauthentic it sounded. But this was also 2009, so the “have a friend officiate” thing hadn’t really taken flight yet (it was being done; but not with the frequency it is now.) So I just didn’t even realize there was another option.

        • nocutenickname

          At my best friend’s wedding, the officiant went off script and compared them to their rings themselves, talking basically about how her ring symbolizes how dainty/beautiful she is and how she needs protection and his ring reminds them how sturdy/manly I guess? he is. Creeped me out. Where did he even get that? That’s not a thing! She thought it was weird but didn’t mind toooo much. I would have been furious.

          • Danielle

            Officiant went off-script at my bff’s wedding too. He was a rabbi performing an interfaith wedding (surprisingly hard to find) and made a joke about her gentile now-husband becoming Jewish after he recited a Hebrew prayer. Her husband balked and the rabbi laughed and it was… Awkward. Later on bff’s mom said he seemed like a used car salesman :/

        • Kat

          “Surprise, you’re Jewish now! No take-backs!”

          • Danielle

            The rabbi basically did/said this at my bff’s wedding – see comment below.

        • Larkin

          The minister at a friend’s wedding was told not to include this weird “Jesus is the third person in your relationship” speech she wanted to do in the wedding ceremony. She didn’t, but then she did the exact same speech as a “toast” at the reception. (sigh)

          Our friend (the groom) looked like he was fantasizing about murdering her throughout the whole thing.

          • Danielle

            First of all, that’s totally creepy.

            Second, wtf!? Seems like officiants going rogue could potentially be a whole post or thread in this forum. I think communicating intentions really clearly ahead of time is crucial, especially when dealing with religious officiants.

            TBH stuff like this is what makes me wary about religion… the idea that things are forced upon you; it’s not a consenting choice.

          • Ashlah

            I would be so, so furious if anything like that had happened at our wedding. What is wrong with people?

    • MC

      We had a (mostly) secular wedding and kind of just used the basic outline of weddings we’d seen – officiant says a bit, readings, vows, rings, kiss – and added a couple things that we liked – we had community vows and read letters we’d written each other, for example. So I’d say start with the structure of things that in your mind signify a wedding ceremony and go from there.

    • Jess

      I am here with you. I take marriage and partnership really seriously, and we’re trying really hard to make sure we avoid any promises we’re not sure about. I am not religious, though my family is, and it feels disingenuous to include religious elements for us.

      Between the help of our celebrant and this APW article, we really have something we are comfortable with and that sits as meaningful. http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/06/how-to-write-your-wedding-ceremony/

      We are doing the following template, which some scripted bits supplied by our celebrant that we get to choose, edit, and approve.

      1) Address: Here we will have a “welcome! Jess and R are so grateful you are here today to be part of their wedding as you have been a part of their life up to now and will be a part of their life together from now on” kind of thing.

      2) Readings: I’ve got a few poems and the like that we’re deciding between. We’re going to have some close friends and family read 2 selections. APW helped out here too! They’ve got a whole slew of things that are sweet and romantic and serious without being religious or casual! (I will link below for cohesion)

      3) Vows/Expression of Intent: Modification of some from APW or our celebrant, still trying to decide.

      4) Exchange of Rings: Something brief, about being a reminder that we carry with us that we are loved and supported and that we have promised to take care of each other as best we can.

      5) Closing remarks/Kiss/Presentation: This would be the time for a fun celebratory quote/poem that is less formal and more about excitement. I’m thinking about excerpting “What Looks Like Crazy” Pearl Clege

      He leaned over and kissed her like they were alone in that room, and right then, right there, she didn’t care what came next. Whatever it was, she knew it would be all right, or it wouldn’t be all right, but it would be part of the same unbroken line they were all walking in, which is, of course, the real lesson, and about as much perfection as she could stand without crying right there in front of everybody, which is, of course, what she did. Then it was done, official, and the party could begin in earnest. And it did.

      SO, yeah. That fits into the traditional structure people we’re inviting expect and we’re working with our celebrant to make sure that the words we choose honor the seriousness we take this moment with and also the joy in doing it.

      Poetry Links:
      http://apracticalwedding.com/2015/05/best-love-poems-for-wedding/
      http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/08/wedding-readings-poems/
      http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/09/non-cheesy-wedding-poems/

    • MRSlw

      In my experience the tone of a ceremony is quite dependent on the person who leads it. Finding the right person who has an understanding of your relationship and how solemn and important this event is for you two will be key! A friend who is going to make jokes? Nope! An accomplished mentor figure who is sensitive to your relationship? yes!

    • Eenie

      You don’t have to do any readings.

      There’s lots of templates for secular ceremonies online. There’s a basic structure that you can follow.

      We only did one reading, A Marriage by Michael Blumenthal. My husband absolutely hates readings.

    • cpostrophe

      I have officiated four weddings for friends as a ‘minister of the Universal Life Church’. It’s one of those churches that you can sign up for on the Internet (like being a Dudeist from the Church of Lebowski or a Jedi). My usual suggestion for the ceremony is that a wedding ceremony, at its base, should have:

      A greeting (basically welcome the guests and express why we’ve all gathered here)
      A description of love (something that talks about what love and marriage mean to the couple)
      A promise of love (something where the couple makes a public announcement about their devotion to each other)
      A gesture of unity (this is the ring exchange and/or the unity candle and/or the handfasting, it is a physical gesture showing that the couple are now joined)
      An announcement by the officiant (blessing/”I declare these people to be wed”/”I present to you …”)

      that’s it. I’ve attended Buddhist, Vedic, Jewish, Wiccan, Christian, and secular ceremonies and many of these have these fundamental elements in their ceremonies. You can adapt the above items to whatever suits you.

      On top of these components, you can have things like the community offering advice/blessings. This is sometimes readings, or it’s whispering secrets into the bride or groom’s ears, or it’s asking the audience to make a vow to the couple. You can have the guests or wedding party do their testimonies of how the couple leave each other (again this can be like readings or poems or something). At the end, it has to be about the couple expressing their love to the community. How you want to do that is up to you, and none of it has to be bound up in religious trappings.

    • annlynn

      There is an absolutely beautiful Madeline L’Engle passage about marriage from The Irrational Season.

    • Larkin

      We’re movie buffs and we did readings from movies at ours. I’d say our wedding was “classy casual” (wedding dress, suit, in a courtyard garden) but we weren’t insanely off-beat as these things go. I certainly don’t think readings from books or movies would be a “big joke.” Unless, maybe, you intentionally picked over-the-top ridiculous readings.

      You could always go for poetry if you’re looking for something that feels more like a traditional, formal “reading.”

      For reference, our two readings were from Stardust (Yvaine’s “I know a lot about love” speech) and When Harry Met Sally (“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and, the thing is, I love you. I love that you get cold when it’s 72 degrees out…”).

      • sofar

        OMG movie readings! I have never seen that before, and it’s so so so perfect! In addition to being a fantastic, sentimental idea, people might actually pay attention to the readings.

        • Larkin

          Thanks! It worked really well for us and they were very accessible as readings.

      • Larkin

        Random additional suggestion I just thought of: Shakespearean sonnets. Most of them are very formal sounding, but they aren’t religious. #116 would be great, and a lot of the others would make very compelling readings.

    • S

      For me, as someone who is not religious, the bible is often just beautiful poetry. I’m as moved by 13 Corinthians as I am by wonderfully written meaningful poems about love. I can’t imagine how a beautiful poetry reading of a poem that resonates with you would feel too casual. Most of the things that I’ve seen at weddings (almost all the weddings I’ve been to have been white couples) that have moved me have been non-religious as I’m not religious so that doesn’t move me! Meaningful vows, thoughtful toasts…I don’t know, it’s all about the sentiment and the authenticity and the love, for me. Trying to shop around for things would feel performativite to me. Why does there need to be more than just honest words spoken to each other in front of your community? It’ll still feel like a wedding because that’s what a wedding is. But that’s just me.

    • Lucy

      I come from a white Anglican background (as does my husband) but both of us are atheist. We were married by my father and his brother using a ceremony that I wrote- which was basically the traditional English wedding ceremony with all references to God taken out. I love the poetry of the words and the idea that generations of our families have said similar words when getting married, and it still felt solemn and special (also very short which was great). We also had a “choir” of our friends who could sing who sang a hymn as I came in. Really helped set the tone and they had practiced the song beforehand so there was less awkwardness from everyone and it felt really welcoming.

    • sdd

      We did a courthouse ceremony before our religious wedding, and we used a reading from Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning where he describes finding the meaning in his life and his will to live in his love for his wife.

  • emilyg25

    We had a Quaker wedding because my husband is Quaker, but it was my idea. It was profoundly moving.

    If I hadn’t had that connection, I think it would have been hard to make it all feel “big” enough. My family is not religious and has no strong cultural or regional ties.

  • NatalieN

    I think this topic is really important – especially as the world in general is becoming more of a melting pot – people moving all over the world, and with the internet you can see a tradition and think it’s amazing and adopt it without understanding it, and therefore disrespect the thing you were trying to appreciate.

    Food for thought:

    Is it appropriation if you were born into a culture, and surrounded by it while growing up? I’m wondering about people who are born in other countries because their parents work for oil, or are military families. If you are ‘white’ in the sense of heritage, but grew up in India, is it wrong to have an Indian wedding?

    Is it appropriation if someone who doesn’t identify as Christian gets married in a Church or by a pastor or priest, because that would classify as religious appropriation? Similarly, should they not quote any religious texts from the Quran or Bible because they think they’re ‘pretty’ or ‘meaningful’, when they don’t believe in that religion?

    • Sarah E

      Those are great questions. I think adoption is another area where appropriation becomes even more complex, both for adoptive parents who may or may not choose to encourage their child to explore their birth culture, and for adoptees who may or may not feel comfortable in their adopted/birth cultures.

      • NatalieN

        True! That’s another layer of complexity with adoption of nature vs nurture, I would think that maybe in those cases it wouldn’t be appropriation to identify as either or a mixture of both? Similar to having two parents from completely different cultural backgrounds. Though, still, if you were raised predominately one culture, would it be appropriation to incorporate a less… dominate culture?

        For instance, I’m a little bit Creek – I’ve always thought this was so cool and have had an appreciation for Native American culture, but I would never have a tipi at my wedding. Alternatively, my husband’s grandfather was Hawaiian and our last name Naumu is Hawaiian – and he *looks* Hawaiian, could we then have incorporated Hawaiian themes into our wedding? (spoiler, we didn’t because he’s never lived there, and didn’t grow up in that culture) but when do you have the right to use certain sacred traditions?

        • MRSlw

          I don’t think there’s anything wrong with inviting another culture into your ceremony in certain cases , for example if your husband’s grandfather was living and you invited him to add something meaningful from his culture to your ceremony if he would like to. imo, That’s a nice way to incorporate heritage without “owning” it as your own.

        • clarkesara

          “we didn’t because he’s never lived there, and didn’t grow up in that culture”

          I think this is the key. It’s not about earning the right to use something because of your name or where your grandfather is from. It’s whether these cultural traditions feel right to you. Do you fully understand the implications? Is it something you hold sacred? Are you using it in the correct context?

          As I said somewhere upthread, I’ve been a pagan/identified with paganism despite actually being an atheist since high school. And yet a handfasting still doesn’t feel like “my” heritage, nor does it feel like something that reflects my fiance and I. So we’re not doing it. Conversely, my fiance is part Chinese-American, and there are certain Chinese traditions that we will be doing because it’s just not a wedding for his family if we don’t.

    • Jess

      I don’t have enough experience to speak to the first part of your food for thought, but the second…

      I personally felt that being married in a religious atmosphere and using religious texts was not ok for us, despite (because of?) both of us growing up in religious atmospheres but since deciding that we didn’t connect with the concept of the Christian God.

      1) I am being married by a pastor, but we have requested that it be in a secular/civil capacity because we need to have an officiant and all the ones we liked that could be hired were religious-affiliated. She has confirmed that she does and is ok doing secular weddings. We avoided using a friend that is a pastor because it didn’t feel right.
      2) We are not quoting religious texts.
      3) We are not being married in a House of Worship of any kind.

      We are inviting a lot of people that are very serious and devout in their religion, and it felt not-ok for us to take from that belief system without truly believing it ourselves.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      Your questions are important and I think this is kind of where we get into policing other people on a level I’m not really comfortable with. My gut reaction to this is if a tradition is one to which you don’t have a personal connection, stay away. But then who gets to decide what is a personal connection and what that looks like for someone else? I don’t know if there’s a clear answer but I would hope that the persons planning their ceremony think critically about elements they want to incorporate. I think that’s the most we can ask of other people – that they think critically about their ceremony choices, especially if they are “borrowing” from other cultures or religions and that they be open to critiques people from those cultures and religions may have of their choices.

      I think for personally, what bothers me most about cultural appropriation itself isn’t always the actual appropriation — I find a lot of people are just unaware of the implications when they think something from another culture is really cool and must do. My problem is more at the refusal to understand where the people who were offended are coming from and dismissing their choice as no big deal. That’s almost sometimes worse.

      • NatalieN

        Not interested in policing what other people do or don’t do – but I guess, we all agree that appropriation is wrong. And cultural or religious appropriation is taking something that isn’t yours, how do you know when something is ‘yours’, culturally? I guess my questions were more to pose the concept that it’s not always as clear cut as “you’re not X, so you shouldn’t do Y, which is a part of X culture and not yours”.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Right. I understand what you’re asking. I don’t think there’s a clear answer. If you are a white person who grew up in South India, for example, how can I tell you that isn’t your culture? It may very well feel like yours. It might BE yours. Growing up in South India may not mean that you were part of the culture there. And there are some arguments about what encompasses ownership in a culture and that living somewhere doesn’t mean that you embody that particular group of people. There are many traditions in cultures that are hundreds of years old and the lineage of history, it being passed from one generation to the next, is part of what makes it so important or so sacred. So I think this is where that critical engagement comes in.

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          There’s intent at play too, right? Like, are you honoring the culture and the tradition? Or are you using it for aesthetic purposes? I like to think that when you actually grew up a part of the culture, you know the difference. For example, I come from a mixed family. I have learned, over time, what honors my step-family and what is stealing and whitewashing their experience. It often comes down to respect and awareness.

          Though what I find complicated in trying to be a woke white lady, is acknowledging something like, “Hey, I have a nuanced understanding of this from experience” without resorting to tokenism. Which is why I have a really hard time having these conversations on the internet. Because the internet has a checklist and is looking for visual markers in a split second, and the real world doesn’t really work that way.

          • NatalieN

            Absolutely agree. It’s just in some (maybe most?) cases, I don’t think it’s as simple as looking at a picture on the internet and pointing “<— That's appropriation". Someone up thread posted a greenweddingshoes feature that was in India and *looked* like it might be cultural appropriation – as in, both the bride and the groom looked white and had a very Indian looking wedding. But when you read the post, the bride and groom both grew up in India (from what looks like birth to at least High School), so maybe it wasn't so much them taking a heritage that wasn't theirs as it was paying homage to a culture they were raised in and deeply impacted who they are.

      • savannnah

        There is also an inherent power issue at play and minority/majority politics in cultural appropriation that should be taken into account. I think of it as the difference between a cookie plate at your wedding vs. jumping a broom at your wedding if your neither Italian or African American.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Absolutely. And a lot of traditions of minority cultures are also borne out of oppression (such as jumping the broom) so that’s something else to consider.

          • savannnah

            Exactly. Theres some violence in appropriating the broom that’s just not present in the cookie tray- but you have to know the history to know that.

    • clarkesara

      I think it depends how close you were ever really part of that culture. A white person having a Hindu wedding because they studied abroad in Mumbai is still kinda appropriatey in my book, unless it’s happening in India, the groom is Hindu, etc.

      My grandparents lived in Cameroon for my whole childhood, and we always had West African art, decor, clothing, music, etc. around. In sort of a tangential way, it feels a little like part of my culture, or definitely like part of my family traditions. But I’m white, I’ve never actually been to Cameroon, know little/nothing of the culture on the ground, and would feel uncomfortable using any Cameroonian wedding traditions.

      On the other hand, if you were born in Germany, spent your whole childhood there, went to school there, are bilingual, fully immersed into the culture for many years, and moved to America later on, no, of course you’re not forbidden from incorporating German culture into your wedding. Even if your parents are non-German Americans who happened to raise you there for random reasons.

      Re “should they not quote any religious texts from the Quran,” I don’t think that would be appropriation in the context of an American/white/Christian wedding, since readings during a wedding ceremony is part of that culture, not an element of Islamic culture. And within the context of wedding readings, it’s understood that you draw on diverse sources. That’s no more “cultural appropriation” than passing mini-quiches at the reception is appropriating French culture.

      • Cleo

        I disagree with this:

        “Re “should they not quote any religious texts from the Quran,” I don’t think that would be appropriation in the context of an American/white/Christian wedding, since readings during a wedding ceremony is part of that culture, not an element of Islamic culture. And within the context of wedding readings, it’s understood that you draw on diverse sources. That’s no more “cultural appropriation” than passing mini-quiches at the reception is appropriating French culture”

        quite strongly.

        It’s not about whether “having a reading” is the tradition, it’s the source of the reading.

