Ceremony Chronology

This is kind of funny—the other day I wanted to tell a story about exchanging wedding rings, BUT as I started, all these other contextual pieces began jumping in first to set the mood as to why my family has been a bit “sensitive” about how the American wedding is organized. I’ll get to the ring story eventually—but first another side tangent.

Besides the lack of Catholicism in our American wedding, another sticking point in this process is that the Nepali wedding is happening chronologically first. We are doing both ceremonies in the US during one weekend in July. The Nepali ceremony was planned for Saturday while the American one was planned for Sunday. There was a very practical reason for this—in the US the most popular day/time of the week to get married is Saturday night. Thus wedding venues used to Western style weddings often charge (a lot) more if you book on a Saturday.

Since South Asian wedding ceremonies can happen at any time of the week because they are generally based more on astrology than social calendars, there isn’t really the same type of extra price tag for a Saturday booking (assuming you are using a South Asian venue). By organizing the Nepali ceremony on the more “expensive night” of the weekend, P and I were able to save a hefty chunk of change that we could put towards other details, like food for the Nepali reception.

I don’t think my family necessarily sees the practicality in the timings, instead I think they see it as me privileging the Nepali culture over the American culture “yet again.” It will be “the first” wedding, all the marriage rituals will be “first,” I’ve even heard the criticism that people will be too tired during the American wedding because of the party for the Nepali wedding the night before… or even bored, because it will be the second wedding party. Some of these criticisms are probably petty, but it is a way to voice disappointment that I gave the honored “1st” spot to Nepal instead of America.

“You let the Nepalis do whatever they want, and always give us grief. You respect them, but don’t respect us. Instead we are always bending.” is the mantra I hear.

But I beg to differ. Since the Nepali wedding is happening in the US, there are already a lot of changes that have been made—1 day versus several ceremony/ritual days, fewer guests, less family, less formal, fewer traditions, in a place unfamiliar and less comfortable for P’s family. But my family doesn’t really see that—they assume that we are doing everything the way it would be done in Nepal, and no amount of explaining seems to get the message across that there is quite a bit of compromise on the other side as well.

So to save myself from going crazy, and venting too much to family, I’m venting to the blog. I apologize for all the wedding related posts (please tell me if it gets annoying), and I appreciate the feedback and positive energy. I’m actually not tearing my hair out (although it might sound that way), but it is nice to have a sounding board.

8 responses to “Ceremony Chronology

  1. Vent away—happy to be a sounding board. It is important for you to let off steam that way.

    Sorry that you are dealing with this stuff.

  2. Vent away. I smile as I read because I’m done with weddings, and have had enough time since mine to let go of the frustrations!

    Rationality just seems to fly out the window as soon as the wedding planning starts — I mean, really? Just curious, could you offer to change the line-up if your family wants to cover the extra costs? I mean, really, how much is it worth to them to get the coveted 1st wedding spot?

    • Well– Saturday timings for the American ceremony are long gone due to venues and bookings. I think most people have moved on from this general aggravation, although I do hear snippets here and there (and when we send out invites in about a month, I’m sure I’ll hear more)

      Mostly I think it is the Catholic piece that really bothers people. I was talking to my grandmother last night, and she was encouraging me to invite the Catholic priest I work with at the university to come to the wedding and sit with her. She said, “don’t worry, I’ll make him feel at home, he won’t be alone. It would be really nice.”

      Although the priest I work with through the Religious Diversity program is a wonderful man, I don’t want him anywhere nearby… I can imagine her inciting him to stand up and start giving blessings, or get up during the ceremony to make sure there is a Catholic voice in the crowd.

      Even at the bridal shower my sisters threw for me two weekends ago, my grandmother made a big show of wanting to sit next to me to give me a “very special present” she insisted on giving it last, and had it wrapped up in her purse. Before she handed it over she even got teary eyed, telling me it was “very special,” and that she wanted me to put it in our house “somewhere very nice and visible.” I thought she was giving me a family heirloom. Maybe a small token my great-grandmother brought with her from Ireland. Imagine my shock when I unwrapped the box and found a brand new crucifix. I tried my best to keep my eyes from bulging out of their sockets, and dutifully clamped my mouth shut and showed the other guests my grandmother’s “special gift” but I was also felt… mmm… cornered? to have something like that sprung on me in front of an audience with the expectation I was going to either make a scene, or embrace it or something. I know her intension are good (she is probably very seriously concerned about my soul, and the souls of her as yet non-existent grandchildren) but having the conversation again and again is tiring. I’m not the first person in the world to not follow the faith of her ancestors.

