Two for one: How to pull off a multicultural wedding celebration


Photo: Jen Fariello Photo: Jen Fariello

Sarah and Joyee Dasgupta got married on April 28, 2012. Twice.

The couple, who met while they were students at UVA, started with a traditional Christian ceremony at Keswick, complete with Sarah walking down the aisle in an ivory wedding dress. Then she changed into an Indian sari and rode in on a piri for their second ceremony—this time, to honor Joyee’s West Bengali heritage.

“I think his parents were taken aback that we planned such a traditional Hindu ceremony,” Sarah said. “But I really wanted that. It ties me together with all of the women in his family, that we have that shared experience.”

These days, there are more and more multicultural couples, and plenty of ways to honor both backgrounds when they decide to wed. Some build the ceremony itself around one culture and focus the reception on the second. Others encompass both heritages simultaneously during the wedding, with the bride and groom wearing the traditional dress of their culture, or each donning the garb of their loved one’s native country. Often, readings, songs, and decor are worked into the ceremony to signify two cultures coming together.

Cultural diversity

It’s also not unusual for couples with different nationalities to hold two ceremonies—one honoring each culture—on separate days. (Warning: This means two anniversaries to remember!) Some couples hold ceremonies in each of their home countries for family and friends who can’t easily travel.

Sarah and Joyee chose to hold two ceremonies on the same day and invited everyone to join them for both. She wasn’t concerned that guests might not feel comfortable with unfamiliar traditions, and said their guests’ diversity actually helped underscore the blending of cultures.

“It was special to have everyone who’s so important to us be part of both ceremonies,” said Sarah. “We had guests who were Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish!” she laughed.

Sarah and Joyee made sure their wedding program explained the customs they included in their ceremony. She says one of the most meaningful was being loosely tied to each other with a red cloth and circling a fire seven times, with each lap representing a distinct element of their lives together.

Best behavior

Different cultures expect different behaviors from wedding guests. For instance, few guests would dream of distracting a Christian ceremony by talking. But in a Hindu wedding, it’s perfectly acceptable for guests to get up, have a snack, or talk during the ceremony. Sarah and Joyee encouraged guests to be interactive during the couple’s nearly two-hour event, which “added to the festivity.”

Sarah said one of the highlights of the day was watching her father chant along with the Hindu priest. “Here the priest has this beautiful singing voice and my dad is just trying to chant along with him. A Hindu bride is supposed to be very somber, but my dad was up there chanting and I was trying so hard not to laugh. Everyone was just rolling in the aisle!”—Lynn Thorne