        Even though Islam is an Abrahamic religion, the Quran is not part of Christian texts. Choosing a passage because it sounds pretty or you like the surface meaning would be the same as giving out leis to your guests because you like flowers.

        There might be certain passages that Muslims don’t read at certain times (e.g. Jews are limited in choosing readings from certain books for our weddings, so perhaps something similar happens here), or there are passages that have deep significance within the faith that you’re not aware of.

        Add to that the fact that there are many American Muslims being persecuted, bullied, and attacked for practicing their religion, it feels insulting and angering to me that your hypothetical Christian would be able to take a pretty section from the Quran and have it read at their wedding without comment, criticism, or fear for their life. It would just be a “unique” thing they did. And taking from others without having to heft the baggage is absolutely appropriation.

        As a sidenote, if a Christian chose a reading from the Torah, while I might raise an eyebrow at certain choices because of my perspective as a Jew, because Christians have incorporated the Torah into their holy texts as the Old Testament, it wouldn’t be appropriation.

        • clarkesara

          I’m not saying it is/is not appropriation, it just feels categorically like a very different question to me.

          People traditionally do readings from scripture as part of wedding ceremonies, generally people only choose readings that have deep personal meaning for them, and there are situations where Muslim scripture might be apt. It’s a grey area, but it’s not obviously appropriation in the way that something like a white couple jumping the broom would be.

      • lol

        Last discussion people were literally saying that eating food from other cultures can be considered appropriation, so I don’t know how helpful that comparison is

    • CrazyCatLibrarian

      I’m sort of struggling with this. I was raised by a Catholic mother and a Pagan father. I went to a Catholic church all the way through Confirmation in order to appease my mother’s Catholic guilt (she’s since gotten over it and no longer goes to church herself), but I don’t consider myself Christian, believe in Jesus, etc. If I had to label myself, I’d call it Agnostic. Likewise, my fiancé’s entire family is conservative Episcopalian, but he does not share their beliefs. His family is getting a little upset that we’re planning a strictly secular ceremony (justice of the peace style, because the only higher authority I’m concerned about is the State of Maryland). A few people have told me to suck it up and throw a prayer or two in there because it will make them happy and “what’s it going to hurt?” The idea makes me uncomfortable, though. If I don’t believe it, it feels disingenuous to include it for the sake of making someone else happy. I understand that these things are important to others, so wouldn’t my faking it for the sake of harmony lessen that importance?

      • BSM

        “I understand that these things are important to others, so wouldn’t my faking it for the sake of harmony lessen that importance?”

        For some reason, people don’t seem to care that much about this. My husband and I are going to start TTC this summer, and I mentioned to my girlfriend that I was already not looking forward to drawing some boundaries with my in-laws. They aren’t super religious, but they do say grace before holiday/celebratory meals, which is not something I’d be comfortable with in our home once we have kid. [Actually I was not comfortable with it this past year when we hosted Christmas, but I couldn’t really figure out what to do about it.] Anyways, my friend completely brushed it off and said we should just let it go. Um, not for us.

        It should be noted that I fall pretty far on the personal autonomy >>> familial desires (when it comes to families of origin), but I absolutely would not budge on the prayers during my ceremony. I consider my non-beliefs/agnosticism/secularism to be just as important in my life as any religious person’s religious beliefs, so stuff like this really rubs me the wrong way.

        • RMC

          I am not sure if your in-laws are aggressive about everyone joining in for grace but, as long as that’s not the case, why is it bad for them to say grace at a meal where it feels important to them? You could explain to your kids that different parts of the family have different beliefs and traditions and sit quietly while grace is said without participating. It strikes me as a weird battle to fight – to not allow them to say something that’s meaningful to them (as long as it’s not actively offensive…which most grace prayers are not).

          • Ashlah

            I can’t speak for BSM, but as an atheist, sitting through grace is uncomfortable for me. I am happy to do it when I’m a guest in someone else’s home, but why should I be forced to partake in someone else’s religious practices in my own home? Wouldn’t the more appropriate thing be for them to respect my beliefs in my own home? I also think it’s a weird battle to fight–but from the other side. Prayers do not need to said aloud, they can easily bow their head and thank god silently before they eat, without involving me or my husband at all.

          • RMC

            Right – I mean, obviously, you figure out what works for you and your family. I was just pushing back a little on the idea that you are “forced to partake” by being in the presence of a religious ritual happening. I have family of a variety of different denominations and religions as well as atheists and agnostics and we all share the meaningful parts of our practices with each other. As a Jew, when someone says a Christian grace, I sit quietly and appreciate that it’s a meaningful way for them to begin the meal and then I say my own blessing. Then if someone else wants to bring a non-religious intention with which to start the meal, that’s lovely, too!

            I want to make the point that I think this is true only when there is a baseline of trust and good will and I really dislike it when a nondenominational function is started with a grace without a spirit of sharing and reciprocity. So that’s why I prefaced my point by saying that if your family is really aggressive about you joining in, then it’s a different story.

            I think this is also true for people talking about religious elements that their family wants to bring to a wedding. You wouldn’t want to read a religious blessing at someone else’s wedding because that’s not how you bring intention to a special moment. But if you want your parents or siblings to participate, and they are reliigous, why not let them give a blessing that feels like a meaningful way to bring intention to your wedding?

          • BSM

            I don’t think it’s bad at all for them to say grace! They also occasionally go to church, and I’m pretty sure believe in God. All totally fine things for them to do/believe.

            I guess the rub for me is that I don’t want my child to grow up with religious traditions. I don’t want them to think that saying grace is something our family does. I don’t want them to look back on their childhood and remember Christian prayers as part of our holidays. I guess that’s a weird point of view, but I feel pretty strongly about it.

            I think if we’re visitors in my in-laws’ or another relative’s home for a holiday, and they would like to say grace or another prayer or whatever, that would be great. But at our house, it just doesn’t feel right to me. It makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t think I should have to feel that way in my own home during the holidays.

      • nocutenickname

        I struggled with this too, but came out on the opposite side and still feel comfortable with it. I am an atheist, raised Christian in a still-practicing Christian family, and my husband is basically the same (albeit more agnostic). The majority of our wedding ceremony was secular but we did include one prayer. The spirit of the prayer felt very much in line with our values for our marriage and wedding, in that our ceremony had a large focus on family and this allowed our Christian families to wish us well/hold us in their hearts in a way that was meaningful for them. The wording also reinforced the values we have for our marriage (it included a lot of gratitude for our families and “may they [husband and I] make their promises to each other with the deepest insight into their meaning and the utmost sincerity” and things like that). It did start with “Dear Lord” and end with “amen”, but felt in my heart as an expression of our hopes and the solemnity with which we approach marriage.

        Now, I would have been less comfortable if the prayer had had more explicit Christian content, thanking God for bringing us together or promising to have a Christlike marriage or anything like that. We were able to craft our own prayer with our officiant, who was fine doing secular ceremonies.

        • CrazyCatLibrarian

          I have a few readings in mind that I want to include, and while they’re secular they would still give the feeling of a “reading” for those who might miss it. One is by Robert Fulghum, who was a Unitarian Minister, so that sort of counts? My dad and I used to read his books all the time when I was a kid (my dad is also Unitarian, but that wasn’t why). We’re also considering a venue space that is in a decommissioned sanctuary of a Presbyterian Church- the current congregation holds services in a smaller room and allows a different, non-religious, organization to manage the former sanctuary. I’m hoping the feel of a church and the general flow will appease the more religious family members.

  • Kalë

    Potluck wedding! Totally part of my brand of culture. My parents provided salmon (that my dad and grandpa caught) and every. other. food. (AND DRINK ~ as in booze!) that was present at their reception was brought or bought by someone else. And that was totally normal and cool! I don’t know if I would choose to do the same, because I’m not personally crazy about 9 bean salad 9 different ways, but it’s absolutely culturally acceptable round these parts.

    • JC

      Until I read your comment, I didn’t realize that potlucks were a wedding tradition for me too. They don’t happen often anymore, but potlucks in general are a big part of my (mainline Protestant) faith, and potluck family gatherings and weddings have been happening for my whole life. My mom has mentioned wanting us (me and her) to make my wedding pie (pie > cake), as opposed to ordering from a bakery, and I think I know why! I love that she wants to contribute to food to the event (even before we’re engaged).

    • Kayjayoh

      My parents’ reception (which happened in the summer, some months after their Christmas wedding with small after party) involved a pig roast at the (northern WI) town hall, combined with a potluck.

    • Lisa

      I love the idea of this potluck wedding! One of my closest friends is getting married in December, and she once told me that her ideal wedding would be a backyard potluck. I think we’re all travelling too far for that to be a reality for her, but it’s definitely going to be a more laid back, fun affair.

    • Meg

      It sucks how the potluck wedding is an American tradition, but the WIC has branded it with the T word.

    • Hannah Holtgeerts Brenlan

      Yay for potlucks! We had “Grow Love” themed Potluck/Open Mic Receptions in two different cities for friends who were unable to travel to the wedding itself. It was a blast and a half — one friend took the “Grow Love” theme and made a heart-shaped asparagus pizza! It was delicious and beautiful :)

    • Helen

      We had a potluck! It was so lovely. A good friend of mine co-ordinated, to avoid multiple potato salads, & my husband and I provided cheese and bread. Everyone brought homemade or shop bought / ordered food according to their preference. We had a wonderful spread of food, and it really added to the feeling that everyone had contributed and was sharing int he celebration. Nerve-wracking in an organisational sense, but highly recommended.

  • Sarah E

    We dealt with this in writing our wedding ceremony. While we used the short-hand of “Quaker wedding,” we really didn’t structure it like a Quaker meeting (which is basically no structure), we simply forewent having an officiant of any kind.

    Also, we added a hand-fasting. Though both of us have Celtic ancestry, it’s not an aspect of our lives we really connect to, nor have we practiced other Celtic traditions. I felt okay with that one, given the level of Irish in my blood, but my husband approached it much more cautiously.

  • Saxyrunner

    I had to explain to my fiance why doing a hand fasting or some kind of dia de los muertos thing was a bad idea when it’s not a part of our culture. This post is excellent, and I’m tempted to show him.

  • savannnah

    Struggling a little bit with this right now- I lived in Thailand for five years as a child and then again for grad school and would love love to release a wish lantern that my Thai neighbors gave to me the last time I was there and 95% of the time I feel like that’s a nope at my white/Jewish wedding where there are lots of other owned traditions we can tap into.

    • Cleo

      also white/Jewish, so I might not know what I’m talking about, but because you have a personal connection to the lantern (was given to you by your neighbors!), because you lived in the country and you know the tradition…I think you should go for it. Perhaps with a brief explanation about the tradition and why it’s important to you, and maybe even explain that it’s not your culture, but you lived there and wanted to honor people who meant a lot to you?

      Could you ask the neighbors how they would feel about that, or are you not in touch with them anymore?

      • savannnah

        I’m sure they would have no problem with it but it is religious (not mine) and I’m sure I could find any one person from one culture to say xyz is ok. I’m not sure that makes it ok.

        • clarkesara

          I think that if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. But if it does feel right, and you’re just worried that someone could theoretically disagree with your choice to do it, you might as well go ahead and do it.

          • savannnah

            yeah..this may be something I’ve overtalked myself about. Your way seems more straightforward.

          • S

            I think that there’s no one person who can tell you whether it’s right or not, and there’s no one voice of the culture, but if you at least open up a dialogue about it with a couple of people who are of that culture, that could at least help you frame how you think about it/think through it on your own? I agree that if it doesn’t feel right at all, don’t do it, but I would open up “But if it does feel right…you might as well go ahead and do it” to include, “After conversations with others who have a stake, and after research into the tradition, and after thinking hard about how I would feel if I did it anyway and someone called me out on it.” Not as in, don’t do it you’ll regret it! Just as in, do that work of figuring it out, and if it’s still going to be meaningful to you and you can live with any possible repercussions, that’s a call you’re then able to make.

          • clarkesara

            Frankly I think it would be much more insulting to hold a focus group to ask collective permission to use this element of the culture in an appropriate way, via a gift given by members of that culture, than it would be to just do the thing.

            Most people don’t like being asked questions collectively on behalf of their entire nation/culture/race.

          • S

            What is with this pushback about just… being respectful? Did you note where I said no one person can speak for a culture? What’s with this mean tone just because I think it’d be nice and also comforting when it comes to making a decision just to…ask? Nobody said anything about holding a focus group! If she lived there for so long and the culture is important to her, surely she has a few friends of that culture and she could ask them? It doesn’t have to be a business meeting where minutes are taken, just a discussion among people who respect each other and care about each other. I really don’t see the problem here. If it’s something she’s uncomfortable and worrying about whether it’s ok, it makes more sense to have that conversation about being uncomfortable and worrying about whether it’s ok, with someone who has a stake – not some people on the internet who have no real basis for knowing one way or the other where that particular line might be. It seems like you’re really resistant to this idea of white people including people of other cultures in decisions they make that concern those other cultures, and I can’t figure out why.

          • Elizabeth

            Because I personally HATE being asked ‘do (all) Jews do x’ or ‘how do Jews think of God’ or to somehow absolve/pass judgement on someone else’s situation. PARTICULARLY if it came to a gift that someone else from my culture gave to them. If someone asked me, for instance ‘my Jewish friend gave me a mezuzah, am I okay to put it up’ I would be like ‘…why don’t you ask your friend what their intention was in giving it to you?’ Even if seeing that mezuzah up might make me unsure or uncomfortable, knowing they’re Christian, because of what the meaning behind it is, that doesn’t mean I’d be comfortable passing a yes/no judgement for them. It’s more nuanced than that, culture usually is. So I don’t, as a member of some culture, like being asked to make a black/white call as if that’s what’s appropriate. I can’t speak for everyone, but that might be where some of the pushback is coming from.

            And if someone is making the call ‘I want to do x in my wedding’ I kind of want them to feel like they can make that decision on their own merit, based on their own thoughts and considerations not because ‘they asked some friends (even of that culture) and that absolves them of the decision.

            It’s fine to get input — I think in this case asking the neighbors is very right. Asking random friends sits less well with me.

          • stephanie

            To echo something I said in the Hawaii conversation – my husband and his family welcome these questions. Sure, it’s not their responsibility to teach you about it, but.. they’d rather you ask than make your own decision based on your likely limited knowledge.

        • Cleo

          Agree with Clarkesara below, and also, I wanted to pop back in and clarify that I wasn’t saying to “ask permission from XYZ Thai person.” I’m with you that the approval of one person from one culture doesn’t make any action across the board okay.

          My suggestion to ask your neighbors was specifically because they gave you the lantern and so they might be able to shed a light on how they’d want you to use it (if at all) – on a personal level, not as ambassador for all Thai people.

          Though seems you have it sorted :)

    • Kayjayoh

      “that my Thai neighbors gave to me”

      I think this is key.

    • glouby

      Would releasing the lantern as a private moment between you and your partner be meaningful to you?

  • Violet

    Great food for thought, Najva!
    It’s interesting to see how some people look at Christianity as the dominant religion (and therefore cannot be appropriated) while others in the comments are pointing out that if they are not Christian, it feels co-opting to include Christian elements in their wedding. I can see how Christianity in America is simultaneously the dominant force and the underdog. A lot of Christian rituals became mainstream, secularized, and associated with white America (hence, dominant), while devout Christians are becoming fewer and farther between as the generations go by. (Or are they not, but it just feels that way in the very liberal, secular Northeast?) Since appropriation only works in the one direction, I wonder how this fits in.

    • Meg Keene

      Oh, I think you can FOR sure appropriate from Christianity! That, in fact, is the example I always use when trying to explain this to folks. How would people react if folks started doing communion at weddings because it was “cute”? BADLY (and rightly so), because communion is a sacred ritual reserved for people of the Christian faith. Just like Jewish wedding rituals are a part of judism that’s reserved for members of the community and culture (AKA: anyone can come to Passover dinner, not everyone can have a Chuppah.) And Christianity deserves all the same appropriation protections that any other faith does… they are just generally automatically granted, because people get that it’s a serious thing, and a “real” religion, with sacred traditions that are off limits.

      The difference is that if you live in America, America’s general traditions (some based on Christianity, but not sacred in nature) do become your traditions as well, in an earned way. So perhaps you wear a white wedding dress, because you’re Persian, but you’re also American, so that’s part of your crossover heritage. But you for sure don’t take communion because it’s cute.

      • clarkesara

        It also should be noted that a white wedding dress isn’t even a Christian cultural tradition. At least not in a religious/sacred sense.

      • Violet

        I actually love that you use Communion as the example. It drives the point home that while some things are cultural within a religion, others are sacred. That’s a helpful distinction.

      • CrazyCatLibrarian

        Sort of related: I actually remember at my first post-college wedding there was an issue because one of my sorority sisters in attendance was raised Jewish and didn’t understand the communion part, so when everyone else lined up to get it, so did she. I didn’t really care, but a few people were pissed off that she accepted it, but she honestly had no idea what it even was and that you have to receive a Sacrament of Holy Communion in order to be eligible, or whatever. She just figured it was some random wedding thing and went along with it.

