To Ring or Not to Ring

Okay… finally… the rings. Some thoughts that have been on my mind…

So as noted before—some members of my family (certainly not everyone, although I may have given that impression, my appologizes) have been “sensitive” about details for the American wedding ceremony based on a few things:

1)      An impression that I am giving preference to Nepal (chronologically, respect and cultural tradition-wise)

2)      That I’m disrespecting my family by not embracing Catholicism as a central part of the American ceremony

I understand that I’m really pushing my family in many ways to think outside the box here. I know that being outside your comfort zone is a challenging place to be. Because of this, there are certain things I want to be mindful of so that they don’t feel like more importance is snatched away from their ceremony.

And one place I realized this could happen recently is the exchanging of wedding rings.

Two sets of our good (Nepali) friends have gotten married in the past few years. S and R (Swayambar) and AS and N (Nepali Wedding in New England). Through both of these weddings I was able to learn a lot about what happens and what is important for the ceremony/ies. Dressing the part—check, exchanging the garlands—check, bride receives pote—check, groom puts sindoor in bride’s hair/forehead—check. Both sets exchanged wedding rings as part of their ceremonies but it didn’t register with me that this was an important part of the process. To be honest, I actually thought they did this because they saw it happen in western weddings and liked the trend. Embarrassing cultural assumption, I know.  But I was thrown off by S never wearing his wedding ring and R not really minding (I told P—once we get married, I hoped—well, expected—he would wear it every day, because I thought it was an important symbol of our life together). AS and N wear their rings all the time, but it still didn’t register.

Then one day P and I were driving somewhere and I nonchalantly mentioned in the car, “Exchanging rings isn’t really important in the Nepali ceremony, right? So can we just leave that out?”

“I don’t think so.” He responded.

“What do you mean? You guys have all that other stuff—garlands, pote, sindoor, etc—I thought the rings didn’t matter so much.”

“I wouldn’t say they don’t matter. It’s a part of the ceremony. My dad wears his ring every day.” (True—his dad does wear a gold ring every day, but I didn’t know it was his wedding ring.)

“But P, exchanging the rings is like THE thing in the American ceremony. You say your vows and give each other your rings to seal and symbolize those vows, and boom, that’s the entire ceremony in a nutshell. You can’t take that away from the American ceremony, especially with the Nepali ceremony going first! My family will be furious, devastated, or both!”

I could see it now, exchanging rings in the Hindu temple, and my family’s eyes bugging out—“that’s OUR tradition!! What’s the point in even HAVING an American ceremony at this point?!”

I think P gets that this could be problematic, but I think he is also hesitant to change this piece of the Nepali ceremony. It will have to be a discussion had when he is at home.

Meanwhile I was driving with S-di and I was asking her about this. We were brainstorming—what might be a viable option, that wouldn’t seem to be stepping on the American tradition’s toes?

What about putting the rings on a different finger?—seems too much like our tradition.

What about having totally separate rings (a second set?) – also too similar?

What about exchanging rings but not putting them on, just holding them in our hands?—ditto? Or odd?

What about doing something different—using string, or tying holy grass into a loop? – Americans wouldn’t know this isn’t the norm, that we are using a proxy, but the South Asians might find this bizarre.

Skipping it all together and offending the Nepali cohort, or biting the bullet and offending the Americans?

What would you do?

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19 responses to “To Ring or Not to Ring

  1. you could do the christian wedding first, the complete way. then you won’t have to take away anything out from either. no?

    • americanepali

      hindsight is 20/20. Ultimately we should have swallowed the cost and flipped the ceremonies, but its too late now for that.

  2. Is the American ceremony a civil wedding plus reception, all in one? If it is that way, is there any way you can do the civil ceremony, just with close family on both sides, followed by the Nepalese and American functions? You would then be legally married before either event.

  3. Maybe exchange rings at the Nepali wedding, kiss rings at the American one? The ring exhange holds deep sentiment for Americans, especially Christians. However, everyone is already aware there will be 2 weddings and is probably anticipating rings being exchanged at either anyway. So why not begin the sentiment at the first ceremony by doing the exchange, then seal it at the second with a kiss?

    • I would actually doubt that the Americans are expecting there to be a ring exchange at the Nepali ceremony, especially if Americanepali herself was caught off-guard. For our Hindu wedding, the rings were added in, rather than being considered traditional. None of the men in my FIL’s generation wear (or probably even have) wedding rings; the women do, to my understanding, mostly because they don’t pass up opportunities for jewelry and to signal to Americans that they are married.

  4. Have you considered a Unity candle as the important part of the American wedding? Say, don’t fuss with the rings in the American ceremony at all, but use a slightly elongated version of a Unity candle tradition? Also, I always considered the kiss at the end to really be the most important part to really “seal the deal.”

  5. Hmmm!
    Do Nepalis not do ‘Mangal Sutra? That would have been a nice substitute in the Nepali Wedding!
    Could you just tell your Nepali guests that you did rings earlier on? OK that wasn’t me being flippant its just that you know south-Asian timing!
    Could you exchange another item of jewellery instead?
    I’m actually confused, so should stop now!

  6. Maybe you could hold the rings up for a blessing from the priest? Or even get the parents involved somehow with the rings — either give the rings to the parents “for safekeeping” or have the parents bring the rings forward to each of you, then actually exchange them during the American wedding?
    I lean toward your view that it’s “too much” to sacrifice, especially because it’s the biggest part of the American ceremony…but I also know what’s being sacrificed on the American side more than I do what’s being sacrificed on the Nepali side, so it’s easier for me to defend the American side (as you know). I think the rings should be part of the Nepali ceremony, but to me exchanging rings is the “moment” of marriage, so it makes sense to me to have it be the very last piece of the weekend. Whatever you decide, you can have your priest (or someone) explain it clearly so everyone understands that the rings are part of both ceremonies. Perhaps even play it up, how the rings are what connect the two ceremonies?

