With South Asians living all over the world, it’s no surprise that fusion weddings are becoming increasingly popular.
We’re all trying to make our own wedding unique, but fusion weddings have an extra element of challenge to not only “fuse” two (or more) cultures, traditions and/or religions, but also attempting to please both sides of families.
How many events will you have? Which events will you have? Your mom wants a big fat Indian wedding but you don’t want a 300-person reception. You and your partner want a simple ceremony and a beach reception, but both sets of parents don’t like that idea. With Indian families, it’s not always easy to make decisions on your own (without intrusion), and it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. Stick with me and I’ll walk through what you should know before making any decisions:
Family Expectations & Communication
The first step to every single step of the wedding planning process (in any culture) is communication. Set up expectations from the beginning with both families so there aren’t any surprises later. Yes, that’s easier said than done. Despite open communication, every wedding brings some sort of tension.
The challenge with an Indian fusion wedding is that parents might still want the big fat Indian wedding experience. The reality is that they might not get that, and they might not be ready to accept that fact quite yet. Whether or not it’s hard for parents to accept, you should be aware of any underlying expectations that you’re probably not even aware of now.
Talk it through with your family, listen to their sides, and take it from there. Now is also a good time to explain your desires of what you (and your partner) want at your wedding.
TIP: Even if your parents aren’t planning any of the events, keep them posted on what’s going on. Parents want to be in the know. You’ll find there’s less room for conflict if you include them. But if you keep those expectations clear, you’ll likely see less conflict.
If your parents really want a large event, have a separate sangeet or pre-wedding welcome night to include Indian traditions like – a singer, raas/garba, dance performances, etc. Keep the wedding ceremony and reception small (or to the numbers of your liking). More on events in a bit!
Onto some fun stuff!
Wedding traditions fascinate me, especially since most of the traditions are from hundreds of years ago. I wanted to share a few of my favorites traditions that I’ve seen from around the world. Maybe it’ll serve as some inspiration!
Philippines: The bride and the groom release a pair of doves – one female, one male – this represents the newlyweds living a happy life together.
Ireland: The bride has to keep her feet planted to the dance floor at all times while dancing otherwise it will give the evil fairies “an edge” (not sure exactly what they will do…but that means no jumping around!)
Peru: Pieces of ribbon are attached to the base of the wedding cake layers. Attached to one ribbon is a fake wedding ring. All of the single ladies try to pull a string and the lucky lady who finds the string with the ring attached is supposed to be the next to be married!
Read more about fascinating wedding traditions from around the world.
What are your favorite cultural traditions? Tell us in the comments below.
Now back to the wedding you’re planning…
Incorporate Both Cultures
What matters to you?
First and foremost, what’s important to you and your partner? What traditions or customs matter to you both now, and what traditions do you would want to carry onto the next generation?
If it’s your religion that defines you, then incorporating certain ceremony elements could be a focus. If it’s your love for Bhangra music, play that up throughout the wedding. Whatever it is, discuss what matters to you most early on so you’re on the right path from the beginning.
One of the most fun parts of a fusion wedding is celebrating each culture. What do you want to share with your new family and your guests? Thought starters below..
Food! Hands down, food is the most anticipated part of any Indian wedding, and now you have two cultures to celebrate. It’s a great opportunity to make it fun and PLAY IT UP! Integrate food options. Ask caterers about custom menus – you never know what they can come up with. If you’re not feelin’ the idea of “fusion” food, pick and choose favorites from each culture.
TIP: Serve food from multiple cultures. That way, guests can find cuisine that they’re comfortable with or food that they’re excited to try. [Create paper menus to go with it!]
Be Creative! If you’re Indian and your partner is Mexican, consider Mexican appetizers with an Indian dinner. Or showcase appetizers from both cultures and opt for a more American style dinner. If you want to keep it straightforward, stick to American food for dinner, and create a gorgeous dessert buffet featuring desserts from both cultures.
Music and Dance
Almost every culture has a wedding tradition linked to a dance of some kind. Whether it’s the “Horah” or traditional Greek dancing, think about how to incorporate music and dance. Dedicate different events to different types of music, or mix it up.
If you want to spice things up, use reception entertainment (or entertainment for a pre-wedding event). Showcase the cultures with a performance. That’ll really get the party started! Or, keep things subtle by using different types of music as background music at the cocktail hour or between events in the hallways of the venue.