        • MC

          Dude, I did this when I went to Mass with a bunch of family while visiting my Grandma in high school, having never been to a Catholic service before, and no one told me that I wasn’t supposed to do it! Catholic churches, you gotta explain this part to us visitors.

          • CrazyCatLibrarian

            I thought it was funny people got so upset. I mostly just felt bad for her, because that stuff tastes nasty.

          • Amy March

            Yup. I did it inadvertently growing up a few times too.

        • Lisa

          I can understand the honest confusion on her part! Our priest made an announcement that Catholics could receive communion and that anyone else was welcome to come up and receive a blessing instead if they wished. However, if the announcement wasn’t made, I wouldn’t be angry at someone who inadvertently took Communion.

          What did make me angry was a former friend I was a bridesmaid with last year. Our friend is Catholic, and the bridesmaid asked me if she was allowed to receive Communion. I told her probably not since she is another Christian denomination, but if she was concerned, she should catch the priest and ask him at the rehearsal. She chose not to do that, took Communion during the ceremony, and made a big point of how she was able to sneak in and take it. And laughed about it. That to me felt incredibly disrespectful of the traditions because she knew full well that it wasn’t part of her faith and that it would upset those who take it seriously, and she went ahead and did it anyway.

          • CrazyCatLibrarian

            I can see being confused initially on her part- I was raised Catholic and would have assumed any Christian would be able to take Communion. Maybe because my SO’s family is Episcopalian and they all do whenever they’re in a Catholic church for some reason (although I think their denomination is pretty much the same)? I went to Baptist churches once or twice as a kid because all my friends/neighbors were Southern Baptist and their parents were trying to save my eternal soul from my damned parents (A Catholic and a Pagan), and I remember it just being bread and grape juice and everyone could take it, so maybe I figured it went both ways. I literally just had to look the rules up lol that being said, it’s definitely not cool that she “snuck it in” anyway, especially since she was made aware beforehand. And besides, why would she want to? I remember those wafers tasting disgusting and getting stuck in my teeth, if it doesn’t matter to you from a spiritual point of view then you’re not missing out on anything.

          • Lisa

            I think it was her way of “sticking it to the man.” She’s an odd character, very conservative Southerner, and she doesn’t like anyone telling her what she can’t do if she thinks that she should be allowed to do it. She had this gloaty smirk on her face afterwards and was like, “I did it anyway, haha!” That kind of attitude just soured me even more towards her. You went out of your way to purposefully disrespect someone else’s tradition when you know that people take it seriously? Wow.

      • pope joan

        I disagree with the idea that adopting Christian traditions would be cultural appropriation- for one thing, communion specifically is a sacrament that requires specific conditions (a priest/minister to consecrate being the main thing), so without that, something wouldn’t be “communion.” I could imagine a couple doing a secular bread-breaking that would be well-received (“We wanted our wedding ceremony to honor our commitment to service and our community, so the symbolism of serving bread and wine to all our guests as our first act as a couple was deeply meaningful to us. We appreciated its resonances with the Christian tradition that shaped us, even as we no longer identify as Christians.” – or something to that effect). But this wouldn’t actually be the Eucharist – there is no sacrament in merely sharing bread and wine. (I come at this from a Catholic perspective, so someone without the belief in transubstantiation may view this differently. But I still think a distinction is warranted.)

        That said, I think a larger difference needs to be made between the threat that cultural appropriation holds for minority cultures and the dominant culture (in a Western hegemony). Coming after communion may be sacrilegious, may be offensive, may be in poor taste – but ultimately it does not threaten to dilute, destroy, or exoticize what the meaning of communion is. Treating a chuppah as a cute wedding arch, or having the groom ride an elephant to the ceremony because it seems fun and exotic, or jumping the broom as a cute way to end the ceremony is threatening, because appropriating these acts perpetuates an existing system of unequal power that has been produced through centuries of colonialism, imperialism, racism, and antisemitism. Christianity is on the other side of that history.

        • Amy March

          I mean, I’m not Catholic and I 100% would consider that cultural appropriation. Same as I would having your officiant dress up in traditional vestments because you think they make it look more ceremonial.

          • pope joan

            Do people do that?

            I would find the secular communion weird, and having a secular officiant dress in vestments offensive and sacrilegious, but I wouldn’t consider it cultural appropriation. I don’t think you can appropriate a culture (or a constitutive cultural element – like Christianity) with an active history of imperialism and within its sites of dominance.

          • Amy March

            Who knows if people do any of this, I was just suggesting an example similar to Meg’s. I think cultural appropriation is primarily not a thing you can do against a dominant culture in a problematic way, but communion and playing dress up as a priest would both to me be a way to do it and to do it offensively. But as Meg said, people aren’t really doing this I think because at some level they get that it is offensive without having to have a whole discussion about it.

          • pope joan

            I see your point – the fact that people don’t do these things is a privilege of being the dominant culture. Ultimately, if using a Christian-appropriation example gets people to recognize how cultural appropriation works and why it is problematic, great. I think your vestments example may be a better one for getting at that idea (so often clothes are appropriated sans meaning), but whatever works.

            I chafe at the idea that members of the dominant culture have reason to claim oppression, but since none of this is actually happening – unlike plantation weddings, which are actual nightmare events occurring all the time – other things are more important.

          • NatalieN

            I think it’s important to across the board say that appropriation is wrong. period. And yes, it is sometimes more hurtful if there’s history of violence between the two people groups but it doesn’t make it more or less wrong. For example, I’d allow that stealing a pack of gum is less of a hurtful crime than stealing someone’s car, but if an argument were made that raping a white male is less of a crime because they have historically been the largest perpetrators of the crime, I’d vehemently disagree. (and I think you would too – using this for obvious illustrative purposes).

            And, mainly the reason why I think this is even worth talking about is, that I feel like ignoring the dominate culture and making what can feel like special privileges for smaller/oppressed or formerly oppressed people groups can lead to resentment on the side of the majority culture. Which can leave a space for people to rise to power like Hitler. Sorry, did I say Hitler? I meant Trump.

        • Name

          This distinguishing between actual Eucharist and communion (culturally catholic here) and some other sort of bread/meal sharing ceremony makes sense to me because I know that religion, so its easy for me to draw the line. Bread+communion = the actual body of Christ, NOT a symbol of it, so it is a very serious, sacred ritual.

          I have a ceremony planning book that has a bunch of unity ceremony rituals in it–one of which is a wine ceremony. The book presents this ceremony as based in Judaeo-christian tradition, though from what I’ve read it seems more firmly-rooted in Jewish weddings. Wine has all sorts of symbolism tied up with it everywhere in Christianity, and other religions and cultures as well. However, my impression is that the Kiddushin may be MORE that just a symbol, like eucharist in the Catholic tradition.

          My question is, if a wine unity ceremony were done in a different way, like with no Jewish prayers, a different explanation of what the ceremony means, avoiding the same order etc, would that be more similar to the idea of a unity ceremony with some sort of bread breaking in it vs. communion? Or, on the other hand, is my book correct in that it is something that can apply to multiple faiths because it is tied to both Jewish and Christian tradition?

          Does anyone have a good, legitimate source on this stuff? The internet does not seem to concern itself with wedding appropriation enough for me to trust anything that it says.

          • Caroline

            First off, there basically isn’t a ‘Judeo-Christian’ tradition. 98% of the time, when someone uses that phrase, they are citing something Christian and assuming Jews think the same. Sorry, huge pet peeve, because it’s super offensive to me.

            But to your actual point, whether the book’s ritual is derived from the Jewish wedding ceremony depends on the ritual in the book. The Jewish wedding ceremony actually has two kiddushes (sanctifications of time over wine). The kiddush is a sanctification of time, over wine. Any time Jews sanctify time, it’s done over wine (the begining of the sabbath, the begining of a holiday, a wedding, etc). There are two kiddushes because the modern Jewish wedding is composed of two separate ceremonies which used to be performed months apart, a betrothal and a wedding. The betrothal meant you needed a divorce to marry someone else, but you couldn’t have sex until the wedding part. Eventually, for various fascinating and complex reasons, the two ceremonies were combined to one occasion.

            That said, I think reciting kiddush if you and your partner aren’t Jewish would be very much appropriation. I think drinking wine is common enough to many cultures that you could very well include sharing a cup of wine with a meaning to you without that being appropriation. More of an invent your own tradition. Why wine? What does it symbolize to you? That would be fine, and not at all kiddush from a Jewish wedding, but incorporating wine into your ceremony.

          • Name

            Thanks for your thoughts–that helps! I agree that the term Judeo-Christian is problematic, which is why the explanation in the book gave me pause. I wasn’t sure whether it was presented in that way because the importance of wine in religious and cultural rituals goes way back to even before there was Christianity–still a misuse of the term imo, OR if it was a way of telling readers (wrongly) that it is ok for non-Jews to use a Jewish ritual. Unfortunately, the kind of sophisticated discussions around being careful to not appropriate aren’t present in a lot of resources on wedding ceremonies. If it was considered by the author of this particular book, there’s no evidence of that included.

        • Keri

          Not all Christians take communion the same way, so that’s a good example of how not every member of the cultural group might have the same opinion of the ritual’s significance/place within the culture. My dad is a minister and we grew up in a very liberal denomination – he would gladly give communion to anyone who wanted to partake, even if it was out of curiosity. Having a sharing-bread-and-wine ritual without religious roots still strikes me as odd and specific, like you are challenging people to be offended/not be offended, when there would be a plethora of options that don’t strike that tone. Why not take a moment before the actual meal to say some words about how glad you are to be sharing your first meal as a couple, enjoying the community, coming together to eat, etc? Or the cake cutting ritual, which is kind of built for that? Hell, even if you did bread+wine+salt and recreated the housewarming scene from It’s A Wonderful Life, you could get away with the bread and wine.

          TL;DR, I have liberal views of communion and would find a secular bread and wine ritual offensive when you could easily accomplish the objective differently.

        • Gail

          Nope. Just chiming in here to say I think that could be considered cultural appropriation. And perhaps you are coming at this from the perspective of an American Catholic/Christian but Christianity is not always on the other side of that kind of history. Christians were and still are persecuted in some areas of the world. In particular, I live in a place where Catholics were very much second class citizens and are still likely to be poorer and more disadvantaged. In living memory, job adverts specifically stated “Catholics need not apply”. So yeah, in summary, I think you can culturally appropriate Christianity, whether or not that’s happening is a different matter, and your comments may be relevant in the US but not necessarily the whole Western world.

  • BDubs

    I think the hardest part of these articles is the fact that if you’re white, and the culture you grew up with is painful and you are rejecting it, it seems like you’re the bad guy for seeking meaning elsewhere.
    This seems like a dead end.

    • MRSlw

      I think a great way to incorporate other traditions is to ask people close to you (chosen family) if there is anything meaningful they would want to contribute to your ceremony. You won’t own their tradition but you will get to benefit from the many meaningful traditions in your new community.

    • Fiona

      I totally get this. But I also think that weddings aren’t really a time to be learning about other people’s cultures or trying them out (again, unless it’s a personal connection/friend/family member), and it really should be a time for reflecting and thinking seriously how to represent yourself, your family, and what is meaningful and important to you, not the prettiest, or most colorful, or coolest (and honestly, there are so many ways to incorporate pretty and cool without borrowing sacred and important things from somewhat else.

    • Meg Keene

      Well, I think the issue is that by looking to other people’s cultures, you’re actually taking on culture with tons of baggage… it’s just easy to ignore because it’s not your baggage. That actually was our idea behind this article, to find a way to lay out ideas for creating meaning that works for you, without taking from other people’s sacred traditions. That was our idea behind the step by step at the end.

      I mean, all that said, there are ways to fully seek meaning elsewhere. They just are REALLY complex, like a full blown conversion to another faith. I did that (not as a rejection of my culture, but for my new family), and it’s so hard and painful. It does, however, give you full access to another set of rituals… pain included.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        “Well, I think the issue is that by looking to other people’s cultures, you’re actually taking on culture with tons of baggage..”

        YES. This is what I was trying to articulate farther down. Taking traditions from other cultures divorced from that baggage in many ways, renders those traditions meaningless. Which is a WHOLE different level of offensive.

      • clarkesara

        Yeah, I think that’s another thing that rubs me the wrong way about, for example, jumping the broom as a white person.

        Intersectionality and intercultural/conversion type experiences are actually really complicated. It’s not “pick one from column A, pick one from column B.” My fiance is African-American and Chinese-American. I’m white. There are a TON of teensy micro-conflicts in wedding planning that have come up because our cultures have different approaches to weddings. (For example his mom accidentally kinda shat on the white/Christian tradition of Wedding Readings recently, because that’s not a thing in Chinese-American culture, and she probably had no idea how dismissive she came off.) So… yeah. Two people who already get to have a shared mainstream culture deciding to have the bridesmaids wear saris because it seems fun leaves a pretty bad taste in my mouth.

        • Meg

          WHITE PEOPLE JUMP THE BROOM??? Jesus Christ

      • Totch

        I’m going through this process a bit right now, and it’s also amazing how the baggage helps you gain clarity.

        I’m not a saying that all meaningful things must have pain or other similar background noise, but we’re putting together a wedding from multiple cultures and understanding and relating to the baggage does guide you towards what’s important.

    • jubeee

      I sort of scratched my head at the idea that someone would add different elements of other cultures weddings into their own. I rejected a lot of the Christian white tradition (my husband was never Christian so it was even more meaningless to him) and we just made new stuff up for ourselves.

    • clarkesara

      Make your own traditions!

      Also, and YMMV of course, but not all “white” traditions need rejecting. It’s one thing to want a secular wedding (which is just as “white” as a traditional wedding), or to want to make sure you don’t get married at a plantation or Robert E. Lee Park or whatnot. But to decide you don’t want a wedding cake because you’re “trying to reject painful white culture” is a bit silly, and to then decide to, IDK, Cut The BaoJi* as a substitute, is actually counteractive to your goals.

      *Not an actual Chinese wedding tradition as far as I know? Which honestly is what strikes me as so false with wedding cultural appropriation. It’s assuming that culture is interchangeable, and that whatever direction you want to mangle people’s culture in is OK because… well, because of white privilege.

      • Meg Keene

        Robert E. Lee Park #dying

        • BSM
        • Lisa

          Having moved into a southern-ish state, I am constantly surprised by the amount of Confederate “memorabilia” here. Everything from statues to restaurants named for Jefferson Davis. I just can’t get over that this is a thing!

          • Eenie

            My favorite is stonewall mountain in Georgia. Just carved Confederate generals into the side of the mountain.

          • Lisa

            I actually went and saw that as a kid! My parents took us as part of a big Spring Break roadtrip to Georgia, and we stopped there on our way home. My parents were very big into educational experiences during our vacations so I think it was more rooted in “let’s take some time out to see this thing” than “venerate Confederate leaders,” which is what a lot of the monuments down here feel like.

          • Eenie

            People told me it was really cool and to go see it. I finally looked up what it was and we still haven’t seen it. It’s on the docket for a weekend in the future.

          • clarkesara

            Same here! We didn’t actually visit it, and I’m not sure I even remembered it as being a Confederate Generals thing. But… ugh.

          • Eenie

            From wiki: “The carving depicts three Confederate figures during the Civil War: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis.” Just carved into the side of this rock.

          • Kayjayoh

            I found a Snoopy watch in the parking lot of Stone Mountain on a trip to FL when I was six. That is my #1 memory of the place. Still have the watch.

          • I think we also saw stonewall mountain in Georgia when I was a kid. I remember a laser show. And I remember it being my first encounter with people waving their confederate flags in the air. My first confederate flag memory! *shudder*

          • stephanie

            I live in the south and girl: it is a THING.

          • Lisa

            Yes, I think you live one state south of me if I remember correctly! I grew up solidly Midwestern, and while we’ve got our own issues, this strikes me as all kinds of wrong.

          • AP

            Oh God, Jefferson Davis everything. His damn plantation is in my town, and schools go on field trips there and it lights up for Christmas, and there is a freaking Confederate flag on the lawn and I just want to murder people.

          • Lisa

            There is a restaurant down the street from my house named after him, and I am conflicted every time I buy delicious pulled pork nachos during their half-priced happy hour.

          • Totch

            Sticking it to the man by only buying pulled pork nachos when they’re half price!!

          • Lisa

            I absolutely love this. You’ve absolved my conscious!

        • clarkesara

          Oh, gurl, as a White Southerner from a traditional/conservative family marrying a biracial dude whose parents are leftist hippies, you would be surprised how often this crap comes up. A big part of the reason we’re getting married in Los Angeles, where we live, is that there is much less potential for embarrassing racist minefields.

          • stephanie

            You know though, we lived in Portland (OR) and the second you cross SE 52nd you can find confederate flags hanging off homes. What is that?!

    • BDubs

      Thank you, all posters. I think that, at first, I misunderstood what I was reading from the original article.
      I felt like the message was basically “do what you grew up doing, that’s your niche”.
      Which was… disheartening.
      What I have experienced with weddings is not what I want to perpetuate. And “just make something up” sounded somewhat disrespectful. I know it came from a kind place but it sounds like if I don’t want to follow traditions I am familiar with, then I can have a “fake” wedding with “made up” traditions. That’s not a good way to feel.
      I think I understand, now, though. More context helps. So don’t steal a tradition or religious experience that you don’t plan to live out full-time. This I can definitely live with.

