By Ninette Cheng
Northwest Asian Weekly
As the wedding season approaches, many couples are faced with the challenge of planning a wedding with multiple cultural customs. As individuals increasingly date outside of their race and ethnicity, many couples choose to blend cultures together on their wedding day with multiple ceremonies, outfits, and customs.
For most people, incorporating culture into a wedding is a priority, especially for their parents.
“It’s crucial,” said Monica Lo, an engaged Chinese American. “It’s very important for me because as an immigrant, I just feel like my culture is a big part of who I am.”
“I think it was more important for his family rather than mine,” said Japanese American Ann Fukazawa. Fukazawa got married to Vietnamese-Chinese American Liem Huynh last year.
“My family is more Americanized,” she said. “In terms of Japanese traditions, I wouldn’t say we did anything that was Japanese at all, which was fine with me.”
“My parents wanted some semblance of an Asian wedding,” Huynh said. An important component in Chinese and Vietnamese weddings is the tea ceremony.
Judy Tran, a Chinese-Vietnamese American woman, is getting married this summer to Chris Dannemann, a white man.
“He has to come to my parents house and pick me up that morning for the wedding,” Tran said. “Everybody that’s older than us in my family — we would serve tea to, out of respect. It’s kind of asking for their blessing for the marriage. Since my dad is Buddhist, there are a lot of rituals.”
Dannemann said his family will be participating as well.
“They’re more than willing to do it,” he said. “They find it pretty interesting.”
For Lizz and Michael Eng, a Chinese and Vietnamese couple, fitting the tea ceremony into the wedding day was be a challenge. Instead, they scheduled it for the rehearsal dinner.
“We kind of meshed it together,” Lizz Eng said.
The Huynhs and the Dannemanns opted for a Western-style reception.
“The food will be American cuisine,” Tran said. “We’re doing all the basics: garter, first dance, father-daughter dance. The reception will probably be very traditional.”
Both couples chose to serve American cuisine at the reception and Chinese cuisine at the rehearsal dinner.
Dannemann and Tran plan on having their marriage blessed in the Catholic church as his family and Tran’s mother are Catholic.
The Engs held a Chinese and Vietnamese reception.
“On Saturday, I wore my wedding dress and an orange Vietnamese dress,” Lizz Eng said. Orange was the wedding color.
“I figured we were having Chinese food at a Chinese place, so I wanted to wear a Vietnamese dress so I could bring my culture into it,” she said.
“My mom wore a Vietnamese dress for the wedding ceremony and for the reception, she changed,” Eng said. “My mother-in-law wore an American dress for the wedding ceremony and we all changed at the reception at the same time. The mothers wore the same fabric, one in Vietnamese style and one in Chinese style.”
Eng says that both Chinese and Vietnamese families visit every table for a toast. The younger Vietnamese generations often play a game of dangling food on the chopsticks, she explained. The couple must then lean in to eat it, consequently kissing.
Every couple said the hardest item to compromise on for the wedding was the guest list.
“The place that we picked holds a maximum of 200 people,” Fukazawa said. “Regardless of whether the Edgewater held 1,000 people, I still didn’t feel comfortable having over 200 people at the wedding.”
“I had six people from Japan fly in,” she said. “I had my parents and a few people on my dad’s side. We allowed his parents to have 100, which was half. They were still disappointed because they still wanted to invite more.”
“Being the first son of the family, your wedding is usually important to the parents,” Huynh said. “We could not get everybody in there that we wanted.”
The couple compromised, and family members who were not invited to the wedding attended the rehearsal dinner.
“It disappointed my parents a little bit, but I think they got over it,” Huynh said.
Dannemann said he was not surprised when he realized his wedding would host 300 guests.
“That’s typical of an Asian wedding,” he said. “They tend to have large families. Her parents have lots of friends that they wanted to invite. Everyone invites everyone to his or her child’s wedding.”
“I think the family size is what drives the size [of the wedding],” Dannemann said. “I think, in general, American families seem to be smaller.”
The Engs’ wedding reception housed 450 guests.
“Ours was packed,” Eng said.
Fukazawa said in the end, the complications were worth it.
“I had a blast and so did all of our family and friends,” she said. “I realized that all weddings are going to be somewhat difficult and stressful regardless of culture, family dynamics and expectations, and personal expectations and desires.
“But when you are marrying the right person, you’re going to be happy, grateful, and completely ecstatic on your wedding day.” ♦
Ninette Cheng can be reached at email@example.com.