Ideas and inspiration for planning a bilingual, bicultural wedding

June 28, 2018

 

Ben and I got married 3 years ago. Planning our wedding had its ups and downs. We knew what kind of wedding we wanted but we just didn't know where it was going to take place. Coming to a decision was a lengthy process. 

 

Initially, we thought we’ll get married in Greece. It made sense. I am Greek, the weather in Greece is nice, the food is nice etc. The truth is, living in the UK, having a full-time job and planning a wedding in another country proved a nightmare. Getting through to people on the phone was not easy and the time difference —Greece is 2 hours ahead— was making communications even harder.

 

After careful consideration, we decided to get married in Oxford, where we live. We wanted to have our wedding in our local community. So, we decided to get married at the Greek church.

 

Ben being British, me being Greek and Cypriot, naturally, our wedding was a bilingual, multicultural affair. It was important to us to plan the celebration of our decision to marry by including elements from all our cultures and backgrounds. Everything was carefully planned and the cross-cultural elements were subtle, but everywhere. This is exactly what made our day special and true to who we are.

 

Here are some examples of how we achieved the above. Hopefully, you can draw some inspiration and ideas from our photographs for your wedding.

The flowers

 

We chose flowers in the colour palette for our wedding which was purple, silver and light green. The pallet was inspired by the colours of lavender, thistle and olive. Ben’s grandfather is from Scotland, so the thistle was a nod to his heritage. Lavender is something I have associated with living in south England and is known for its calming qualities. My father brought with him olive tree branches from his olive groves in Greece. They were then added to the flowers. 

 

 

Wedding party outfits

 

Parents and wedding party chose their own outfits of course, but they all coordinated to match the wedding colour pallet. The groom’s suit was navy with purple and silver details to match my flowers. His boutonniere consisted of flowers from both our countries: thistle and olive.

 

 

Church ceremony readings

 

We were very lucky that our priest and singers could read both Greek and English so we requested that they read some parts of the service in Greek and some in English. This worked really well. Our priest also took the time to break before every symbolic moment of the service to explain to our guests what’s happening. 

 

 

Confetti 

 

Traditionally, in Greece, once the couple exits the venue the guests throw rice at them, yes at them. It’s more of a rice attack than a blessing. The tradition takes place because as many say the word «ρύζι» meaning 'rice' shares phonetically the same stem with the word «ριζώνω» meaning ‘to grow roots’. So you throw rice at the couple wishing them to grow roots together. We did that, but, we also added some heart-shaped paper confetti punched out of a Greek-English dictionary. Being a translator, this little detail meant so much to me. 

 

 

Menu with a Greek twist 

 

We had our wedding lunch, reception drinks, cake cutting and party at Turl Street Kitchen. The menu consisted of traditional, British-European dishes made with seasonal, locally-sourced produce. We’ve asked TSK to add oregano and olive oil to the roast potatoes and to accompany the meat with a yoghurt and mint-based sauce instead of gravy. For our dessert, we couldn’t decide between a delicious cheesecake and a chocolate tart, so we asked the staff to bring both and randomly place them in front of our guests. If they didn’t like what they got, they swapped with their neighbour. It is said that cheesecake has its origins in Ancient Greece! 

 

 

Music

 

Ben and I danced to Chet Baker’s It’s Always You which was followed by a mix of Greek and English songs from Greek folklore dances, 80s and 90s Greek songs to jazz, swing, pop and, dare I say, mainstream with lyrics in English. And of course, we provided our guests with some dance shoes so that they could dance all night long.

 

 

Wedding favours

 

Traditionally, in Greece, guests are given sugared almonds. We couldn’t relate to sugared almonds, so we placed only 3 in each favour and the rest of the sachets were filled in with walnuts and raisings because we love them and we often have them for breakfast with Greek yoghurt.

 

 

Icebreakers

 

When families and friends from different countries meet for the first time at the wedding, it can be awkward. We anticipated this might happen so we inserted a few icebreakers here and there. The seating plan was quite mixed. We didn't have a single table with all Greek, or all Cypriot or all British guests. More practically, we purchased a few disposable cameras and scattered them around. They were a great conversation starter. We did not have a guest book. Instead, we asked our guests to drop us marriage advice notes in a glass jar. We read them the following day and counted messages written in at least four different languages.

 

There are many ways you can plan your wedding so that it embraces the cultures and languages of your families and background. And if you have speeches, make sure to hire a professional interpreter and resist the temptation of doing it yourself, especially if you are the bride or groom. Nerves on the day can make even the most-rehearsed speeches go wrong. Besides, it’s your big day and all you should be doing is relaxing, enjoying yourself and taking in every moment. The day goes so quickly and what feels like preparations of months or even years, disappears into the past in a blink of an eye.

 

Happy wedding planning! Need help with wedding translation or interpreting? Get in touch.

 

Photo credits MT Studio Photography. 

 

Vasiliki is a professional translator and interpreter working with English and Greek. She specialises in legal, marketing, and psychometrics. She is a member of CIoL and ITI and she is registered with the Greek Embassy. Her mission is to help you reach your goals through the power of words. You can contact her at vp@grtome.com and you can follow her on LinkedIn,  FacebookTwitter and Instagram.​

 

 

 

 

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