      • clarkesara

        If you think it’s important to incorporate tradition into a wedding, then, yeah, you kind of have to incorporate your own traditions, or then it’s not really traditional, is it?

        If you think it’s not important to incorporate tradition into a wedding, that frees you to do anything you want. Which means you can make your own traditions, and doesn’t make the wedding any more “fake” than it would be if you had a chuppah made from a thousand paper cranes. (I mean, to me, doing that would be way more fake than the alternative, where you came up with something that is actually meaningful to you.)

        My fiance and I are opposed to the garter and bouquet toss, so we’re not doing that stuff. We might replace those traditions with something specific that feels more like us, or we might just drop it and hope nobody at the reception notices/cares. But we’re not going to replace it with something from a different culture just because it seems fun.

        • J

          Just wanted to say that no one will care/miss the garter and bouquet toss. :) We didn’t do either, and, while I’m sure this is regional (we mostly go to weddings in or near major coastal cities), I haven’t seen a bouquet toss in like 5 years or a garter toss in 10+. That’s obviously not a reason to skip them if you want to do them, but if you don’t, don’t spare even another minute to worry about it!

  • Nameless Wonders

    My grandmother claims a family tradition that I can’t seem to find the origin of. Maybe it’s just our family (grandparents are Ukranian & Belarussian immigrants). Before a wedding, the bride’s father puts a gold coin in her shoe, for luck or prosperity I suppose. Since I had a surprise wedding, we did a little ceremony afterwards, at the ancestral house. Since my grandfather had passed away 14 yrs prior, we honored his memory by sampling some of the cordials & mead that is still brewing in their basement :)

    • Ashlah

      The “something old, something new” poem traditionally ends with “and a silver sixpence in her shoe.” Of course, in your family it’s a gold coin, so who knows! But I wonder if it might have a similar origin to the poem.

      • Nameless Wonders

        Seems like a similar meaning, but they didn’t speak English and still lived in the USSR when this would have been practiced in their family. I think the family history of the gold coins is that they were once buried to hide/keep safe during the war.

      • Kayjayoh

        I have a sixpence that I have loaned out for many a wedding (and used in my own) to cover both the something borrowed and the sixpence.

    • clarkesara

      Yeah, this is totally a thing. As Ashlah said, traditionally it’s a “sixpence”.

    • stephanie

      Sometimes brides in the southern US put pennies in their shoes. :)

  • Fiona

    We created a new tradition in place of the traditional father-daughter dance. My husband had to dance with my grandfather.

    This is the backstory: When my mom and dad started to date as teenagers, my dad was a “typical” American, and my mom was a German immigrant. My grandparents were not ok with the prospect of them dating, so my grandfather put my father through all kinds of hoops to gain his approval. Part of our family lore today is that when my dad was 17 and trying to get my grandfather to let him take my mother out of the house, my grandfather came down to the kitchen, slightly drunk, in an undershirt, and told my father, “nobody can date my daughter unless he learns how to waltz.” So my poor 17-year-old dad learned to waltz right there on the front porch with my grandfather.

    When my husband and I got married, my father had passed away, and my husband’s family couldn’t come to the wedding because of financial and visa issues, so when it came time for the parent dances, we changed things up. I went and got my mother and brought her to the dance floor, and Tony, having secretly learned how to waltz, went and got my grandfather. Most people at the wedding knew the story, and everyone loved it. My grandfather was both surprised and delighted.

    • sofar

      Aaaand now I’m crying.

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    • BSM

      Who led???

      • Fiona

        I think my grandfather led. Which is actually pretty funny because my mom taught my husband how to waltz, so she must have led with him.

        • BSM

          That is adorable.

    • Kayjayoh

      <3

    • Meg

      I love this so much!!! So adorable.

  • sofar

    There were so many things about weddings I thought were “basic” wedding stuff, until I got engaged to a child of immigrants. Turns out a lot of things are part of my “culture,” and my in-laws are so amused and sometimes troubled by them.

    Meanwhile, they’ve been hurt that we “forgot” to include some traditions that are a HUGE deal to them. And I was like, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know that was a thing! Please tell me other things you’d like us to include.” And they were like, “Well obviously we thought you were going to include that tradition because we thought ALL weddings included it.”

    One thing, for example, is that, in their culture, the bride and groom do a VERY specific first dance to a VERY specific song. The idea that we’d just go and pick a song that means something to us and dance to it is SUPER WEIRD to them.

    It’s been an interesting process.

    • clarkesara

      Oh god yeah. All of this. Especially the collision between Tradition (no matter whose) and “we pick something we like that reflects us as a couple”. There’s also a lot of “Well, obviously we thought….!” going on.

      • sofar

        lol they kept saying “first waltz” and “father daughter waltz.” And, for the longest time, we just figured they meant “dance” and that it was lost in translation (like how they call pharmacies “apothecaries.”)

        When we figured out the misunderstanding, my first thought was, “Come on. You KNOW your son doesn’t know how to waltz. And will never learn.”

        • Alexa

          Very early in planning my mother-in-law kept asking if we’d “booked the hotel” yet. I was so confused—we reserved blocks of rooms in two hotels near the ceremony, but we’re in a major city; it wasn’t like people wouldn’t be able to find somewhere to stay. It took a while to figure out that she meant a hotel for the reception, which didn’t apply for us because we had the ceremony and reception in the same location, but that clearly hadn’t even occurred to her as a possibility.
          Then there was the bigger confusion where she was adamant about throwing us an “engagement party”, which turned out to have a very different meaning in her (Nigerian/Yoruba) culture than I or my husband had realized. (We were happy to do it either way, but it definitely highlighted the capacity for communication confusion.)

          • sofar

            That’s too funny. And we DEFINITELY had a misunderstanding about the engagement party, too. For them, engagement parties are like a mini wedding. They hired a live band, catered a lavish meal and bought decorations that definitely cost more than what I purchased for the actual wedding. In the weeks leading up to it, she kept asking where we were registered and I was like, “Ummm … you register for an engagement party??”

            My parents attended this party and their jaws DROPPED. Later, when explaining their surprise to my MIL, I told her that, in our circle, engagement parties are small, optional house parties with a champagne toast. And she was like, “But how is that any different from a dinner party?”

          • Alexa

            Yeah, it sounds like a very similar approach to engagement parties! We ended up referring to it as the “Engagement Ceremony” (both phrases seem to be used in their culture) to make it clearer to non-Nigerians that it wasn’t just a small/casual party (which would have been especially confusing since it was the week before the wedding). There are pictures & a bit of writing about the final experience here: http://offbeatbride.com/my-nigerian-engagement-ceremony/

          • sofar

            WOW. That sounds and looks both amazing and INTENSE! I love the part at the end of how, after marriage, it’s all about meshing both families and coming to some kind of understanding that makes everyone happy. It’s hard. And a bit akin to culture shock? At least it has been for our families.

            You looked amazing, by the way. And seeing your family taking part in everything was so touching!

          • Alexa

            Thank you! Yeah, we’ve definitely had our share of culture shock over the years (and I’m currently pregnant, so I’m sure there’s more to come when we add a kid into the mix). The one thing that helped was that we dated for a really long time before getting engaged/married, which helped spread stuff out. The first conversation of “oh, you have to let me throw you an engagement party!” actually happened at least two years before we got engaged :)

          • Just chiming in to say that these stories/comments about what gets lost in cultural translations are giving me LIFE.

    • Kayjayoh

      OMG, part of my culture totally includes the chicken dance (and the hokey pokey) at weddings.

      • They’re both on fiance’s “don not play” list, lol.
        In his defense, he used to work weddings.

      • Michelle Moirai

        Mine too. It’s not a wedding if you don’t have the chicken dance and the hokey pokey!

        • Kayjayoh

          FWIW, we also waltzed our first song, and then everyone waltzed the second.

          But yes, chicken dance (“Dance Little Bird”), hokey pokey, and all sorts of polkas.

  • Claire

    In my (urban, Baptist, Southern) community, probably the biggest “tradition” (if it counts as one) around weddings is the cake-and-punch reception in the church gym or fellowship hall. I’ve only been to about ten weddings in my life so far, and the vast majority were weekend afternoon affairs consisting of a 20-minute long ceremony followed by everyone shuffling from the sanctuary to the tulle-draped gym, where everyone gets in a receiving line to hug the couple and wish them congratulations before going to get soft drinks, finger food, and a piece of cake. A few have had a little music and dancing, but alcohol is generally not present. The first time I went to an evening wedding with a sit-down meal, DJ and dance floor, and a champagne toast, I was in college, and I know lots of people expect a full meal with alcohol and entertainment with their wedding receptions. I think my denomination combined with the fact that most of the weddings I have attended are of young people paying for it all themselves.

    • sofar

      The cake-and-punch thing is common in my area, too (especially among my mom’s relatives/social circle). Sometimes it’s cake-and-champagne. But it’s almost always late-morning, early-afternoon. And then you go to the church gym/basement or, sometimes, a nearby park.

      When I went off to college, a friend was telling a story about how she “OhmyGAWD went to this wedding, and it was at 11am and then they just gave us CAKE and juice afterward, how TACKY!” That was the first (and only) time, as a white person, that I got to say, “You’re talking about my culture, bitch!”

      • Claire

        Hah! I heard a lot of that from my friends in college and at work in places that were not the south. Nice that you were able to come up with something to say. Whenever someone makes comments like that I get all shy and mumble something. (Based on your profile picture, are you in Texas? I’m in Houston :) )

        If I ever get married, I’m doing the cake-and-punch thing on the church lawn, hopefully also with a food truck!

        • sofar

          I’m in Texas, but I grew up in the Midwest, which is where I witnessed many cake-and-punch receptions.

          Your wedding reception sounds like my dream come true!

    • Kyla

      I grew up in the Midwest and what commonly happened for weddings I went to was the entire congregation was invited to the ceremony at the church. After the ceremony there would be cake and punch for all those people and a time for people to congratulate the couple. It was basically like a normal church service that had a wedding ceremony in it.

      After the church service there would be a private reception for closer friends and family.

    • Yes, “cake and punch” weddings are how you get married affordably! But it needs to be noted on the invitations, since people generally expect a meal :)

  • clarkesara

    For me, the line is drawn at “are you doing this because you want your wedding to be ‘different’?”

    If so, why not just make your own tradition? You don’t need Dia De La Muertos decor in June when you’re not Mexican to be “different”.

    One of my favorite weddings was a Jewish wedding, and they stomped the glass, had a huppah, and danced the hora at the reception. But you know what idea I’m “stealing” from their wedding? The fact that they had a pre-ceremony cocktail hour/beer and wine available during the ceremony*. THAT is something I think should be a tradition, and which meshes enough with my own culture that it feels like mine to borrow. I’m not Jewish, so I won’t be having a huppah or a Klezmer band. But I can still show hospitality to my guests in a way that feels unique, without appropriating anyone’s culture.

    *Which I’ve seen at a few other weddings, and which is not a Jewish tradition per se.

    • Eenie

      We did the pre ceremony booze too :)

      • BSM

        Us too! SO MANY PEOPLE fought us on it (“everyone will be wasted for the ceremony!” Spoiler alert: 1 glass of champagne does not destroy most people we know), but we were adamant. I’m so so glad we decided to have one–it really set the tone for our laid back, fun, dance party wedding.

        • Eenie

          Agreed! We didn’t have anyone fight us, but had about ten people tell us they wished they did it at their wedding.

          • Ashlah

            Add me to that list! Husband, parents, and I each did a shot before the ceremony, but we didn’t have booze out for guests. We could have been much better (more fun!) hosts!

        • savannnah

          I’m getting push back for it too!

          • BSM

            DO IT!! In the end, everyone admitted it was super fun. Also, I always feel awkward when I’m a little early for a wedding, especially if I don’t know many people there, and am just milling around. Having a drink in my hand would incentivize me to interact with the other early-arrivers a little!

          • savannnah

            Oh its happening for all the reasons you outlined. Its just the pushback is from our wedding site coordinator which makes me feel like EEEEEEE.

          • BSM

            If it makes you feel better, ours pushed back, too :)

          • savannnah

            YEP. that really does :)

          • Greta

            yes! I loved the weddings I went to with pre-ceremony booze. They’re the best!

    • Sarah

      We called ours a preception, and it was a great way for folks to nosh a bit before the ceremony, get to see each other, etc. My husband was out there, and I wanted to make a grand entrance with my dad. I’m sorta sad I missed seeing folks before the ceremony though!

      • clarkesara

        I don’t really want anything that elaborate, but I see no real problem with having a self-serve beer & wine zone for before/during.

      • BSM

        Preception! Amazing. I wish I’d thought to call it that.

    • iamtheshoshie

      I’m Jewish and totally don’t see any issues with having a cocktail hour before the wedding, but that actually IS a specific Jewish tradition. It’s called the hachnasat orchim and usually comes with some ritual pieces like teaching words of Torah, getting blessings from the bride, and breaking a plate. And, of course, lots of food and booze. :)

      • Alice

        I am Jewish and planning a Jewish wedding even though I’ve never been to one. I thought it was called kabbalat panim. Is that the same thing just a different name? It sounds like the same thing to me we are just calling it kabbalat panim.

        • iamtheshoshie

          Hah, yes, not hachnasat orchim. =P I must have been tired that day and just translated in my head instead of thinking about what the actual term was.

    • Nell

      I’m Jewish – and I have recommended to my non-Jewish friends to “steal” the idea of a yichud (the time you get to spend alone with your partner before going out to the reception). Because spending time alone with your partner after you just got married is a brilliant plan – and Jews happen to have a word for it. I don’t think that — or what you’re doing — counts as cultural appropriation. I’m not super good at articulating why – but I mostly just imagine my mother walking into the wedding. If my Jewish mother couldn’t tell you’d borrowed from a Jewish tradition, then it’s probably not appropriation.

    • Helen

      ha – this is a totally normal thing in NZ. We’re like, “I’m here, where’s the drink?” Standing around NOT with a drink? How will we talk to each other?

    • Bandy

      So my issue with this isn’t with the people who take this idea from my culture, but why we can all so clearly see that it’s okay to “steal” this awesome idea from the Jewish heritage but most other cultures are off limits. I agree that this is something worth thinking about but I also feel that this issue is not the biggest one when approaching wedding planning. This is actually a sacred tradition in the Jewish culture, imbued with so much meaning, which according to one of APW’s last articles about cultural appropriation qualifies it pretty immediately as off-limits to non-Jews. But that’s kind if ridiculous as the derived pre-ceremony cocktail hour is something that everyone can enjoy and hurts nobody. I have a really hard time with this concept (but I am putting a lot of effort – too much probably – into trying to develop a considered opinion on the subject) especially because of my own mixed and ambiguous ethnicity and family history. I mean, my family supposedly is part native American but I have no experience as a Native American. Would it be cultural appropriation to include a nod toward that history? A large part of my family is originally from Persia, but I’ve never been to Iran or spent a lot of time exploring that part of my identity. Suddenly my mom wants me to do henna before the wedding, which to most people at the wedding would be thought of as an Indian tradition and thus be judged as cultural appropriation or just confused, but it is actually a Persian tradition too. How does one person, in the midst of all the rest of the wedding / life craziness, navigate this? I mostly have just opted not to do so, foregoing the henna and saving myself some explaining to my wedding guests. But at some point I think we just have to go with what we want and like, possibly at the expense of being wrong in some way.

  • jordoncloud

    Thanks for the reminder. I’m currently wrestling with the feeling of not having a cultural identity. I’m white, yes. But I grew up “celebrating” Christmas with Jews and Buddhists. My mom calls herself a “recovering Catholic.” I’m such a mix of European descent that my nationality means little to nothing to me. I’m also currently looking for information on my biological father’s side of the family. During wedding planning time that has made me feel like just a blob of a person, without a lot of history to look back on. The wedding is really reminding me that I have no traditions to cling to or pass down. But, to your point, what I do have is the American traditions. I’ll walk down the aisle, commit “til death do us part,” and will create my own traditions in order to avoid stealing from cultures I don’t belong to.

  • Alexandra

    I’ve lived in Hawaii for fourteen years, but I’m originally from New York. We gave lei to our parents at our wedding, and the choir from the school where I work sang The Lord’s Prayer in Hawaiian as I walked down the aisle. Appropriation was a concern for us…we talked about it, for sure. There’s something about motive in the diagnosis, though, I think. There has to be a sort of ignorant, exploitative quality to it.

    With the lei…I mean, every wedding I’ve been to in Hawaii did the lei for parents thing. I’ve given and been given I don’t know how many lei over the years. And the song–I love my school and I love Hawaiian language and it was very meaningful to me.

    • Meg Keene

      Yes. I think this is right.

      • S

        As I’ve explained in more detail in my own reply, I don’t think you’re qualified whether intentions count for anything. It’s not your culture.

    • clarkesara

      I think there’s a huge difference between having these things because you live in Hawaii and they are the culture around you/the culture you adopted, and having them because they “seem neat”. You’re obviously on the former side of things.

      • stephanie

        Yep, this.

