two weddingsand two continents
-- cultures, nationalities and so much more
A Catholic Australian and a Muslim Bangladeshi, my fiancé and I, are certainly keeping up with the times with a “cultural melting pot” union of our own. It's not unique anymore, and I know plenty of “melting pot” unions but each of them paves the way for something that may be ordinary some day.
If I may repeat the thought of a friend on the matter; such inter-cultural, inter-racial and inter-religious marriages simply make the world a better place. That's a happy thought that I think anyone embarking on the same journey as my fiancé and I should remember, especially as the planning starts in full swing and wedding craziness unleashes itself on all parties concerned.
This is my account and advice based on what I have experienced so far
"I'd never thought too seriously about the phrase 'opposites attract' until I met my now fiancé. We are from different worlds - hers the bustling chaos and colour of Dhaka and mine the gentrified suburbs of outer Melbourne. She is noisy, hyperactive, engaging and charming while I'm a quiet, laid back, naive optimist. Yet we just 'click', and we always have. Our differences challenge me to look at everything anew, to become a better man. In her I see at once a stranger and my soul mate. I feel I get to fall in love with her again every day."- L. Mcleod
Telling the parents - yes you should be nervous!
If you didn't already know, your parents know everything. So even if you are hoping to surprise them you probably won't. My parents knew and just decided to speed up the process by asking me what would happen to me and my fiancé after he received important news about a job. That was the first sign.
Though my fiancé denied knowing, his parents asked his siblings the same questions privately too. It was only a matter of time before many discussions led to our decision to make it official.
The first people I let know - my parents!
The night before my fiancé had decided to come down and ask for my father's blessings, I forewarned my parents. They were happy, supportive and as always full of questions and I can't explain how embarrassed I was every step of the way.
It's never a conversation that you imagine you'll have with your parents. The traditional South Asian version would have been far less painless, with me not having to say or do anything other than sit. The upside, this way it wasn't happening to me without me being a part of it. My father was told to try and not look scary as even a day before my fiancé looked like a nervous wreck at the prospect of talking to my father.
After his words with my father I thought it was over but I was mistaken. There were still my fiancé's parents. Now wanting to share the burden and thinking it wasn't too big a deal to actually handle, I suggested I ask their permission and let them know we wanted to get married. I got off easy, my future in-laws live in Melbourne and my conversation was to be on Skype.
A usually confident person, I became a bag of nerves and when the time came. I didn't know what to say. I forgot my entire speech and just somehow managed to get the words out of my mouth. Although I am now very happy I did it, it was the most nerve-wrecking experience of my life.
It was however an experience I shared with my fiancé, and the more of those you can add the less you feel like you're the only one in the process having to work. It's important and I think it shows to my fiancé I'm not afraid to express and make clear my feelings for him despite my South Asian conservative values. It's a powerful thing saying to your future husband's parents that you love their son and that both of you seek their blessings for a lifetime together married.
My recommendation - do what I did if you can. Even if it's not an inter-anything union it can't hurt and adds a romantic element and story to your tale of love.
Who's in a rush, there's plenty of time to plan - Your parents are!
The minute you say the word your parents will start planning. So think through what you want to do. It took my parents all of 5 minutes to decide they wanted a big South Asian wedding and his family being equally excited also wanted in on the action of planning. Too much excitement and an ocean in between families make it hard to include everyone and keep up with everyone.
My fiancé and I quickly realised that it was in our best interests (for us to stay sane) to mount a divide and conquer strategy. The result, we get to be part of one year of wedding planning, two sets of ceremonies in two different continents and both sets of parents are happy as can be.
Now both families get to show their culture and traditions and we get to be part of a cross-cultural experience to last a lifetime.
My recommendation to avoid the pit falls of cultural confusion make sure to explain everything repeatedly and even put together a written dossier on how it all works so everyone knows what's going to happen.
"Knowing the person you're with is the one isn't something you know suddenly. For me it was a succession of lots of little moments that told me this man was someone I could spend the rest of my life with. It was how he looked after me when I was sick, how he called me after a fight to talk about it all, how he messages me through the day to give me updates and asks after me and my family, the concern and care on his face and actions when a parent was sick, all of these told me this man, I could spend the rest of my life with. “It's magical and unfolds in due time. You can't hurry the process, just one day after a collection of wonderful moments of realisation you piece it all together and feel a beautiful glow from knowing." - F Rahman
I'm not going to get stressed or overwhelmed with everything - Yes you are!
My fiancé is amazing and incredibly supportive, but even so somewhere along the line of visa applications, worries about jobs and all else, we both find ourselves struggling to find quality time together.
It all started with very supportive friends and before we knew it we had 10 celebratory dinners. Even my parents want to spend quality time together. It takes quite a bit of juggling and we are always managing our diaries. The saviour of it all is, funnily enough, a visa statement detailing how we met and our relationship. Every time I read it I feel a little more connected to why we got on this train in the first place. It has also helped to remember that he is dealing with plans from his parent's end so I know he's part of the process and busy too.
My fiancé's recommendation - learn how to say no and spend more time together.
It's a magical thing immersing yourself in someone else's culture, it makes you defensive, afraid and eventually want to share and learn. My fiancé brings his content, comfortable and happy Australian nature which is so wonderful. For him I can only guess I am the intensely always-excitable, energetic, silly and amused South Asian with all the colour and spice that this brings.
I think we strike a great balance, which is helping to handle all the wedding craziness. Also if our friend is right maybe we're helping make the world a better place. If not, at least we're making it more colourful with two cross-cultural ceremonies in two continents.
By Choto Mishti
Illustration: Sadatuddin Ahmed Amil