      I’m not sure what is worse for them– if I had found a different faith, or not having any faith. I’m always curious about the other “gori wives” who changed religions before or as part of their marriages. How did their families deal with the change?

      Anyway… another blog post perhaps…

      • Ugh…that sounds awful. After my brother met A, there was a quiz on religion, and I failed miserably, with my sister-in-law trying to run interference between us. I do feel like it’s been a “coming out” process, where I give hints and then admit it. I’m told that one of my BFF’s younger sisters deduced that I’m not Christian from my choice of a nonChristian partner, then asked another older sister if I’d be offended if she prayed for me (the sister answered accurately that I’d know it came from her caring about me). An aunt suggested that we do a private ceremony with a preacher to make God part of our marriage, and a cousin within my “adopted” family once made a point that the Hindu god was not the same as the Christian god (after L, my “mom” in the family, shared that my MIL had explained that Hinduism is monotheistic and believes it’s all the same god — cousin said it out of L’s earshot, not sure if she would have said it within — and I finally just said “You would see it as a different god, but they wouldn’t”). And as a former good Protestant girl, I have to say — crucifixes always gave me the heebie-jeebies. Too graphic for this post-reformation girl.

        I definitely agree that it’s harder when there’s no faith attached. Even identifying as UU, which is very broad and open, seems to help. It also helps that I can talk about our “church” and its activities, and I have a church-like community to raise future children in — with a bonus that said community won’t tell them their Hindu grandparents and other family members are going to hell and they shouldn’t go to a Hindu temple or celebrate Hindu holidays! It’s also easier now that I’ve had time to build confidence in my beliefs and nonbeliefs, and to practice putting them into words. What I’m still struggling with is how to explain/satisfy the things I do still want to do/celebrate — like I would love to participate in a communion that was not labeled “for Christians only,” because it was always a meaningful and centering experience for me.

  3. Love in London

    As much as I can’t wait to get married, hearing about everyone else and their struggles to plan for both sides of the families, just makes me think maybe it’s easier to never do it! :) I think my family will be much like yours regarding religion; they will probably give us Bibles or pictures of Jesus. I was raised Baptist, but in the last 10 years have probably gone to church about 5 times and consider myself agnostic. I remember when the rumour mill known as my cousins started and once when I was home to visit my parents people came up to me and said “so, I hear your boyfriend is Muslim…” He’s not and even if he was, so what?! Religion is so personal to me and I hate when people bring it up in hopes of converting you or trying to change your beliefs.

  4. I am assuming you don’t have to defend the decisions yet in front of your inlaws – which you should be very grateful for! To cut a long story short, my inlaws hated most of what I told them about Irish weddings and thought the whole thing sounded awful (i.e. unGerman) but lo and behold, come the Irish wedding the inlaws had a fabulous time and have since told us that it was the most fun wedding they ever attended. (We tried to incorporate some German traditions but we were limited to what we could do).

    I’m inclined to believe that people like complaining in advance of weddings, it’s almost like it is part and parcel of wedding planning – particularly cross-country weddings.

    So, vent away but do keep in mind that people (usually) come to weddings because they want to wish the bridge and groom well on the start of their life as a married couple.

  5. hey at the end of the day, they will get over it and realise it’s not all about them. Your story about the special present from your grandma was hilarious. sorry but it was. haha.i’m actually glad I don’t have any religious considerations to think about. my family are quite liberal although a full on traditional Nepali culture wedding would be pretty full on to them….

  6. Jjan Ahmed (Jamily5)

    I know how difficult it is for family to see things of a different culture and different religion relevant… … much less fun. Some families are just stuck in their own traditions. It is kind of strange, my family is not very religious at all, but when faced with a Muslim in the family; they seem to act as if they were. And, for most people who live lives that encompass homogenious groups of people rather than diverse groups, they can’t separate culture from religion. I admit, though, I have had to distance many people who make me feel uncomfortable (or worse, like i am sinning) because I have married a Muslim. At least with the people who are measuring their heavenly reward by the amount of people who (reluctantly or not) profess the name of christ and his saving power, we can get the religion out on the table, discuss it once and for all and if we make a united stand: “he must choose his own path and if you want to be an example of christ, then show it through your actions and not your attempts to convince. After all, that is not how Christ did it.”

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