    • We did the lei for parents thing too– for the same reasons. I’m the outsider here (white girl from the mainland), but my partner is third-gen on the island, and even though he’s not native Hawaiian, the lei is really important in local culture around celebration and life milestones and honoring people you love. So it was important for us and especially for his family that we include that.

    • S

      Hm, I’m not saying that what you did was cultural appropriation or not (I’m white and not qualified to make the call – I don’t think any white person gets to decide whether they or someone else have appropriated a different culture) but I 100% disagree that intention counts enough to make something not cultural appropriation. I know personally my Indian friends could give a sh*t whether you’ve had a deep spiritual time in India really connecting with the culture and the religion/s and your host gave you a bindi wear once a a sign of acceptance…for them, if you wear that bindi when you come home, even if you do it with a rich understanding of the implications, and having given it a lot of thought…you still better back of their culture, because you’re appropriating it. And that’s THEIR call.

      • But Alexandra lives in Hawaii (14yrs) and is getting married there…so with your metaphor, if you lived in India for 14 years and every wedding you were given a bindi and you wanted to wear one at your wedding in India – this is a different situation than the one you created.

        If we’re going to make up hypothetical cultural appropriations to refute someone else’s story, we might as well keep it true to the original story.

        • S

          I’m saying that she’s not Hawaiian and I’m not Hawaiian and I don’t think either of us are qualified to decide what the limits are and what counts and what doesn’t. I don’t know when you’re allowed to claim a culture as your own. I think that’s a conversation to have with a bunch of different people from that culture who feel protective about it. If they’re cool, I’m cool. But no, I don’t think my Indian friends would think that anyone who moved to India as adults who weren’t raised in that culture or country and have no religious ties to any of the traditions should use them, for the record.

          • clarkesara

            But the Hawaiians who attended, sang at her wedding, etc. are Hawaiian. And I guess it’s possible that everyone was laughing at them behind their backs for being the dumbass Haoles who thought it was OK to have leis at their wedding. But it seems pretty uncharitable to assume that was the case when you weren’t there and honestly it’s none of your business.

          • S

            How many times have I said that I’m not saying her wedding was or wasn’t culturally appropriative and that it isn’t about what she did or didn’t do at her wedding, but about what she said about intent? I’m saying I am white, and I don’t get to say it was or wasn’t appropriate, and if she is white, she doesn’t get to say or was or wasn’t because her intentions were good, and if you are white, neither do you. I have not said and will not say or even assume privately to myself that what she did wasn’t ok. I don’t know whether it was! I have literally no basis for understanding whether it was or not! Possibly everything she did was totally cool, I just wouldn’t know, because: I. Am. Not. Hawaiian.

          • clarkesara

            Having been to India, I actually somewhat doubt that’s true. It may depend on the tradition and the situation (I think a full-on Indian style wedding based on Hindu religious traditions wouldn’t fly), but a lot of Indians expect that if you’re in their country, you’re going to do things their way. It’s a pretty culturally inclusive place.

          • stephanie

            Hey guys, I stepped in here and removed two comments because I think the conversation was leaning toward pouncing on S for stating her thoughts (which the post invites us all to do). I think the above comment from S is perfectly reasonable and in line with the post/APW, but I don’t think the one that followed necessarily is. Feel free to hit me up (stephanie@apracticalwedding.com) if you disagree.

            Also, as someone who is married to a Hawaiian, I do agree with: “I don’t think either of us are qualified to decide what the limits are and what counts and what doesn’t.” I assume living in Hawaii for over a decade means you’ve made several friends that are Hawaiian, so just ask. My husband would probably talk your ear off on this topic. ;)

      • Alexandra

        I mean, isn’t it always somebody else’s call about whether they become offended or not? I don’t have control over another person’s reaction, right? I think if we had had our wedding on the east coast of the mainland, we probably wouldn’t have had so much Hawaii influence, because it A. wouldn’t have been possible and B. wouldn’t have made sense except as a curiosity–i.e. appropriation.

        I don’t know. Maybe it was appropriation. Neither of us are from Hawaii. We’ll be outsiders until the day we die, even if we live here the rest of our lives. That’s part of the package when you choose to live in a different place from where you were born. Maybe it would have been better to just own it that we’re Haole transplants, which is a tired cliche that we are cheerfully aware of and do our best to respect.

        • S

          I am not saying that you did or didn’t culturally appropriate, that was never my point. My point was that I don’t think either of us are qualified to decide that, and nor is anyone else on APW who isn’t Hawaiian. And really my point was never about your wedding and how you celebrated it, but about what you said about intent. I just simply don’t think anyone who isn’t part of a culture gets to decide that because their intentions are good, they aren’t culturally appropriating. I also think boiling down cultural appropriation down to “Well, I can’t control if other people are offended by it or not” shows that maybe…you maybe just don’t really care about the issue. Because…nope, that’s not really a cool thing to say.

          • S

            Oh, and I don’t necessarily think that intent DOESN’T matter. Maybe that’s something that someone of that culture would care about and take into account. Maybe all the reasons you listed mean that it’s totally fine, and that’s a call someone of that culture can make after hearing how you describe the ways in which you thought about it, and seeing how this is something that has meaning to you. I really want to be clear: I’m just saying that WE don’t get to decide if your intentions give you a green light or not.

          • BSM

            I see your point, but who does get to decide? Native Hawaiians, obviously, but, as you note, there isn’t a consensus across groups on every action that constitutes appropriation and how much intent and experiences should factored in, etc. The way you’re phrasing your comments makes this seem like a black and white issue when, for the most part, it’s incredibly gray. La’Marisa had some really smart things to say re: policing appropriation down thread, which are probably coloring my opinions here.

          • S

            I agree that it’s not black and white, and that there’s no one person who can speak for an entire culture! It’s totally fair enough to think about things in a more nuanced way. All I’m saying is that when you’re thinking through these issues in a nuanced way, it’s important to remember that if it’s not our culture, it doesn’t matter how long and hard we think about it, we just simply don’t get a say. It’s not ours, it doesn’t belong to us, and we need to seek out perspectives of those who have a personal stake, even if those perspectives make us uncomfortable or guilty or confused. Even if we seek out multiple perspectives of those who have a personal stake, and those perspectives don’t agree – we’ve still got to do the work and not let ourselves off the hook with, “Well, we mean well, and if that culture wants to take offence, that’s on them!”

          • Alexandra

            Wow, this thread blew up. I didn’t have time to work on this yesterday, but I’m coming back to explain that Hawaii is a very strange place to live as a white outsider. I’ve been wrestling with questions about appropriation in very real, tangible ways since I got here in 2003. It’s complex and requires a lot of humility, and that gets…kind of tiring, sometimes. I have to respect the culture–absolutely non-negotiable; gotta learn about it and appreciate it while at the same time recognizing that I am an outsider and always will be, no matter how many local people are my friends. I love surfing but I didn’t invent it, love Hawaiian language but racially am an ancestor of those who tried to wipe it out, am going to raise my haole son here and it’s going to be even weirder for him because he’ll always be an outsider, too, even though he’ll be taught Hawaiian history, hula, and language in school.

            All that to say–when it’s the water you swim in, intent and having to be judicious about how you offend people becomes a matter of self-care. There are people who are offended by my very presence here as a white person–that me living here at all is, in a sense, appropriative. I was recruited by the state of Hawaii to teach in their public schools, but there are people who disagree with me being here on the basis that Hawaii was unfairly (and it WAS very unfair) colonized.

            So what do I do with that? Roll with it…keep trying, keep loving the people and the culture and the place, keep learning about the traditions while at the same time recognizing that they are not my own, keep speaking my standard English while respecting (and understanding pretty comprehensively by now) their Pidgin, and (gulp) keep smiling and letting it go when I hear “Haole go home”, because it’s a legit complaint in a way, and also…sometimes I can’t control when other people get offended.

          • stephanie

            I touched on this below (my husband is Hawaiian), but I think “because it’s a legit complaint in a way”… I think it’s totally a legit complaint, full stop. Illegal annexation is awful. :/

          • Alexandra

            Um, I can’t agree that “Haole go home” is a 100% legit complaint. I mean, because if I agreed that it was a 100% legit thing to say…I’d go home.

        • stephanie

          Yeah, I would say, based only on conversations with my husband and his family, that even if you live in Hawaii and will forever.. you’re not Hawaiian. You’re white Americans, aka the face of the colonizers, and that happened recently enough and caused such strife and damage to the Hawaiians that it still reverberates (and the secession movement is totally a Thing). If we lived there, I would attend Hawaiian celebrations and events and obviously welcome many, many aspects of Hawaii into my home, but that’s because my husband is Hawaiian and we would be doing so because of him (we do now, but it would be even more pronounced if we were there). You guys aren’t, and I think there is a key, important difference.

          Edited to add: I am not trying to be rude or jump down your throat or anything. I just think that because the pain of what happened to Hawaii is still present in the communities, and the trauma of having your national identity stripped is definitely handed down through generations, caution is always always the best plan.

          • Alexandra

            Yes, definitely. It’s just that…you know, I’ve been shouted down by seventh grade students on the schoolyard–Haole go home! when I’m trying to break up a fight; been called a “fuckin’ Haole” while surfing…the Haole go home! thing gets a little old. I get it–I don’t belong here. There’s no sense in trying to prove “I’m one of the good ones!”–annexation is an ugly story and it continues and it’s true. IN a sense, there are no good ones.

            That being said, my husband worked for years in the foster child program out here, but he’s white. I’ve worked for years in public schools out here, but I’m white. Despite the historical complexity and ugliness of the fact that we’re here as US citizens, we’re trying to contribute to the community here and we don’t take the privilege of being here for granted. And that goes back to intent. We’re here to appreciate and to participate appropriately (as opposed to appropriatively), we’re doing our best…and we just can’t accept Haole go home! as the final word in our particular case. It’s complicated.

            I’m pretty stoked about the opportunity to think out loud about all this stuff.

      • clarkesara

        I don’t think it’s the intention that makes the difference.

        But you better believe that if I had lived for decades in India, was fully integrated into Indian culture, all of my friends were Indian, etc. I would be factoring at least some elements of local culture into my wedding. If only because they’d be expected by my Indian guests, or because they were the easiest thing to get where I lived, etc.

    • Camille

      I had lei for all the guests at my wedding. It was originally just going to be for the wedding party and families, but my mom works in the floral industry and was able to get enough leis for every guest for just a little more. I was born in Hawaii and lived there until I moved for college and the rest of my immediate family still lives there. It felt right since while growing up so many milestones and celebrations involved lei so I didn’t even think about it as out of the ordinary at first. To me it was more out of the ordinary to have boutonnieres and corsages because I pretty much never saw those growing up. Then random Mainland people who weren’t there but saw photos on Facebook asked about my “Hawaiian themed wedding”. We had tropical flowers and lei, but this was pretty much it as far as any recognizable “Hawaii” things. I started to feel kind of weird about it. It wasn’t just some random aesthetic choice, it’s not like we hit up Party City and raided the luau section and threw pineapples everywhere because “woo, fun and ~exotic and Hawaiian!” I dunno, I feel kind of conflicted it in hindsight. I didn’t want it to come across as something I was using just for a decorative element when it really WAS something that had personal meaning and connection to me.

  • Rebekah Jane

    Having grown up a pastor’s kid, I went to a LOT of weddings that were presided over by my father, so I had no idea that weddings could even differ within the Christian space. I assumed that all weddings followed my father’s lead, down to the benediction that I heard at the end of every service. Finding out that other officiants had their own style baffled me.

    A lot of my wedding traditions are staying rooted in my “white Southern Protestant” culture, I’m working to reflect more of who we are as a family in everything we do. Of course, it is now a struggle for me to try to find a balance between my religious-based childhood and my adult secular beliefs without somehow appropriating another culture that might communicate those adult beliefs better. So, the solution we’ve come up with is pretty simple – we’re using what matters and filling the rest of the holes with stuff from OUR lives, not any one else’s.

    Yes, we’ll use the benediction I heard my father say a hundred times over the years, but we’ll also be doing our own vows. Sure, we’re cutting a traditional wedding cake, but we’re doing it with my grandfather’s naval sword that has been passed from cousin to cousin on my mother’s side. At the end of the day, I want our day to reflect the family I was borne with, the family I’m gaining and the family that we’ve made for ourselves. So yeah, a hand-fasting would be cool, smashing a glass would fulfill my secret wish to be Jewish and I’d love to figure out if I could jump a broom in a full-length dress. But that’s doesn’t represent anyone or anything that is important to me, so we’re spending our time (and money) on what matters.

    • clarkesara

      The interesting thing about handfasting is that I’ve moved in and out of pagan circles since I was a teenager, but even so, handfasting doesn’t feel like “mine”.

      • Rebekah Jane

        Yeah, as much as the traditions don’t coincide with my personal beliefs, that ceremony structure does feel like “mine.” It’s going to be a fun challenge balancing my father’s expectations and our beliefs, but we’re assuming that he cries so much while trying to perform the ceremony that you won’t be able to understand much anyway.

    • Hannah B

      Another idea as someone who grew up in the church (wasn’t a PK, but was an MK!) — we took some hymns and flipped all the gender pronouns, describing God as “Mother”. It was a gentle nod to both our Christian communities and queer communities (which, as it turns out, do not have to contradict themselves).

      • Rebekah Jane

        I’m leaning towards eliminating all gender pronouns completely and asking for neutral phrases like “Higher Power” instead of naming specific deities. The way I’ve described it to my father is “it’s not that Jesus isn’t invited – we just don’t want to talk about him.” Granted, he rolled his eyes at that, but my mom did laugh…

        • Hannah B

          Love this!

  • guest

    I had a Catholic wedding mass. It was a fun way to learn way more about the culture I grew up in but had never really explored fully and to celebrate my own background. It was also fascinated to realize how weird it was to about half the people at my wedding. Where I grew up, everyone was Catholic. But my adult friends and family are Jewish and Hindu and Atheist (or even Protestant) and had no clue what was happening. One even said “oh, so is this how you felt at my Jewish wedding?”.

    • Ashlah

      I’m an atheist now, but attended Catholic church as a kid. My husband and I went to my grandma’s Catholic funeral mass a few years ago, and it was fascinating for me to learn which traditions were Catholic-specific vs general Christian Church service. As a kid, I assumed all church was the same!

    • Greta

      One of my first Catholic masses was at a friends wedding a few years ago. I believe at the time I characterized it as “stand up, sit down, fight fight fight”. I was totally lost throughout the whole thing!

  • Dave Kom

    Get sunglasses for the pictures… Our first daughter had a beach wedding and didn’t get sunglasses… Everyone squinted… When my second daughter had to have the same… I found black polarized rayban knock offs for the whole wedding party super cheap at some place called sandysunglasses.com Pictures were amazing and made the first daughter jealous… WARNING… LOL

  • Allison

    I’m from Kentucky, and my husband is from Indiana. These are contiguous states. Even so, during wedding planning we found that there were lots of regional traditions we could draw on that would be “different” for some of our guests. Apparently the Groom’s Cake is not a thing outside of the South? I had no idea!

    • Lisa

      I’m a Hoosier, living in the south now, and I can testify that it is a completely different place! It’s interesting to me that my husband, who’s Californian, and I have more in common than I do with the people who are less than two hours drive from where I grew up.

      • Allison

        We joke a lot about our regional differences. My husband grew up German Lutheran in Indianapolis. I grew up a WASP in the South. The most pressing issue at our wedding was the iced tea – sweet or unsweet? We had to have both to satisfy both families.

        • Lisa

          My mom’s side is decidedly German Catholic as is my husband’s, which might account for the similarities!

          I love the unsweet vs. sweet debate! Southerners really do love it down here.

    • clarkesara

      I tried to explain the groom’s cake to my non-Southern fiance and it didn’t go over well. Partially because I never thought I’d have to give an ethnographic treatise on why it’s fun to have two kinds of cake at a party.

      Also groom’s cakes are weirdly sexist in a way that did not occur to me until that moment. I mean, again, two kinds of cake!!!!!! But the implications are weird.

      • Eenie

        Solution: have three cakes! Or two and one is for the other person and design them both Iike “groom cakes”.

        • S

          But again, like, why would you each need your own cake? You’ve got a cake…your wedding cake? Like, have as many cakes as you want, with as many gimicky themes as you like, but then they’re all your wedding cakes and the wedding and cake are still for both of you? Sorry, Australian here! Reaaaally don’t understand the need for a football or batman cake at a wedding, it’s such a sexist patronising idea to me!

          • Eenie

            When I said “like grooms cakes” I meant in a fun way. Not all of them are football or Batman. Just like not all wedding cakes are white and pink and flowery. I didn’t even have cake. I’ve been to weddings where each person designed their own cake, and it was really cool. Plus that meant more cake flavors!

          • S

            But if not all wedding cakes are pink and flowery and not all grooms cakes are batman cakes, and thus can be whatever cake you like, where does one being for the groom come in, in the first place? Is it just for him to eat? Is it just for him to serve? Is it just for him to eat? Assuming it’s tallied in the budget with the other cake, for all the guests, and you’re allowed a slice as the bride, aren’t you just describing a wedding cake? Lots of people have multiple cakes. Why call one a grooms cake? Again, Australian here so this is just one of those cultural things I just am not going to understand! :P

          • JC

            My own understanding of the groom’s cake is that the wedding cake is white/vanilla cake– which matches her dress– while the groom’s cake is chocolate, coffee, etc. cake– a darker color to match his tux. This does not actually answer your question of why we must call it a groom’s cake as there are weddings with two brides, two grooms, a groom dressed in white, a bride dressed in black, or everyone could be wearing denim overalls.

