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?