    I’m also wondering if you could put them on necklaces — or even garlands — to wear through the Nepali wedding day? The lingering question is what to do with them during the American ceremony — garlands kind of cramp the style, and even necklaces might appear awkward, especially for you…perhaps you could play it up again, having your MOH and best man bring the rings to the ring bearer in the presence of your parents (or have your parents bring them?) for their “final journey.”

    I think that using bits of string, or dried grass, or even family heirlooms could work (perhaps you could each borrow your parents’ rings?), as long as you’re explicit within the ceremony (or at least program) about the purpose. Really, just find something that you can make meaning out of, and I think it’ll be worth fighting for.

    • A two-ring system is also viable, especially if you each get one in a Nepali style and an American style. A and I are both committed to wearing rings, but not to wearing our true wedding band. I recently got a really cool, funky silver ring (my original is American gold), and he got a better-fitting, very small and lightweight silver band (his original is a cool, textured Indian gold that turned out to be a little big). We would never get rid of our original rings, but we’re not particularly attached to them…but consider whether you would rather have one ring to be connected to forever or would like to be able to change it up now and then. Have you already got your rings?

  7. Just exchange rings twice, once at each ceremony.

  8. Another good idea would be for him to give you your ring at the Nepali wedding and for you to give him his at the American ceremony.

  9. Do you guys have engagement rings that you could exchange at the Nepali ceremony and then wedding rings proper during the American one? I get the feeling that in a Nepali wedding the symbolism of exchanging rings is important, but it doesn’t necessarily have to the be the ring that you’re wearing permanently?

  10. Yeah, if you have engagement rings exchange those at the Nepali wedding and then the wedding rings at the American…

    Or what Sara said abt the blessing from the priest, also sounds goods…

  11. I may be wrong, but Ive always had the impression, that the ring finger on the left hand doesnt hold the same sigificance for nepalis as it does for westerners. Ive often made the mistake of asking a nepali girl if she’d recently become engaged because they were wearing a ring on the ‘ring’ finger, only to be told no, to which Ive joked that in my culture its considered to be bad luck to wear a ring on that finger before engaement/marriage.
    Maybe you could exchange your rings during the nepali ceremony and put them on the right hand instead. Just a thought.

  12. Jjan Ahmed (Jamily5)

    Well, all of my suggestions have already been said. Let us know what you decide! But, don’t let it stress you out too much. Remember it is a day of celebration!

  13. I think given that in the American wedding the exchanging rings is the only sign of being married and in the Nepali wedding it is one of many others, as you said the garlands (which are similar to the ring) pote, sindoor etc. your fiance can be a little accommodating on this one. I think the Nepali wedding being first a big deal for your family and the wedding ring exchange is a much smaller one for your fiance’s family. I think the ring tradition varies among different regions in Nepal, my mother-in-law is from Kathmandu and I haven’t seen her or her extended family give a lot of importance to the ring and very few people wear them.

  14. Sure someone has mentioned this in the comments section, which I didn’t read through completely…
    If you can have the American ceremony in its full format and at the end of that ceremony, let’s say about an hour later, start the Nepali ceremony. In almost all the American-Nepali weddings I have attended, this has been the way and it has always seemed to work out very well. And have the reception the same night, even if it is a Sunday night. All in one day, more FUN and you’re done ! If your wedding is during the July 4th weekend, the Monday is a holiday anyways.

    Exchanging ring: If you do the “white” ceremony first, you will exchange the rings first and in the Nepali ceremony, you can exchange set of rings, e.g. if you two have silver rings in the American wedding, you could exchange gold rings in the Nepali one. If you can’t change the order of the ceremonies, exchange the gold ring on the right finger at the Nepali wedding, and the wedding ring on the left ring finger at the other ceremony.

    Many of the people, who wear wedding rings throughout their life, wear both rings, silver on the left ring finger, gold on the right ring finger. Then there are women who don’t wear their wedding rings, unless they are wearing a sari and going out to a party etc..Then finally there are women who wear just the silver ring and keep the gold one, again, for those parties where you deck out all your gold jewelry and bright saris.

    Just remember, no matter what kind of wedding you have, you can’t please everyone, especially the family. This is true no matter if you are American, Catholic, Nepali, young, old etc… It’s your wedding, have FUN !

  15. Why do you have to be so formal with your own family, like they’re a group of visiting dignitaries? While they might be outside their comfort zone here, they’ll never get comfortable if you don’t help them! Just talk to them. Tell them what the Nepalese ceremony will entail so that they know what to expect. Maybe seeing the same tradition (exchanging of the rings) in both ceremonies will help them understand that the two cultures are not so different after all.

    Calm down. Breathe. Don’t stress about the details. If your family sees you happy on this day, they will be happy too.

  16. I totally understand this. My family also had a lot of expectations from my wedding ceremony and were hurt by what they considered “too much Pakistani influence.” I was wondering, when we got married only one of the ceremonies was the “official” one, the one where the officiant would sign our marriage license and send it back to the state. Do you have one “official” one? If it were the non-Nepali one, maybe letting your family know that would dissauge their concerns a bit, as if the Nepali part was fine because “theirs” was the “real one” after all? Ours was not that way, but I wonder if I’d invested the money to get an officiant at the American wedding who could legally preform marriages if that wouldn’t have helped my family a bit.

    Otherwise, grass rings sound fantastic to me :)

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