          • S

            Haha no that does make some semblance of sense, thanks!

          • clarkesara

            It’s for everyone to eat and is usually cut by the catering staff just like any old dessert, with no ceremony. (IIRC? I haven’t been to a wedding that did this tradition in a long time.) It basically takes the form of just another dessert.

            I also have a feeling that the tradition dates from a time when wedding cake wasn’t necessarily for eating (which, ummm what????), and definitely from a time when wedding cakes weren’t really meant to taste that delicious. So it was really either the dessert of the meal, or an additional dessert option for those who don’t like stiff sugary white buttercream. Nowadays it’s possible to make a cake both beautiful and delicious, which might be another reason you don’t see it quite as much anymore.

          • quiet000001

            In England, it isn’t so much that the cake isn’t for eating as it is the tradition is to take the slice of wedding cake (fruitcake) home with you and then you put it under your pillow and supposedly dream of your future spouse if you’re an unmarried woman, or you just enjoy it later and think good thoughts about the happy couple, if you’re not an unmarried female. It was kind of like a wedding favor rather than part of the meal. (Though the last English wedding I went to, they just served it as part of dessert.)

            Anyway, if you were doing that with the wedding cake, then you would need something else for dessert if you wanted to serve dessert.

          • quiet000001

            Old comment, but I think around here sometimes people used to have “Groom’s” cakes because back in the day (like when my mom got married) some bakers would flat out refuse to make a chocolate wedding cake. Wedding cake was some variety of white/yellow or a traditional fruitcake, period. And you couldn’t NOT have a wedding cake, so if you wanted a chocolate cake you had to have the plain wedding cake and an extra chocolate cake.

            Now, of course, you can get basically whatever you want as a wedding cake, so if you want chocolate wedding cake you just get chocolate wedding cake. (And it’s more accepted to not have one big wedding cake, too – like you could have a cake buffet with a variety of flavors instead of the one big super decorated cake.)

            All of that said, my partner and I have toyed a little with the idea of a groom’s cake, a bride’s cake, and a wedding cake (representing both of our preferences.) The primary reason for this is a good chunk of his family is vegetarian and don’t eat eggs, but it’s super traditional in my family to get the wedding cake from a specific bakery that doesn’t do egg-free wedding cakes. We do know of a place that makes a very tasty egg-free cake, so we’re thinking we could maybe do the egg-free for him (which he actually really likes because it reminds him of what he had growing up) and then something specific to me (I have to choose just one?) and the wedding cake from the special bakery, and have them all decorated so they obviously go together. That way his family don’t feel like they’re getting some special-arrangement substandard cake (like in the way some places have ‘vegetarian’ food options that are really awful and clearly indicate the chef doesn’t actually care about feeding non-meat-eaters) or like we’re going out of our way to provide for them, but my family is also happy. Plus, more flavors of cake!

            I dunno, we aren’t sure about it yet, we’re still pondering options. Making sure no one feels slighted or left out is difficult.

          • clarkesara

            Yeah, this is where I ended up on shaky ground trying to explain the tradition. I was like “It’s an extra cake! For the groom! Usually they’re decorated around the groom’s interests or identity…” and then I trailed off just like that because it occurred to me that either the wedding cake is the “bride’s” cake, and she doesn’t get an identity beyond that of wedding traditions, or the bride just doesn’t get a cake at all.

            It is pretty patronizing. Though most people don’t literally have Batman or football.

      • Grace

        My FH is “making” his own groom’s cake. We’re getting a few different small cakes and pies, but literally the only sweet he will eat is Swiss cake rolls. So he’s going to stack a bunch on a plate for his groom’s cake. Done.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m on the side of trying to integrate my tradition with hers and it can be very difficult to find a way that it’ll be comfortable or recognizable or explainable for both of us and still call back to how we both think of weddings. I had a very difficult time last week.

    I have a book of Jewish wedding planning, which is hugely helpful in letting me contextualize the traditions that I’ve seen all my life, and I hope in explaining at least the history behind them. I was trying to explain aufruf and feeling sad because we’re getting married somewhere near where we live now and not where my Jewish community is and I can’t really participate in that. It was clear that even just to live together and keep our own religions, we still need to talk a lot more about what that means, because my person starts talking about how having an aliya before the wedding flat out isn’t an option period because she’s not jewish, which given that I was trying to sort through my feelings was hard, and also the specifics of what she said were based on a ton of false information. Worse was her sister, though, jumping in with ‘it’s okay, we can throw candy at you at the bachelorette’ as if the meaning of the ritual could be distilled to something that would fit neatly into her ideas of how things go.

    • Danielle

      Sorry girl, I’m on the other side of this (got married last year to my beautiful gentile/atheist man); I don’t have much advice other than to keep talking about it all to each other! Religion and tradition and backgrounds and some really big, important subjects to deal with, and of course they’re gonna bring up heavy feelings. We’ve had so many fights and good discussions about it, both before the wedding and during planning (and after, too). They won’t go away with marriage; the blessing is that you are able to work through this hard stuff together.

      Good luck! And strength.

      • Elizabeth

        Thanks. It’s hard because I’m generally a more…passionate person, hah, but I don’t want to end up dominating things just because I’m outspoken about the things I care about, but on the other hand I really do care about them. On the other hand it’s surprising how quickly things can hurt when they’re connected to some aspects of culture.

        • Danielle

          I think it’s okay to express your passion and have things not be exactly “equal” or evenly distributed because…. that’s hard/impossible in the context of a wedding or a marriage, for that matter.

          Our wedding ended up being a lot more Jewish than we planned for / my husband would have liked both because I cared more, and stuff happened outside of our control (for example, our Unitarian co-officiant ended up dropping off the face of the earth a few weeks out… fun!). I feel a little bad about that looking back, but in the big picture, we both had fun and got our loved ones together for a great feast and party so, that’s all that matters :)

          • Elizabeth

            Thanks! It’s a little difficult because a lot of the aspects around religion are things I feel closely involved with — like the rabbi we’ll have officiating that part is someone I’ve known and gone to for religious advice for over half my life and who has told me since my Bat Mitzvah that it didn’t matter who I was getting married to, he would be honored to do the ceremony — while from her description it’s more background culture/structure. Like, we might end up with a Christian co-officiant if her mother feels strongly about having one, but it won’t be someone with a personal connection to either of us, which…I’ll feel a little guilty if we end up not having one, I think, but that’s also not something I’m inclined at all to push for, I’m just surprised that she isn’t either.

        • Caroline

          It’s worth talking that through. I think it can be okay for things to be unequal if you’re both okay with it. Our wedding was SUPER Jewish, even though my husband isn’t. (Although the reception was sort of WASP-y, since my mom is a WASP and that’s what I grew up with for weddings. My dad is Jewish and I converted and became religious as an adult). He knew the religious ceremony was important to me, so we went with it. And we spent a long long time on making sure the translations were just right so that we were both comfortable. We spent 3 hours discussing how to translate ‘kudeshet’ in the haray aht. Eventually, we settled on ‘made sacred to me’. I think we spent about 10-15 hours on the ketubah text.

          I guess my main advice is just keep talking it through. Eventually you’ll find a place that has room for both of you.

          • Elizabeth

            Thanks. It helps to know that it’s worked for you, because she seems generally okay with the idea of it being pretty Jewish, which is hard for me because I know I wouldn’t be okay with the idea of it being pretty Christian — I think it wouldn’t feel much like a wedding to me with some traditional Jewish rituals excluded. (But I guess we’ve had some of these conversations and this has come up before, because she’s okay with children being raised Jewish.)

    • Caroline

      If it’s useful, depending on your synagogue, you may still be able to have an aufruf. And even if your synagogue doesn’t allow an aufruf, they may allow a celebratory aliyah after the wedding. It’s worth asking. My conservative shul allowed my (non-Jewish) husband and I to have an aliyah. I think I was called to the Torah, and we both went up, then I said the blessings, and then the rabbi gave us both a blessing for our marriage with our English names.

      I’m sorry you’re struggling with this. It’s definitely hard, and requires so much talking.

      • Elizabeth

        Yeah. I guess the thing is I feel that most synagogues I’m comfortable in (raised reconstructionist, attend that or reform services generally) would let me, but I’m not a part of one — something that’s bothering me for other reasons and I’m going to take measures to fix but likely not in time to feel a part of that community by the wedding.

        Her immediate reaction of ‘no you can’t do that because I wouldn’t be allowed an aliyah in an orthodox synagogue’ was a bit overwhelming just because there’s a lot…wrong with it, including the fact that I wouldn’t be allowed an aliyah in an orthodox synagogue either and that’s also pretty irrelevant since I’ve only been to one . I guess part of the struggle is that I’m 800 miles from what I consider ‘my synagogue’ and also trying to correct half-formed assumptions about Judaism. So at this point I’d welcome a response of ‘ooh, chuppah’s are pretty, I like that’. Haha. But I guess that’s because it is deeply meaningful to me.

  • cpostrophe

    I’m a Filipino immigrant who moved to the West when I was 9, and while I keep connections to family and some Filipino-American and Filipino-Canadian friends, my actual connections to my birth culture are tenuous. I haven’t attended a traditional Filipino wedding in my adult life; but I come from a diverse friends circle that has had its share of Buddhist, Vedic, Jewish, and Wiccan marriages, along with various flavors of Christian and agnostic.

    I’m getting married in three months, to a white Presbyterian woman, and when thinking about what to incorporate into our ceremony, it just felt false to go heavily into the Filipino side. It’s not who I am. On one hand, a younger version of me would’ve been angsting over this, like it was a final nail in the coffin of my assimilation, of my selling out, and denial of my heritage. But the older me is proud of who I am, and of being someone greater than one heritage label. Where someone else would see tradition if I were to say, incorporate the “money dance” into our reception, I’d see my own appropriation of a ritual that I ostenibly belong to but would feel completely hollow to me.

    So we’re going to do our own thing. We’re going to have a wedding with a circus band and craft cocktails and unassigned seating because that’s reflective of our informal lifestyle and our hipster community. And we’re going to have a Presbyterian minister because she is my fiancee’s friend and that part of her faith is important to her. And, the Filipino parts that I kept were to wear a barong tagalog (because suits in the summer are just suffering) and to have a whole roast pig (because a lechon is a Filipino fiesta tradition that knows no boundaries). It’s us. It’s who we are, and all of it rings true.

    • Danielle

      Wow.

      Circus band + cocktails + whole pig roast = my dream party!!!!!

    • I featured a wedding on my blog the other day where one of the brides was half Filipino, half Canadian, and the wedding was in New Zealand. They incorporated a Filipino tradition of giving silver coins to each other, and had special coins minted with a maple leaf on them! I thought that was such a sweet and personal idea and a nod to both sides of her heritage :)

    • GH

      I know how you feel. I’m part Puerto Rican but was not born there, look extremely white and fair-featured (to the point where me having a Puerto Rican mother is a reliable go-to for the “two truths and a lie” game), learned Spanish in high school, and in general have only a tenuous relationship to that part of me. I KNOW a lot about the culture, and I love and admire it dearly, but it felt disingenuous to include a lot of Puerto Rican traditions in my wedding.

      However, my mother is very Puerto Rican. Born there, Spanish was her first language, etc. She was mentioning a bunch of traditions that I might incorporate, but always offhand, so I never really planned on doing it. Then one day my father mentioned that she cared more than she was letting on. She didn’t need me to go whole hog, exactly, but it was important to her that I include some token of my Puerto Rican heritage. She just didn’t want to stress me out with obligations. So one night while watching a marathon of Malcolm in the Middle, I cranked out a bunch of capias–decorative pins that you give out throughout the reception. My hands were a hot-glue mess and I was sick of looking at personalized ribbons, but I made 100 of them. And when my mother saw them, she cried. Pretty much the rest of the wedding was “our own thing,” highly personalized versions of still-recognizable (largely White American) traditions, but this one thing had a huge impact on my mother.

      • cpostrophe

        omg, I totally know those Mom Guilt Feels! I remember when I called my mom to tell her about the engagement and that we were planning the wedding. And I asked her if there were people from our extended family that she really wanted to have there and she said, “well, I don’t know if your fiancee’s family would appreciate having a bunch of Filipinos showing up.”

        “Mom, who do you think I’m marrying?”

        “Well, you know we always raised you to be more Western because it was better, and you had to drop your accent to blend in, so I can understand if …”

        “hey, hold up. Don’t make assumption about what I am and am not going to do. Like, yeah, I can’t speak Tagalog anymore, and a lot of Filipino wedding stuff would be like me pretending to be something I’m not, but we’re going to have a lechon, and I’m going to wear a barong because I like wearing that in the summer. H’s family has met me, they like me for who I am, and when you meet them, they’ll like you for who you are, too. You don’t have to pretend to be anything else, and you don’t have to be ashamed. Now, who do you want to invite from your side? I was thinking of these aunts …”

        and, yeah, up until that conversation, I had no idea about how my mom also had this ambivalence about our assimilation. She doesn’t talk about it much, but getting that Mom Talk about “well, I’m not going to tell you what to do, and I know that I’m partially to blame about how you were raised, but this thing upsets and I don’t know how to say it” was really surprising, and I’m glad we had a chance to talk through it.

  • Keri

    Re: Cookie table – my impression is that it is a Pittsburgh/Ohio regional thing with Italian roots. It’s a table with a zillion types of cookies on it, presented next to the wedding cake, where guests are encouraged to take doggie bags of cookies home with them, because there are so much fucking cookies. My mother informed me we would be having one, and she and her friend are just thrilled to be making cookies all summer for my wedding. I’m down.

    • CrazyCatLibrarian

      Thanks for the explanation. My family is all from Ohio but I’ve literally never even heard of a cookie table, let alone seen one in person. I’ve seen dessert tables, but they were usually a variety. If I ever did see one, I’d probably assume the couple just preferred cookies to cake, and not that it was some sort of tradition.

      • Keri

        I had never seen one in person because I’ve never actually been to a wedding in Pittsburgh! I’m wondering if our mostly-Baltimore crowd will get the gist or if we might need some signage to indicate, no, seriously, take some cookies home with you.

        • CrazyCatLibrarian

          I’m having a Baltimore wedding and I don’t think there would be any confusion regarding people not taking the free food, so you’re probably in the clear :) Maybe just put a stack of cute to-go bags or boxes on the table with them?

          • Jennifer

            I’m in Baltimore and I feel like that yeah… boxes or bags on the cookie table would be a great indicator of ‘take the cookies! we don’t want to keep them all!’

    • Every.wedding.in.Pittsburgh. Cookie tables! It’s both a requirement and a non-required wedding favor! HUZZAH!

    • Erin

      I’m from Pittsburgh and this is very much a thing. It was one of my favorite parts of the wedding prep actually- all of these women in my life (friends, friends’ moms, friends of my mom, so on) who volunteered to make cookies for my wedding and were so heartfelt and dedicated to the process. It makes me weepy thinking about it now, simply because it was such a show of community and support. The beauty of it is that I also got to make cookies for a friend’s wedding a few weeks before ours and it reminded me of the fun of the whole tradition and how it really makes the wedding a community effort. Cookie tables for the win!

      • Keri

        It’s such a lovely tradition and I think it really speaks to how some people like to show their love! These are probably the same folks who make up elaborate Christmas cookie trays and deliver them at the holidays… Peach-butt cookies, anyone??

  • Kyla

    This is a wedding that I saw recently on green wedding shoes that just screamed culture stealing. Some of it is based on the description and maybe I’m totally wrong but it just seemed off.

    http://greenweddingshoes.com/handmade-india-desert-wedding-nicole-jordan-part-1/

    • Spot

      YIKES

      • Kyla

        Yeah, it seemed like two white people wanted an exotic vacation wedding and because they have “Indian Friends” it’s okay (obviously not)

        • NatalieN

          Read the “how we met section” just a bit down on that post though, their parents lived in India, and the girl at least seems like she’s lived there from birth to High School.

          • Kyla

            That would make way more sense! I must have missed that section the first time I saw it.

    • Sara

      Wait, are we sure there is no Indian heritage on either the bride or groom’s side? It says they were both born and at least partially raised in India. Does that count for anything? I can imagine how weird it must be to want to celebrate your wedding the only way you’ve ever known (in the Indian tradition) with all of your (Indian) friends and loved ones in your birth country (India) while not actually being Indian (or maybe they are!). I know this is such a sticky topic, but this situation specifically seems to have some nuances, and because of that I’m hesitant to condemn them.

      • Kyla

        You can see my reply to this farther down. I don’t think they originally posted the “how we met” section and just posted pretty pictures and an “Indian themed” wedding. I may have missed that section when I first saw it which would be my fault.

        Now having read that section it is more nuanced then I originally thought.

  • Totch

    All of these comments feel familiar. I’m White, American, and a lapsed Catholic. Fiance is Asian, Chinese and Canadian, and grew up without any particular religion. We’re both currently atheists.