Flowers: Weddings across cultures all over the world use flowers- they’re a perfect way to showcase both cultures. Incorporate colors from each culture at your events, or pick color themes by event.
Decor: Use art, furniture and designs from each culture to add a special touch. Or, use your DIY elements like personalized menus, name cards, and signs to incorporate colors, font styles and themes.
Customs/Rituals: With fusion weddings, it’s hard to incorporate every single tradition of each culture. Think of what events you want when you pick and choose the traditions that mean the most to you and your partner. If you’re having two full separate ceremonies, incorporating rituals might be easier. If you’re having one joint ceremony, you’ll have to think carefully about what you want, if anything. More on events in a bit!
Find Similarities in Customs:
Just as you want to find unique traditions to showcase at your wedding, it’s also nice to find similar or overlapping traditions or rituals. For example, the Jewish “chuppah” is a simple version of an Indian wedding’s mandap. If you’re having a Hindu / Jewish wedding, keep the mandap simple to speak to both cultures. “Hava Nagila” is a fun traditional Jewish song where the bride and groom are lifted in chairs to celebrating an occasion. Indians tend to do the same thing (or just lift the bride and groom during the reception). Celebrating those traditions automatically speaks to both traditions and can be a fun time for everyone!
Events – How Many and Which Ones to Choose?
With fusion weddings, the number and type of events is a completely personal decision. It really depends on what you want, what your partner wants, and potentially what your families want. On top of that, the budget should be an important part of the decision (more on that later).Your events can be set up many different ways, let me give you some examples:
Your events can be set up many different ways, let me give you some examples:
- Fuse the cultures into the ceremony + reception. Have a Hindu wedding ceremony and finish off the ceremony at the mandap with an exchange of vows. Add in an officiant different than the Hindu priest to add that special touch for the 2nd ceremony.
- One ceremony + reception. Have a Hindu ceremony or choose a wedding (church or another venue) to have a traditional ceremony (Christian or other). When going this route, you can add in cultural tidbits and traditions in other places – like, using a colorful paisley theme for your reception decor or having mehndi artists at the reception for guests.
- Pre-wedding event(s) + ceremony + reception. Start off your celebration with a Mehndi or Sangeet event to break the ice with both sides of family and friends. This is a great place for music and dancing and introduction to Indian culture (for guests who aren’t familiar with it). The ceremony can either be combined or kept simple with one ceremony, followed by a reception.
- Pre-wedding event(s) + two ceremonies + reception. If you want the whole shebang, opt to have a big fat Indian wedding and add in a traditional wedding ceremony.
- One simple ceremony (non-denominational)+ reception celebration. If you’re not feelin’ the huge big fat Indian wedding or multiple events, keep it simple with one ceremony and a reception celebration. Incorporate as much or as little of each culture as you want.
- Or, have any combination of the above, and add in a second reception. Indian parents might not back down from the idea of a smaller reception, so you could opt to have a separate “Indian” reception hosted by the Indian parents, where they can invite their friends and more extended family beyond those at your main reception.
TIP: If you’re an Indian bride and you’re having the “big fat Indian wedding”, prepare your groom (if he’s not Indian/South Asian) so he knows what to expect going into it!
Someone has to pay for all of these awesome events. Part of deciding the guest list and how many events you’ll have is who’s paying for what. Indian families often split wedding costs these days – but in many cases, the bride’s family takes on a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to wedding costs. Other times the groom’s family might opt to cover the cost of one event, like the reception. But that’s not always the case, and fusion weddings are no different. If the wedding cost is up to you (the wedding couple), combine events or even maximize your venue rentals and vendor services based on what you’re looking to do. Discuss budget with both sets of parents and make sure everyone is on the same page before wedding planning gets in motion (if they’re contributing).
Indian weddings with multiple events are tough to schedule. You want all your guests to be a part of the action (especially those who’ve traveled from far). But you don’t want to cram two full ceremonies at different locations and a reception at another location all in one day since it’s exhausting for everyone – not only for you but also for your guests.
So what do you do?
Use this short but necessary checklist to help schedule:
- Travel: Are you guests local or traveling for afar?
- Length: How many days do you have in the weekend to have events – i.e. if it’s a long holiday weekend, you could have more events than if it were a regular weekend.
- Location: Where will your events be? You might choose to have different events in different locations (like if your parents live in one state and you/your partner live in another) or have the entire wedding where you currently live
- Destination: If you’re thinking about a destination wedding, would it be “halfway” for your guests (or within a reasonable distance)? If not, can guests make a vacation out of it?
