Tag Archives: Cultural Differences

White Wedding/Red Wedding

According to a wedding website I occasionally check for ideas, there are 230 days to go until my American wedding. Every time I click on links from the website’s e-newsletter a little banner at the bottom of the page reminds me how time is edging ever so closer to that final date.

Some days I’ll look at the banner and think, “Oh my gosh, There is so much to do, I’ve barely scratched the surface!” While on other days I’ll think, “Hey it’s still 7+ months away. I’ve got plenty of time…”

This pretty much sums up the duality of planning a “white” (American) wedding and a “red” (Nepali) wedding. The timings are completely different, and it is both frustrating, calming, and scary at the same time.

I’m generalizing here—but most American weddings are planned several months, if not a year or more, in advance. Nepali weddings, mmmm, not so much. You’re lucky if you have months, usually it is more like month or maybe even weeks. Which is actually quite astounding when you think about it. Most Nepali weddings are significantly larger (hundreds of guests) with more moving parts (multiple ceremonies and receptions) and more ‘plan ahead’ type issues like potential travel to the other side of the world and coordinating with relatives thousands of miles away!

Meanwhile, I’ll pick up the phone and talk to my sisters, mother, or grandmother and they find my relaxed attitude about planning and organizing bizarre. They are on “Team America” where time is of the essence. I’m great with logistics, I plan events at work all the time, but still, the fact that the wedding is 230 days away and I still don’t have a) a dress, b) a photographer, c) a wedding officiant, d) a dj, e) invitations, f) save the dates, g) an official guest list, although it’s just about there… I think I need to stop listing things, or I’ll start freaking out… but there are so many unplanned pieces (and this is just the American wedding! We have a whole other ceremony to plan!). They just don’t understand why I’m taking my dear sweet time. My mother has been hounding me about booking hotel room blocks for guests, and I keep telling her, “I’m not quite there yet” and she responds, “You better get there soon! It will be here before you know it!”

Meanwhile I’ll talk to my Nepali friends and the mentality is—the wedding is so far away. 7+ months… you’ve got ages! Why are you freaking out? Why do you need a wedding dress now? Who thinks about a photographer this early? Of course I have supportive friends as well, but I’m also a little worried that if I talk about wedding stuff with them too much I’ll burn them out since there is so much time left, and I don’t want to look crazy.

It is tough sometimes to remember to keep perspective, especially when the differences between the cultures can be so stark, but there are times where all I can do is kind of chuckle. Over the weekend I had a conversation at a dinner party that went something like this:

Me: “I didn’t know you had 4 siblings.”
Friend: “Yeah, two older sisters who are married and two younger brothers who aren’t, although I’m sure my brother who was born right after me will get married a month or two after I do because he has been waiting.”
Me: “Oh, so when are you getting married?”
Friend: “This summer.”
Me: “Really? Summer 2011? Like us? I didn’t know that! Congrats!”
Friend: “Yeah, thanks.”
Me: “So who are you getting married to?”
Friend: “I don’t know yet.”
Me: “But you’re definitely getting married this summer?”
Friend: “Yeah. Definitely.”
Me: “But you don’t know who you are marrying yet?”
Friend: “Right.”
Me: “I have to laugh. I’m spending all this time organizing my own wedding, that is taking place at the same time, and you haven’t organized anything, and don’t even know who you are marrying.”
We both chuckle…
Friend: “Yep.”

And I’m stressing out about a wedding dress? At least I have a groom!

Actually at one point over the summer I even asked P to call some of the local temples to see if he could check on space availability and one of the temple priests scolded him saying, “I don’t even know where I will be next summer, how can I tell you if the temple is free and what we are doing!”

So wedding planning has definitely been—er—interesting, to say the least. I think I’m getting hung up on little details like picking a white wedding dress because I feel like it is one thing I can control, amongst all these moving and uncertain pieces. I feel I have very little control over what the Nepali ceremony will look like, and I’m a little sad that P’s family doesn’t seem very excited to discuss details. Actually I have yet to mention the word “wedding” to them. A few people have talked about it on our behalf, but that’s it.

On the other side, my family only wants to talk about wedding stuff, but I feel like I have to pick battles all the time—“No, the Nepali wedding is not a ‘side show’ the ‘Asians’ are only invited to,” “No, both weddings are equal so they will both be on the invitation,” “I’m not ‘forfeiting my culture’ by not doing a Christian religious ceremony, I’ve never been religious and I don’t feel comfortable doing one,” “If you want to wear a sari to the Nepali wedding that is fine, but don’t turn it into a joke, and I can’t promise that P’s mother will in turn wear western clothes to the American wedding.”

I have to admit though, I’m kind of excited to go to Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities with my family. I’m excited to have a pocket of American-ness for a few days where people will ask me questions and be enthusiastic and not think it is too weird to discuss details that are 7+ months away. I’m nervous about more wedding culture conversation challenges, but I’m more excited about sharing my excitement.

We will see how it goes. Wednesday my sisters are coming to help me choose a wedding dress. R has already gone shopping with me and gave some great feedback, so I’m looking forward to seeing what my sisters have to say.

So that’s where I am right now. How about you?