    I find myself worrying a lot about the balance between appropriating from the Catholic faith on one hand, and not having a wedding that feels like my family on the other. I know I have a culture, by it’s hard to figure out what parts of it I’m ok using.

    My fiance was surprised to be excited about a more traditional Chinese wedding, and we’ve been picking and choosing (read: scaling back) traditions as we research them. Many we’ve ditched because they’re more deeply rooted in Buddhism than general Chinese culture, which he never realized.

    It’s really interesting (and hard) to look at my own culture where every wedding tradition feels tied to my former faith, and at his where these things are only now being linked to a religion he doesn’t identify with.

  • the cupboard under the stairs

    We’re both white and we’re serving a mix of the usual wedding food (salmon, salad, etc) and Indian food at the reception because, well, we like Indian food! I was a little worried about the cultural appropriation factor at first. Then, yesterday, an acquaintance of mine (also white) told me she was having an Antebellum-themed plantation wedding in Georgia and I was like…nope I’m good.

    • Totch

      Guhjjjjhjjjjbbghhggd

      But yeah, food from another culture is not the same thing as theming off another culture (and probably avoids the “sacred” issue, yes?).

    • Sara

      I’m absolutely cringing. Oyyyyyy.

    • SuperDaintyKate

      I think in Navja’s last post about this, she talked about how one line you can draw re: appropriation (with specific reference to food) is when you are legit paying for a service that is of value (and not sacred) and in that way showing respect and giving value to the culture. Thus, paying for Indian food from an Indian caterer doesn’t count as appropriation the same way as it would if, say, you and your while lady friends draw mehndi on each other over a bottle of wine.

      • the cupboard under the stairs

        Yes, great point!

    • Hannah Holtgeerts Brenlan

      Hmmm — do you have any Indian friends or connections that you could speak with about this? They might have some good input about how to “appreciate” “Indian food” (let’s make sure to acknowledge that there are infinite food variations within India based on region, religion, etc), instead of appropriating it. If those connections are not in your life, maybe this is an example of being a privileged outsider trying to take something without context?

      For our rehearsal dinner, we hired a local Mexican-Salvadoran couple to make pupusas, yucca, plantains, and taquitos. My partner and I are both white Scandinavian and we talked openly with the couple ahead of time about appropriation — we learned that a portion of the catering cost would help fund the couple’s yearly trip to El Salvador where they provide medical resources to the community they came from. As someone who worked with Salvadoran refugees for two years, it was important to me that our funds were working to heal the damage done by the US government within that region, and to not perpetuate it.

      On the whole, our system was not perfect, but I believe it was better than paying a white caterer to make “local, organic quinoa enchiladas” (real thing thing on an invoice we saw — fyi, quinoa is not local!!!).

    • ART

      No kidding. I’ve gotten cringe-y at the thought of plantation weddings before, but I happen to be in the middle of reading Beloved at the moment and the cringe-y-ness just shot up to, oh, infinity.

  • I have a major issue with the title. It’s okay to take traditions from another culture as long as you’re not white?

    • Kayjayoh

      Nope. At no point was that said.

      However, white people of the dominant culture are most often the ones hoovering up bits and pieces of other cultures that appeal to them, without taking into account the meaning behind them.

    • clarkesara

      I’ve never met a non-white person who had the presumption to steal traditions from a culture that wasn’t their own.

      • Kayjayoh

        Oh it definitely happens. Consider how widely, for example, African American culture is appropriated, including by non-Black PoC. Consider how widely Asian and Indian aesthetic elements are fetishized and appropriated, including by other PoC. It happens. But white people are by far the biggest appropriators of other, oppressed cultures, globally.

      • rg223

        I mean, define “culture,” but to give a specific example off the top of my head, there’s an argument going around about whether “basic” originated in the black or trans community, and who appropriate it from whom.

      • Hannah Holtgeerts Brenlan

        Hmmm…I definitely have. I want to be careful about painting all POC as woke-unicorns. That’s its own conversation.

      • Anon for This

        Really? Really. Check out Beyonce as a Bollywood goddess in a Coldplay video.

  • Also, this article largely implies that all ‘white culture’ is pretty much the same, which is ridiculous. Have you never met a European person?

    • Kayjayoh

      Did you *read* the article? Like, the actual article that was written? Because no. No it does not.

      • Terms like “white culture” and “white wedding” give all fair-skinned people of the world have a single identity and history.

  • georgi

    First time poster here … I was worried about appropriation even from halfway within the culture. My hubs is Jewish and I’m Italian – my family are pretty traditional while his immediate fam only celebrated Jewish traditions for his grandmother’s benefit and don’t even do that much anymore now that she’s in a nursing home (she did make it to the wedding though – at 100 years old!) – I wanted to include a nod to both our cultures in the reception but did worry that the Jewish stuff might come off as appropriation-y, even with him being Jewish! I know he was too so we ditched breaking the glass but had the band learn both the horah and tarantella. Us entering to the horah (and our guests joining in as chair holders) ended up being many people’s favourite part of the wedding (seconded by my 92 yo Nonna dancing in the middle of the tarantella circle) so I think it all worked out (!) despite my/our fear that lapsed = appropriation.

    • Jenn

      I have also been worried about this, except I was the one raised Jewish and my fiance was not! I want to do the horah at our reception, but have been worried it might seem insincere since we are not having a Jewish ceremony. I’m glad it worked out for you!

    • Caroline

      I feel like there is both Religious American Jewish Weddings and Secular American Jewish Weddings, when it comes to weddings, where secular american Jewish weddings are basically white/secular christian weddings with a few Jewish traditions: the chuppah, the horah, the glass breaking. Religious Jewish weddings are a whole other shebang. (I grew up with Secular American Jewish Weddings, and I felt the culture shock at my first religious Jewish wedding… Wow are they a different thing. Beautiful and fun and wonderful, but different and not just in the ceremony)
      Which is to say, for Jews who aren’t religious, the horah, the chuppah, the glass breaking, etc, still isn’t appropriation, in my opinion. (Obviously, 2 Jews, 3 opinions, but I think this is a relatively widespread opinion).

  • Kim

    This is excellent. Thanks for writing an excellent thing, Najva.

  • Varenna

    I now live in the Northeast but grew up in Southern California. We (both very white) are getting married in Palm Springs at an old Spanish Estate. I am struggling with the line of what feels like “home” to me (everything I miss living in the Northeast) and what could seem like an inappropriate Mexican theme party. I want margaritas and tacos because those are my favorites, and I think talavera table numbers would go with the venue and remind me of the tile at my parents house growing up. But I vetoed my mom’s push for a mariachi band and I am torn about papel picado banners across the courtyard or a tres leches wedding cake.

    • yep, sounds like you have your work cut out for you. I’m not sure where the line between “non-sacred elements we paid for” tips into “themed wedding” but I feel like that’s the line you’ll have to draw yourself? Maybe it’s about keeping the decor non-mexican?

      • rg223

        Food in particular is really tough – Najva, do I remember you writing an essay about food appropriation? Or was that just a discussion in the comments? I think cuisine is the hardest aspect of the appropriation debate, because there’s SUCH a fine line between honoring the cuisine and appropriating it. In Varenna’s case, I think tacos and margaritas are okay… but I don’t really have any reason why aside from the fact that it’s food, and therefore not “ceremonial.”

        Though of course there are instances where food IS ceremonial. My wedding had a Chinese tea ceremony (my husband is Chinese) and I think it wouldn’t be good for white people to do a similar ceremony, but if a white person just serves green tea without the ceremony… I guess that’s okay? Plus I think it’s unrealistic for everyone to only serve the food of their culture.

        • Varenna

          For some reason I feel like I have to draw the line at cake. I am fairly comfortable serving tacos and margaritas because that’s what I grew up eating and it doesn’t feel like something we are doing to be different. But my mom is pushing for a tres leches cake and while I get where she is coming from (they are delicious!) I feel like it goes from a wedding with tacos to a wedding with all Mexican food. But that’s all made up in my head so I have no idea.

          • Ashlah

            FWIW, that’s probably a line I would draw too. You’re having margaritas and tacos because it’s some of your favorite food that you’ve eaten your whole life. You would have a tres leches cake because…your mom thinks it fits the theme? Thereby meaning the theme is Mexican? Yep, I would probably veto the cake too.

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  • Carrie

    So what happens when a white person belongs to a “non-white” religion? I’m about as white as a person can be, but I converted to Buddhism years ago. When I got married I hung prayer flags at the ceremony. This probably looks like cultural/religious appropriation, and that’s a conversation that I’m still not even sure how to get into. Is my being Buddhist at all an appropriation? As a white person, how can I express my beliefs without being condemned as a cultural thief?

    • anon for this

      I don’t think you can guarantee you won’t get called anything – there are people who believe white people converting to a non-white religion are automatically participating in Imperialization. There’s people in this thread saying you shouldn’t eat other culture’s foods, at least not without consulting people from that culture (I guess the presumably cultural natives making it and selling it don’t count). Everyone is going to have different lines for where the line is, and somebody’s going to think you’re a thief. The only thing to do is listen, I guess, and try to do the best you can?

    • I think the reason some answers are left vague is that this is meant to help people to start asking the QUESTIONS but trusting y’all to figure out your answers via analysis and discussion. I don’t know exactly what that makes you? But by my standard, if you’re practicing and converted, and sharing the burdens and the celebrations of a community… then you’re not ignorantly using prayer flags as cute decor.

      I’m not interested in policing anyone! Just urging deeper thought. ;)

  • jk

    I totally agree you shouldn’t copy-and-paste religious and/or cultural traditions into your wedding day that are not your own. However, while likely an unpopular opinion, I think this post is really polarizing. Creating two factions, a “white” culture vs. all other cultures, reflects an overly simplistic view of the world. Taking from other cultures is done across the board. Therefore, cultural appropriation should be recognized as a universal phenomenon. Plus, “white” culture isn’t a culture at all, it’s a social construct – as was mentioned in the post. Why give this classification any more validity and group all Americans of “European descent” into one category? It discounts the value of everyone’s heritage.

    If we are to condemn cultural appropriation we should condemn it in all forms. For example, those who are not Irish Christian shouldn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day since it is a Holy Christian Feast Day. There is meaning behind “wearing of the green” and symbolism in the shamrock. Yet why is St. Patrick’s Day not ever cited as an example of cultural appropriation and distortion by non-Irish, non-Christian people?

    The message we should instead focus on: we all have unique backgrounds, traditions and histories. Borrowing from other cultures, which we all do at some point, is ill-advised for your wedding. Stay true to your own experiences, and your wedding will be an authentic representation of you and your spouse. This should not be directed at any one group in particular, but should be a rule of thumb no matter what your race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

    • raccooncity

      Appropriation is also about power dynamics. In the context of american history, christianity has never been threatened (fox news reports notwithstanding.) And this is especially true in the context of present day america. Thus, having people take up christian feast celebrations, etc. has often been about survival for outsiders than ‘omg quirky when i do it, foreign when you do it’.

      In the words of the delightful Jaime from Broad City: “It’s almost like you are stealing the identity from people who fought hard for it against colonial structures.” (and if you haven’t seen that little slice of an episode, i recommend it. they pack a lot of knowledge in a short scene.)

      • jk

        Thanks for the reply. I appreciate your perspective and yes, in the context of modern American history you are correct. However, I don’t think you can base the definition of cultural appropriation on a selective history. Power dynamics shift throughout history. Many of the first American colonists were fleeing religious persecution, Irish Catholics have longed faced discrimination and hate crimes (even in their own country), and early Christians were persecuted (fatally and in large numbers). And it goes without saying, that by recognizing those events in history in no way diminishes the oppression other cultures have faced. Our histories are not mutually exclusive! Everyone’s heritage derives either from indigineous culture or immigrant culture. Can we not recognize that?

        All I am saying is this would be a more inclusive dialogue if we didn’t automatically dismiss cultures/traditions/religions because they have already been fully appropriated for corporations’ benefit (Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter). If anything Christian holidays have been most widely appropriated because they have been repurposed for mass consumption and are no longer given the sacred consideration granted to other traditions.

        I HATE fox news. I LOVE Broad City. All I’m asking is why does everything have to be so divisive? We can recognize the shortcomings of our mainstream culture without diminishing each other’s heritage and creating deeper divides.

        • Amy March

          Christian holidays have not been widely appropriated. Full stop. They have been imposed on everyone else in Western society deliberately by the church and the state for centuries. When a Jewish family puts up a “Hanukkah bush” they are doing something fundamentally different than a non-Jewish couple who uses a chuppah at their wedding because it’s pretty.

          Discussing cultural appropriation in the context of white people stealing from marginalized cultures doesn’t create division, it is one tiny little step towards righting the wrongs real people alive right now (not Christian maytrys slayed by the Romans) face because of existing divisions. We, those of us in the US, live in the context of modern American history. This isn’t an academic issue of how cultures transform over the history of time, this is a practice that causes real harm, right now, to real people who have suffered oppression at the hands of a majority culture. And to me, your response reads as a bit of an #alllivesmatter dismissal of that reality.

  • SuzyNP

    Huh, this is so interesting, because after last week’s Happy Hour, where someone posted a question about how “mixed-race couples” (not my term of choice, but I guess I qualify) balance their respective male/white privileges, I had a really long, great chat with my partner, and wedding planning came up as the time that I had to really think about my white privilege. It was the opposite to this article, instead of appropriating other cultures, I just kind of assumed that the way I knew of weddings was “the right way”. I didn’t leave much room in my mental image of a wedding for deviating from the standard British wedding, with an aisle, a ceremony, a dinner, first dance, dancing, hats, cake, favours, no other guests wearing white etc. etc. My partner had to make several attempts to get me to realise that my culture/my wedding traditions were not “More right” than his. I’m not sure if it was white privilege, or cultural/historical privilege, but at times I just assumed it the wedding would be the way I knew, and once I realised I was doing it, I realised I was also subconsciously assuming it at Christmas, Easter etc…

    • SuzyNP

      Woop, just realised I’m a day late to the party and all the interesting chats have already happened. Oh well, hello from over the pond!

  • Hannah B

    This article (and the comments) are everything. A month before our wedding, one of my childhood best friends and our current housemate separately said to me, “Umm…you do realize that you chose to have your wedding on Passover, don’t you?”

    I felt my Christian privilege spilling out of every orifice of my body. I felt ashamed and ignorant and stupid. I didn’t want to tokenize Passover by trying to include some element or two in our ceremony (we aren’t Jewish), but I also didn’t want to gloss over this.

    Instead, I connected these two friends and said, “I hope you two can process together the conflict around this and let me know if you think of some way to recognize Passover during the weekend.” They had a few conversations and then asked if they could do a toast, together, during the reception and it was one of the most powerful speeches I have ever heard.

    They gave the entire group in attendance (mostly white Christian folks) an explanation of the Passover story through a queer, intersectional lens (using phrases like “this is the weekend we celebrate our ancestors’ successful slave rebellion” — SO BADASS). They also acknowledged that they felt very sad to be away from their Jewish community that weekend, and delighted to be sharing this celebration with us. It was an incredible example of sharing identity, vulnerability, and a full spectrum of emotions in a safe space where people felt welcome to bring their full selves.

    As some folks have said, it is not the dominant group’s decision to name what is cultural appropriation or not. When in doubt, I recommend that we pass the mic to the people we are trying to appreciate (not appropriate) in the first place. From my experience, I trust that they can articulate their experience much more eloquently than I can.

    • anon

      Not knowing it was Passover isn’t ‘Christian privilege,’ that’s absurd. You were just ignorant of their faith – as most people are about most faiths in the world because there’s literally hundreds of them.

      • Ashlah

        Maybe, but it is Christian privilege that everyone in the US knows the dates of your sacred holidays. (Generic Christian ‘you’ not you specifically). It’s a privilege that a Christian is unlikely to ever have to say to a friend, “Hey, you realize you scheduled your wedding on Christmas/Easter, right?” That doesn’t mean Hannah is a horrible person for not realizing her wedding was on Passover (we can’t all memorize everyone’s holidays!), but she’s recognizing her privilege, and she seems to have experienced something wonderful, and likely strengthened her friendships, for having done so. There’s nothing absurd about that.

        • Hannah B

          Completely agree Ashlah — all my friends of other faiths (or no faith) know when Christmas is (thanks to a Christian-centered government vacation policy), but I did not know when Passover is, or even think about how my wedding might be interrupting this sacred time of my close friends.

          If a close friend planned their wedding on Christmas Day, I would be surprised and anticipate that they would have coordinated their schedule around this important holiday in my life so that I could celebrate with them — I was sad that my own mindset wasn’t the same. From my experience, my privilege shows itself when I realize what I’m *not* thinking about.

          • Lindsey d.

            Y’all realize that even Christians have to look up every year when Easter is? This is an issue with any holiday not based on the Gregorian calendar.

            In my culture, people check the local university’s football schedule before planning a fall wedding. And when Mardi Gras is when thinking about a wedding in February or March. But that’s our culture. I don’t think you can be blamed for not checking another culture’s calendar before planning your wedding. I’m sorry your friends made you feel at all badly about it. Remember the most important lesson from APW – your wedding is not an imposition. If Passover was more important, your friend were free to be there instead.

