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How planning a multicultural wedding brought me closer to my roots

engagement photoshoot

As you may know I was born in a multicultural family – my mother is from Quebec and so a French-speaking Canadian, and my father was a refugee from Chile when they met. I grew up speaking both French and Spanish at home, eating both maple syrup and manjar, empanadas and poutine.  It takes a long time as a child to realise that this isn’t the norm.

In my early twenties, I moved to Scotland where I met my Brit, who is Scottish. It took only a few months for me to realise he was my guy and I’d probably end up marrying him. Here we are almost six years later, about to get married. It is a lovely feeling, one of overwhelming love, to get our families and friends together and proclaim in front of everyone that we want to spend our lives together.

That feeling slowly faded and was replaced by the anxiety that comes with wedding planning. I soon realised that planning a multicultural wedding added a layer of difficulty and stress to the whole process. My family was already separated across two continents, but now we had added a third.

Because we live in Scotland, we decided to get married here, which seemed like it was cutting out a lot of people from my two sides of the family (I guess we could have gotten married somewhere half way, like the Azores or Iceland? Next time…) For those who would be coming over, we wanted to make sure to create a cultural experience for them. And then we realised it was the same for all our friends and family here, we wanted to find ways to share my cultures with them too.

Then the biggest question of all came up: Through cultural and language barriers, how do we make all sides of our family feel included? We realised we had to dip into our ancestral heritage to highlight our differences but also to show the diversity we love about each other, wanting to make sure to share that with our friends and family that aren’t part of those cultures.

The whole process really forced us to think outside the box. I believe myself to be a creative person, but it was really hard to know where to start. You see I couldn’t find any templates for invitations in two languages. I couldn’t find any celebrants in the area that speak my native language. I couldn’t find caterers that knew how to bake traditional Chilean pastries or provide a poutine evening buffet.

This malaise highlighted the lack of diversity (that fit my own) of where we live. But persevered we did!

We started by researching the easiest and quickest cultural wins, ways to highlight the Scottish heritage of my future spouse. We decided together to include the wear of the kilt and incorporate Scottish food such as haggis and seafood in the menu.

But most importantly for me, I wanted to ensure my cultures were a part of it. I wanted my parents to have a positive cultural experience, but also see themselves and their cultures (and me, their child) represented in this environment.

What made the most sense for us was to start with having in mind a multilingual ceremony, with English at the centre since it is the most common language on our guest list. We found a way to make this dream happen, making it legal at the same time! We also decided to include poetry in French, Spanish and Scot during the ceremony, and to have speeches by various members of the family that speak different languages. Giving a chance to everyone to have a voice and be represented.

I also decided that I wanted Chilean wine served at the wedding, an homage to this delicious export from my father’s country. I wanted to (and still plan on) baking my own wedding cakes, with Scottish (raspberries), Chilean (dulce de leche) and Quebec (maple syrup) flavours in mind.  As well as a Scottish ceilidh, we also want to include songs from Quebec and Chile for everyone to discover and (hopefully) enjoy.

As you can maybe tell, after a while I started to relish in the difference. Just like in my early twenties when I had started embracing my difference and my diversity, I started to embrace the fact that our wedding was going to be a giant non-traditional, melting pot of cultures.

The beauty of it is that by being forced to look more into it, it brought me to dig deeper and really learn more about my (ancestral and adoptive) cultures. How could I incorporate cultures from Quebec, Chile and Scotland, all in one fun and semi-cohesive package? 

I learnt about the Scottish hand-fasting ceremony, which I never knew is the tradition from which the expression ‘tying the knot’ comes from. Started researching poems in my native French language, discovering amazing contemporary young female poets and song writers. Found and tried recipes for my favourite desserts my grandparents made.

As someone who grew up between cultures, the wedding planning process really highlighted to me how important those roots are, and that I wanted to honour them and share them with those I love most.

Were there important parts of yourself and where you come from that you discovered while planning your wedding?xx

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