Scheduling events goes hand in hand with the type of events you’ll end up having so planning these two together works in your favor when trying to make your decisions.
What Do You Wear?
Wear whatever your heart desires! There are so many designers these days that cater to the modern bride that there’s so much to pick. It’s just a matter of figuring out what’s right for you.
For my wedding, I was set on wearing a gown to my reception but sticking with a traditional lehenga for the ceremony. Opt for something more modern, traditional, or not Indian at all.
Ideas for inspiration
Guests. We’ve talked about what you want, but now it’s time to talk about your guests. Guests at a fusion wedding want to be a part of the action. That’s why they’re coming to your wedding!
They’re not coming to sit on the sidelines. If they’re not Indian, they want to be Indian for the weekend. You knew that, right?
They’re curious and excited to join the fun. Helping them understand both cultures will get them one step closer to having the time of their lives at the wedding.
Educate and inform your guests even before they get to your big day. Let them in on what to wear, what to expect, and any other cultural factoids that could be helpful to understand what’s going on. A few places to communicate the info:
Before the wedding
- The wedding website: The perfect information hub for all of your guests
- The welcome bag: If you’re making welcome bags for hotel guests, add this info on the agenda sheet. For example – what should they expect at the baraat? You could say something like: “Bring your sunglasses and some comfy shoes to dance your feet off. Follow the groom as he makes his way to the entrance of the wedding venue to meet the bride’s family.”
At the wedding
- Programs are a great place to help decipher the wedding ceremony and related rituals. Give your guests a heads up that the Vidai ceremony will be taking place after the wedding ceremony and include its significance (Click here to read more about what the Vidai ceremony is).
- Ask the Priest to explain the ceremony in English as he goes through the ceremony. Usually, he’ll have a microphone to explain along the way, but it’s good to confirm exactly how he’s planning to do this.
Make your Guests Feel Welcome and Get Them Involved
Not only do guests want to feel welcome and be a part of action, but many of them (especially family) want to be involved as much as they can.
Find ways to include your future sister-in-law, for example, into your events. Include your new family members wherever possible in non-Indian events like a bridal shower and bachelorette party.
Another option (if they’re open to it) is including them in a group Indian dance performance (aka a group dance to the latest Bollywood song / remix).
Or, schedule a dance class (or have a friend lead a dance class) for immediate family; This could be a fun bonding experience for both sides of the family. Once they master bhangra dancing, they’ll be less intimidated about joining the crowd dancing at your reception! :0
Or, if you and they are not feelin’ a dance class, guests can download the “learn bhangra” app so they become overnight Bhangra experts, how cool would that be?!
If you think guests won’t know what to expect at the wedding – send them a link to “What should guests expect at an Indian wedding?” that breaks down the details.
Many guests want to (willingly) wear Indian clothes to the wedding festivities. It’s a challenge sometimes to scrounge up your own family’s clothes to let them borrow.
Instead, direct your guests to sites like Borrow it Bindaas to rent designer Indian outfits for the big weekend. They’ll have access to outfits that the latest fashions and fit right into your wedding festivities, and they can easily return it after. It’s the Rent the Runway for Indian clothes. Check out our Resources toolbox for more information.
Make it your own!
It’s your wedding, personalize it. Be creative. Make any and every part of your wedding your own. Add your personal twist on top of a dual-cultural twist. Add a fun twist to your events with something specific to where you’re from (like if you’re from a popular food-truck town like LA or San Fran, have them at your wedding events!)
I love what this couple did here at their destination wedding for their card table and their seating cards/tiles:
The challenge is satisfying the desire to embrace both the bride and the groom’s culture, religion and wedding traditions. Keep things in perspective. It’s up to you to determine how much of each culture to blend into the wedding festivities.
In the end, it’s your day, it’s your celebration!
Check out my curated favorites to get some Indian fusion wedding inspiration and more planning tips:
The Secret Wedding Blog features photos of many different types of weddings from around the world, including but not limited to fusion, same-sex, cross-denominational, eclectic, you name it. Great place for some inspiration!
How to Stay Organized & Where to Start with Planning. Hint: It’s not where you think!
Indian and Irish Wedding: Ruffled blog features photos from an English Fusion wedding
South Asian Bride Magazine features a same-sex fusion wedding
Waterfront Fusion Wedding featured in Junebug Weddings
South Indian & Christian Fusion Wedding featured in Maharani Weddings
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