Archive for September 17th, 2007

Encounters In Cross-Cultural Confusion

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Bulletin to all brides: never assume that terms such as “bridal shower,” “rehearsal dinner,” “toast,” and “reception” mean the same to you as they do to others. And by “others,” I specifically refer to (1.) your family, (2.) your groom and his family, (3.) your wedding party, (4.) your guests, or (5.) your vendors.

Plan to state your expectations in each of these areas clearly, and to re-state them frequently (and forcefully), so as to avoid confusion. It’s your wedding, but without your constant input, misunderstandings can occur that will take control of the direction and tone of the event away from you (and you’ll never get it back.)

This is especially true at weddings with cross-cultural, or “Old World” components. For example:

* South Africans offer toasts at the reception – not the rehearsal dinner. But just one such “toast” can last 15 minutes! (Are you okay with that?)

* Aussie “toasts” are occasionally R-rated. (Is your Mom okay with that?)

* Costa Ricans consider any party which ends before dawn to have bombed.

* Poles expect breakfast at the end of the party (see sentence above.)

* Most Europeans consider it rude to be addressed by their first name until they have invited you to do so.

* Southern Italian fathers dance the First Dance with the bride. The groom cuts in.

* Japanese guests won’t go through the buffet line until all guests of higher social status have served themselves first. If the bride isn’t hungry, those expensive truffles go untouched. (And your Dad will not be okay with that!)

Because of the potential for confusion at cross-cultural weddings, I advise you and your groom-to-be to attend at least one reception representing each of your backgrounds. Discuss at length which of the traditions you observed there are important to you, and which – if any – you wish to avoid. Include your families in these talks. If nothing else, you can thus be forewarned of what your new in-laws may be expecting. And you can use these opportunities to let everyone involved in the wedding know that – at your wedding, you won’t look kindly on “surprises” – no matter how they do things “in the old country.”