          • anon

            I would go on a wedding on Christmas Day before I went to one the same day as the Iron Bowl. Some things are just too sacred.

          • Lindsey d.

            Long live the SEC!

          • Hannah B

            Thanks for this Lindsey, and I want to clarify: my friends did not blame me or make me feel like my wedding was an imposition. What I heard them say was, “I want to be at your wedding, and I want to be with my Jewish community, and I want to frame this in a way that it doesn’t feel like a competition, which is how it feels right now.”

            You are totally right that a wedding is not an imposition, and also there are some tricky oppression politics at play when I am a white, cis, Christian person getting hetero-married and two of my closest friends are queer Jews (one of whom is also a trans* person of color). It was an incredibly beautiful celebration and this conflict became an amazing conversation that brought us together and was one of the highlights of the wedding.

            I just want to name that (as this article points out), weddings are beautiful, magical celebrations that do not exist in a culture vacuum; I think it’s important to consider how these dynamics play out in all areas of our lives — especially at big, fun love parties!

        • anon

          I don’t think the end result is absurd (the result was fantastic!), just the level of guilt for not knowing.
          For what it’s worth, I know when Christmas is, because it’s the same day every year (I don’t even consider it a religious holiday anymore tbh but I know that varies), but I’d have to look at a calendar for any other holidays… including Passover, which is labeled on all printed and digital calendars I have. I went to a wedding on Easter weekend and it was awesome because I already had Good Friday off (site policy, you get a free day to use whenever you want at other sites for my company).
          I don’t deny there is privilege inherent in being a Christian in the US. I just don’t think every single time we don’t know something it’s a sign of some form of privilege.

      • raccooncity

        christianity at this point in history is pretty well known all over the planet in absolute terms and LUDICROUSLY well known in relative terms, so while many religions may be unknown to other religions, christianity is not one of them. That’s where the privilege point comes in, as per Ashlah’s comment.

  • nutbrownrose

    A question for the crowd of geniuses that populate this comments section (no really, you guys are soo smart!):

    My fiance and I were both raised Roman Catholic, but his was much more Church and readings based than mine, and now he’s atheist, because he can’t make the logic of the Church work out for him with being a moral human (I disagree, but that’s what he says and I can’t argue beliefs). Meanwhile, I’m over here basically a Humanist who happens to believe there’s most likely a God that set off the universe. I still call myself Catholic, but not so much that I’m insisting on a Church ceremony. And we attended a Catholic wedding this weekend and for the first time in my life I felt insincere after taking Communion.

    What are two used-to-be-Catholics to do about a wedding ceremony when all we’ve ever known and assumed about our respective weddings was that we’d be married by a priest with the vows the Church has used for thousands of years?

    We can’t imagine borrowing a minister of another faith, because when we can’t make our own work, who are we to willy-nilly use someone else’s solemn vows to God? And we promised our mothers there would not be an “internet minister” of any sort.

    • raccooncity

      If you’re a humanist, get a humanist officiant. That’s not another culture in the same way that getting a rabbi would be. Partner and I had a humanist ceremony thanks to a lay officiant from the Unitarian Church (the lay officiants there do ceremonies for people who don’t regularly go to Unitarian services.) We just said “no god, no jesus please and thank you and we want to mention our commitment to community” and that worked for her.

      • nutbrownrose

        Thank you so much. I think I need to check out the Unitarian Church anyway as a way to reach God without the mental disconnect the Catholic Church requires (although, if I’m wrong and that’s not what Unitarianism is, please tell me, I don’t want to use anyone’s church for something it’s not meant for). But I’m really glad they have lay officiants, because a Justice of the Peace was really not sitting well with me.
        Now the issue will be working out if I want God in my ceremony, and if I’m willing to insist on it.

        • raccooncity

          It might depend on your jurisdiction – where I live it’s extremely difficult to become an officiant (like, as a friend of the couple, etc.) so lay officiants are common for some religions. Check out your local unitarian website, but here’s a link to the ceremony guide from one in Toronto:

          http://firstunitariantoronto.org/media/text/Wedding_Guide_revised_July_2010.pdf

          (in a complicated twist, they list many passages from others in this package, but that’s partially because they’re the go-to for intercultural and LGBT marriages here. we took our readings from other places in the end.)

        • Amy March

          Just chiming in to agree with raccooncity- what she describes is something the UU ministers in my area are comfortable with and perform frequently. Certainly it would be appropriate to ask your local UU church about it!

  • Les

    Not for arguments sake, I promise, but to get answers to real, earnest questions:

    I came out of this article more confused about what APW/Najva’s point was here. This article gives a lot of non-examples of ‘sharing’ intentionally, in an aware, ‘woke’ manner… which confuses me about the purpose of this article. Is this article’s point ‘Do not use elements that are not yours by birth, period’? Or is it that we can borrow, but must do so in a certain way/ after due diligence/ in certain circumstances?

    ‘And sharing and taking are very difference concepts.’ This article talks about taking, but I’d like to know about the sharing. What DOES that look like?

    ‘There’s a hidden element to all this cultural exchange that isn’t discussed enough: faith.’ The use of the term ‘cultural exchange’ here makes me wonder what is cultural exchange by the author’s definition in this context, and is it ok? Is it not?

    ‘Pinterest photos of those wedding traditions might be pretty, and those rituals might be “imbued with personal meaning,” but let’s not pull a Rachel Dolezal and pretend we have ownership over another’s culture without the burdens and baggage associated with living it.’ This line seems to suggest if something is imbued with personal meaning we do have a shot at it. Or with the Dolezal slam, is it suggesting not?

    Options ‘Dig Deep’ and ‘Do the Research’ suggest to me there are appropriate ways to appropriate (see what I did there?)… but then renege with the example of leis.

    And then there is ‘intention, intention, intention’ leading me to believe that as long as I do my research and intend to use elements in a respectful and aware manner, I can. Or can I not?

    All this to say: if APW/Najva are trying to say ‘no borrowing/taking’, why the suggestive language above? And if we can borrow, why no examples of appropriate, successful borrowing? I think that would be an interesting, helpful, positive article.

    • It IS confusing! Because there’s no hard answers. There’s just the hope that people will ask questions, and have conversations instead of picking elements based on surface desires.

      Sharing is a super grey area. I can clearly say what taking is, but after that, there should be nuance and conversation.

      Certain specific pairs or cultures: white America vs. black America (and in fact, most minorities), white america vs. hawaii, Japan vs. Korea, etc– have more complicated and specifically painful histories than other pairings. That should be taken into account. Doezal and leis are hard boundaries. I know it sucks, but white America’s done a lot of damage to a lot of cultures, and that sucked for them.

      Cultural exchange that’s respectful and not sacred can look like hiring people (of the culture) for music, dance, food, etc. Cultural taking is hiring a white seamstress to help you make a kimono inspired gown for your asian inspired, yet totally white, ceremony. (Also, Japanese interment camps weren’t super long ago, so, again, history plays into it.)

      So you see… research is important. I don’t know what you’re looking to do or add to your ceremony, but hopefully you can make those decisions with some awareness of the context from which it’s being taken.

      Good luck planning!

  • C.R.

    Wow, this really made me think!

    I have sort of an odd story: my husband and I are white, but members of an obscure branch of Shinto. I was raised Jewish, and he was raised Roman-Catholic. Both of us left our respective faiths and were totally non-religious for a while. Several years ago, we moved to a very Japanese community (seriously, we visited Japan recently, and multiple people we met had visited our town, or had relatives there!), and on a whim, visited this Shinto church. We just fell in love with the community and the people there. For both of us (especially me, a childfree, bisexual woman), religion had always been a force of oppression, and it was wonderful and refreshing to see that it didn’t have to be. It was freeing, and it resonates with me so much more than the Judaism I was raised with. My husband and I just “clicked” with this faith, if that makes sense? I’ve even considered becoming a minister!

    All of that to say, I’d be pretty peeved if I saw a white couple decide to have a Shinto or “Japanese-themed” wedding because it’s cute. Japanese food and sake? Sure, it’s delicious! But if the bride and groom wore kimono or performed Shinto ceremonies? Nope, nope, nope. Those ceremonies are sacred, and it would be horribly insulting to see them used as nothing more than meaningless set dressing.

    I really didn’t know how strongly I felt about this until I read this article – thanks for giving me lots of food for thought!

  • Anjli

    Is it culturally appropriating if you’re the minority taking from the country you live in? Or is that OK because it’s assimilation? This stuff confuses me. I’ve never been offended before when I see a white person wear a bindi, they’re not offended when I wear western clothes. Isn’t blending cultures a good thing in terms of everyone getting along? I never considered any of this a “thing” until I started reading about it over the last few months.

    As a British Indian person I have two cultures and will be having two weddings (It could be three since my partner is Sikh and my family is Hindu). Nobody is surprised or offended by this. Should I not be having a western wedding because I’m not white? Should I not be having a Sikh wedding because I’m not Sikh and consider myself British?

    I’m genuinely confused, opinions welcome.

    • mixed weddings are obviously going to pull from traditions of both couples! I said this downthread, but this piece is totally meant to get you asking questions, not to police your answers. You should and can do whatever you want. There’s just a lot of people using elements they have no tie (or a very weak tie, or a historially troubling tie to).

      It’s rad you’re not offended when a white person wears a bindi, but there’s also a complicated a history of white colonialism in india… and maybe white people should be reminded to think about that aspect when having an “indian themed wedding” or using traditional hindu wedding henna. That’s all we’re trying to nudge people toward: realizing the nuance of actions. It sounds like you’re doing the work to ask the questions.

      • Anjli

        Thanks for your reply :)

        I think I’ve only seen appropriation on very minor levels which is why I’ve never questioned it before. But thinking about it, I wouldn’t like it if at lot of English people started picking and choosing Indian aspects for their weddings because it was trendy or something. I also think I’d get a lot of backlash if I tried to complain about it.

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  • tr

    I really appreciate that this article does recognize the nuance and ambiguity inherent to discussions of cultural appropriation. Too often, it feels like the discussion centers around “If you ever do anything that’s borrowed from a different culture, you’re a racist horrible person”, and I think that does as much to kill the conversation as “It’s my wedding, so I can literally do anything I want, and you need to stop being so sensitive”.
    Granted, the only firsthand perspective I can offer is that of a traditional white person, but even from my perspective, it makes sense that there’s some nuance and ambiguity. If you want to copy my cookie table, go right ahead. Copy the white wedding dress, too, and feel free to serve bland baked chicken at the reception. Order a Groom’s Cake if it’ll make you happy, and make up little tulle bags of Jordan Almonds for the reception. Those are mainstays of white, Christian weddings, but there’s nothing particularly sacred about them. On the other hand, it would bother me if two non-Christians decided to get married in a Christian church, play Ave Maria, and read passages from the bible. And yet, it wouldn’t really bother me if those same two non-Christians decided to get married in field and read one passage from the bible that resonates with them alongside a variety of other meaningful passages from other sources. So yeah, there’s a ton of nuance and gray area, even beyond “Feel free to appropriate my secular, consumer culture but don’t appropriate the religious aspects”.

    Do your due diligence. Read up on the thing you want to incorporate, and try to get a feel for whether it’s especially sacred, or if it’s that culture’s equivalent of Jordan Almonds. Think about the overall context of the wedding. And recognize that sometimes, two reasonable and thoughtful people could reach very different conclusions regarding the appropriateness of something.

  • Daisy6564

    I am Catholic and nearly all of my friends have either lapsed or intentionally left the church. One important thing to me was to explain the significance of the rituals in a Catholic wedding. Prior to my wedding the only religious weddings I had attended were Hindu or Jewish. My formerly Catholic friends all considered these cool and could overlook ways in which traditional Hindu or Jewish religion did not mesh with modern values in a way that they could not with their own faith of origin.

    At each of the other religious ceremonies I attended, there was a guidebook of sorts to explain the history and significance of certain rituals for those not from that faith tradition. I thought that these were so helpful that I decided to do the same thing for my Catholic wedding even though I am from the relgious majority of my area/friend group. My practicing family thought I was a bit crazy but I found the research really helpful to get over certain things I bristled against too (ex. there is actually no “giving away” in a Catholic ceremony).

    I wanted to educate my friends that traditions from their own culture are beautiful and don’t need to all be rejected out of hand over some (legitimate) concerns on the church’s stance on certain social issues.

    Lastly, my pet peeve is people who love the Dia de los Muertos aesthetic but are not Catholic or Mexican. That and all of the Navjo and Aztec prints around these days. Yep, they are totally beautiful, and also a meaningful part of cultures that were essentially destroyed by imperialism. Just say no.

    • A A

      Question re: Dia de los Muertos. Some folks in my family choose that day to honor deceased relatives simply, with a small altar of photos, candles, autumnal touches occasionally (e.g. gourds) and maybe a sugar skull or two. We are white and non-religious, albeit spiritual. I’m conflicted about this. In some ways I feel like the underlying Mexican/Aztec culture is being honored and not appropriated, especially because we are in Texas and like everyone else is doing tequila shots on this day and Cinco de Mayo. On the other hand maybe it is appropriation.

      On a related note it is super interesting to me that the Catholics’ All Saints Day is a stolen pagan holiday. Why is everything appropriation? I want to make up my own holidays but I feel like it would be hard to do that without taking elements from different cultures.

  • Sasha

    I am pretty torn about whether it is appropriate for us to have a second line parade at our upcoming wedding. We are both professional jazz musicians, but we are white, and we live in the pacific northwest. I lived in New Orleans for some time, and all our horn playing friends are excited to have an opportunity to play at our wedding. I know this is a traditional New Orleans tradition that is rooted in African culture, but I’m having a hard time navigating who to ask about the potential implications and whether or not this is appropriate (the internet has let me down on this particular question). In a practical sense, we need a way to shepherd our guests the quarter mile up the road from the ceremony site to the reception site. Not really sure how to proceed or if we should just leave it alone, call it something else (a marching band?), or just let people figure out on their own how to get up to the reception.

  • Annie

    I’m against appropriation, in fact I have a degree in a similar field. But I’m sorry, having a Hawaiian themed wedding in Hawaii as non-native islander is not appropriation. Sharing of culture isn’t imperialism. Rejecting a lei in Hawaii would be seen as incredibly rude for anyone.

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  • adribluestar

    I may be setting myself up here, but I’m in the process of planning a wedding. I am an American national of Scottish heritage on my Father’s side, and decided to incorporate Scottish elements into our wedding (i.e. kilts, presentation of the tartan, our family sword, etc.). Still, the Scottish side of our family has been in the U.S.A. since 1749. They immigrated after the Battle of Culloden and the Highland Clearances. I can’t help but sometimes wonder what a Scottish national would think of my silly American “Scottish themed” wedding.

    I never thought of having any other type of influences beyond what I personally felt most connected to from generation to generation within my own family. Though, I wonder if some people would just as well assume I’m into “Outlander.” LOL!

    Admittedly, I do get a little flush whenever anyone calls the kilt a dress or a skirt, especially in front of my family members.

    So yeah, I can imagine how Americans can second guess their own culture. It’s hard enough being a bride, losing confidence in every decision, and second guessing yourself.

    Additionally, I never thought to check other religious calendars! I’m really glad to learn a lesson from the comments, and I found this link:

    http://www.interfaithcalendar.org

    I lucked out with our wedding date, but I will definitely recommend this to my close friends when they plan their own weddings going forward!

  • Vern Kahl

    This article can’t possibly be serious.

  • I thought America was suppose to be the country where people of different ethnic backgrounds come together and SHARE their heritage with other people from other cultures? That we, as a people, can learn and enjoy what others have to offer? This “culture appropriations” b.s. phenomenon is perplexing inasmuch that is causing a regressive movement that is making people more segregated now, instead of becoming less segregated and more diverse.

    I happen to love middle eastern food. When I cook it, am I being culturally appropriate? I really don’t care, because the reason why is that it tastes awesome and is extremely healthy for you.

    Instead of saying people are appropriating your heritage, maybe, just maybe they are actually supporting it by including it in their occasion.

  • Jessica

    Not for nothing, but who is your target audience here??? You sound like a bitter hating old hag who went to a wedding and judged every aspect of it. Are you seriously saying you’ve seen white couples jump the broom, non jews brake the glass , and hula dancers at weddings?? And if so, who are you to know if thit was not “intentional” … excuse me, this must byy white privilege coming out. I cant believe i wasted my life reading this…no less commenting. Your a racist asshole.

  • jabulon

    Is this a friggin’ joke? So glad I’m outta the loop. I can’t wait to riot when the PC police crash my future wedding. You liberals don’t realize that you’re militantly enforcing cultural segregation. If whites aren’t allowed to enjoy the traditions of other cultures without fear than eventually the hypocrisy will become obvious. If you don’t understand let’s put it this way. What if whites became militant and created a law that any minority wasn’t allowed to “culturally appropriate” anything from white culture? It’s a total joke. Then whites would be the racist overlord’s again. some of my best years as a liberal were when I explored and imitated other cultures. I was the dude wearing Bedouin jewelry or African print shirts, do you really wan’t to say whites cannot do that anymore? Seriously put some thought into this, you modern segregationists.