Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weddings as cross-cultural bridges

This has been a year of fabulous weddings -- four to date -- and though a priest of my acquaintance once quipped that marriage is the ultimate cross-cultural experience (hello -- in-laws) in these cases it was an actual cross-cultural experience.

Earlier this summer the Syrian/American daughter of a friend married her Romanian fiance. The reception was a rollicking celebration of both cultures in music and dance -- a belly dancer who balanced a candelabra on her head and later performed in golden wings and a troupe of folk dancers from Romania.

Then an Ethiopian friend got married in a traditional Orthodox ceremony. A drummer led the wedding procession into the church, where the couple were decked in royal robes and crowns. Later the guests feasted on injera and wat and danced the Ethiopian shoulder dance while the women ululated in celebration.

A wedding at the Maryland Renaissance Festival was like stepping into a time machine. The bride and groom danced to Greensleeves at the Dragon Inn while knights, kings and courtiers stopped by to pay their respects. (And then the newlyweds, dressed in Medieval finery, rode into the sunset on... an elephant!)

Next up is my English stepbrother's marriage to a Texan. In this cultural mash-up there will be barbecue, croquet and elaborate hats.

Cross-cultural marriages can be incredibly challenging, requiring a high level of commitment and accomodation. There are logistical as well as cultural differences to navigate, different customs and a whole set of thorny issues that can arise when children are involved.

But weddings like these are shining moments: reminders that our global family is just that -- a family -- and that we all love to come together to witness happiness and be joyful and dance -- no matter what the music.

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