When I was getting married, my to-be-husband wasn’t supposed to see me for a week before our marriage. When I shared this with him, he looked at me with a puzzled look and said that’s not going to happen. 

The world is getting smaller and marriages within different cultures are increasing. Even if you and your partner see eye-to-eye on everything, when families get involved, it can get complicated.

Planning a wedding is stressful and how you interact in stressful time can determine the health of your marriage. Now I’m not saying if you are having a hard time in such a vulnerable time, your marriage is in trouble. I’m just saying, get support for the stressful time, skill up early on in marriage and the rest will fall in place much smoother.

Here are some things to take into consideration to reduce the stress of planning a wedding when you have people coming from different backgrounds:

Your relationship is primary

It’s really important to keep in mind that your wedding day is a symbol of your marriage and life together. When your Indian family wants a week long wedding and your partner’s American family wants a traditional church wedding, you can forget why you are doing this and who this is for. Make a commitment to each other that when you are getting wrapped up in the minutiae of the wedding, you will remind each other this is for both of you and for your couple relationship. Remembering the why will help you from getting lost in the messiness of the details.

Name your biggest desires

Before getting the families involved, discuss with your partner what are each of your biggest desires. Make sure you know your values and what’s important to you two. Write down things that are “must-haves” and things you are willing to let slide. Are there restrictions (for example a budget) that would help you stay on track. Maybe spending 50K on two weddings is not possible. Is travel an option or not? Are there traditions that you want to implement as a form of respect to your families even if they are not your values. 

Make Requests, Don’t Assume  

Even if you are coming from similar backgrounds, I think it’s so important to name what you are thinking and wanting. We live in a world with information overload and we are all filled with too much chatter in our minds. People are thinking about themselves before thinking of others and if you have a need, it’s important you as for it. 

In dealing with different cultures, values, languages, beliefs it’s even more important to name your expectations and desires. Be gentle and humble about it, and put words to it. Use direct person-to-person interaction as much as possible. 

Allow for Openness

What I mean by this is, when you see something that you are not accustomed to, remember that it’s different not weird. Our brain automatically feels threatened when we see something we are not used to. So we label things as “crazy”, “weird”, “stupid”, etc. 

You will probably see and hear things that your brain will see as “strange” and I invite you to have an open mind. Say instead, ‘oh this is different than what I am used to.’ Explore the meaning behind the thing, what does it mean to you partner and her family. What symbolism does it have for this culture. 

My husband didn’t like my tradition because he was alone here. His family was in Iraq and really he had a very small wedding party (his few friends). Saying to him you can’t see me for a week was like saying to him you can’t be a part of this wedding, just show up on the wedding day. Yes I know, ridiculous right?!

When I was able to see this, it was a no brainer this particular tradition didn’t make sense for us in our context. 

What are your fears for your wedding planning?