Tag Archives: Family Expectations

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?

Sometimes a Church Just Doesn’t Feel Right

Our wedding has made life interesting the past few months. Sometimes I feel like a lot of the preparation has been a giant negotiation. We want everyone to feel included, and we want to make sure we cover the important cultural aspects of each of our “traditions,” but we also want to be true to ourselves. Because of this, I feel it has made planning the American wedding (in particular) all the more… “challenging.”

I come from an Irish Catholic family (on both sides), and even though not every one of my relatives is “religious,” they still have church as an important part of their lives (Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, weddings and holidays, if not most Sundays).

On the other side I have really struggled with faith (a WHOLE separate and long blog post), and because of this, church has not been an important part of my life. So when it came time to choose where to get married, I was pretty adamant that I didn’t want to get married in a church by a Catholic priest. I have nothing against that choice for others, but it didn’t feel right for me.

This revelation, as one can imagine, was quite upsetting to some of my family members. At least on my father’s side I am the third eldest cousin and several years ago my eldest cousin decided not to get married in a church, and broke that barrier (while her younger sister did marry in the church), on my mother’s side, I think I’m probably the first one in generations (and generations) not to be married in a Catholic church by a Catholic priest.

I think my grandmother doesn’t get it. I think for her and some of my other relatives it is hard to image what a “white wedding” actually is (or means) without a church and a priest. I’m sure they blame my parents—thinking they “did” something to me to make me turn against my faith, or somehow “raised” me wrong (so I can understand the pressure/criticism they have been under/getting, because of my choices). However it has nothing to do with my parents—again religious musings surely deserve its own post—but ultimately I think my relatives probably felt betrayed.

Here I was, claiming that I wanted to make sure both of our cultures were represented—AND I was willing to get married in a Hindu temple by a Hindu priest (blasphemy!) BUT I was throwing one of my family’s main wedding traditions—Catholicism—out the window. In one phone conversation with my aunt, as I reassured her that we were still doing a lot of American traditions: white dress, wedding rings, vows, first dance, cake, wedding party, etc, she said “If you throw out the priest and church, everything else is just cosmetic.” Ouch.

So I feel I have had to tread carefully when deciding on what details are important to include in the American side of our ceremony/reception and what not to. What battles am I really ready to fight for, and what am I willing to concede because the biggest thing of all—not doing it in a church, was finally hard won (although I think my grandmother is worried about my soul and that I might be going to hell, and thus won’t see me in the afterlife).

And not to confuse the situation further, but the third side of this is that I feel I have little control of what happens in the Nepali wedding—sure there are details to iron out like what to serve at the reception, making playlists of music, organizing a program for those unfamiliar with Hindu weddings, but mostly I am just as much along for the ride as some of the guests. It’s really P and his family that have a say in the Nepali wedding—including what I wear that day, and what traditions are followed, so it makes me all the more adamant to make the American ceremony “my own” in terms of personality and flavor. So there is this constant delicate balance between what I truly would love to have and what others expect, and what is a reasonable compromise between the two.

Anyway, this has colored everything from creating invitations (and insisting that even though it was tradition to include an image of Ganesh on Nepali invites, it was probably more politically correct to omit that detail for now), to what I wear (no I cannot put henna on my hands, even  though I think it would be fun and beautiful–technically it isn’t a Nepali tradition anyway, but a newer trend influenced from India and Bollywood– but none-the-less, because it may, according to my mom, “ruin” the “white wedding” photos, I’m not allowed to do it), to ceremony details… and my next topic—to Ring or Not to Ring.