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Friday, January 17, 2014

Planning Our Bilingual, Bicultural Wedding

Planning a wedding can be a daunting task. There are to-do lists that never seem to end, budgets that continually swell, and stress levels that can turn the most mild-mannered, even-tempered love-struck bride-to-be into a head-spinning, ear-smoking Bridezilla. I lucked Bridezilla for me...I swear!

I always thought of myself like Carrie Bradshaw...someone who was missing the "bride gene." I knew that I wanted a beautiful wedding that reflected the joy we had in becoming husband and wife; but, honestly, I was more excited about the life of adventure that would follow the wedding...traveling the world and building our home and life together as husband and wife. The details eluded me...I trusted the professionals we hired and went with the flow.

Despite the laid back approach, a perfect wedding we had, filled with love, laughter and precious moments that make me smile when they dance within my memory.

My husband is fluent in both Spanish (his first language) and English. My brothers-in-law are also fluent in English, but, my mother-in-law speaks no English at all. We knew that we wanted her to be able to participate in all parts of the wedding, so we planned a bilingual, bicultural wedding that honored both of our cultures, and also one that celebrated us as a couple.

Here's how we did it:
  • The music that greeted our guests consisted mostly of Spanish guitar music, including
    • Concierto de Aranjuez
    • La Leyenda del Beso
    • Recuerdos de la Alhambra

  • We knew we wanted a bilingual ceremony, so we needed a bilingual officiant. Luckily, one of my husband's colleagues, a retired judge with whom I had also worked with at school, was just the person for the job. He knew my husband personally, which added a comforting, personal touch.

  • We included readings in both languages, including a piece by Charlotte Bronte, a piece by Pablo Neruda... "Soneto 17," here in English, but read in Spanish.

  • And a piece from Walt Whitman that spoke to our wanderlust:
I give you my hand,
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law:
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
~Walt Whitman
  • We exchanged our vows in English first and then in Spanish. That was one of the most tender moments of the ceremony, as I struggled to pronounce the Spanish, which, for some reason, we never thought to practice.
  • Our dj and emcee were bilingual and did wedding announcements in both languages.
  • During our cocktail hour, while the wedding party took photos, guests were treated to a bachata demonstration and lesson.

  • At dinner, our dj played music from Latin and Spanish artists, such as
    • The Gipsy Kings
    • Joan Manuel Serrat, a Spanish artist popular in Uruguay
    • Cristina Pato, a Galician bagpiper
  • We served wine from South America, from Chile and Argentina.
  • Our wedding cake was vanilla with dulce de leche filling, popular in Uruguay.

  •  Our first dance song was beautiful and bilingual, "I Belong to You" by Eros Ramazzotti and Anastasia. For those moments the song was played, we were frozen in time.

  • All of our tables were named after places we visited in Paris, where we were engaged.

  • We included parents and children as we danced with our respective parents...all fathers and daughters were welcomed to join in as I danced with my own father, and all mothers and sons were welcomed to join in as my husband danced with his mother.
  • Our honor attendants...his brother and my best friend, spoke their toasts in both English and Spanish. She did great!
  • We honored all married couples who paved our way with a special Anniversary Dance.
  • Because we love to travel, we chose a suitcase for the cards with which people gifted us.
  • The people who we asked to participate in our wedding are all dear to us, making their participation a precious gift to us on our special day.

In our eyes, our wedding was just perfect, celebrated with the people we love the most. People stayed and danced and celebrated with us until the last dance was played. 

The day went by far too quickly, but it was one that will be forever etched in our hearts as one of the most beautiful, magical days of our lives.

What awaits us down the road that may equal the joy of that day, only God knows. But making our day a reflection of who we are as individuals and as a couple added to the joy that surrounded us on that day and with every precious memory.

Amor para siempre...


  1. My favorite story of the day! Many creative and beautiful insights included in your big day. Congratulations Kelly and wishing you a lovely life ahead, indeed. On another note, I sure wish I was at that wedding!

    1. Thank you so much, Peggy. It was a beautiful day...perfect really. We were, and continue to be, so very blessed. Thanks again!

  2. I love that Walt Whitman quote! It's wonderful. And what an incredible job of incorporating so much into your wedding and not being a bridezilla!

    1. Thanks so much, Mel! It was such a perfect day. We were, and continue to be, so very blessed. Thank you for your visit. :-) I hope you come back again soon.

  3. The cards with the places you visited in Paris is such a fun idea!

  4. Thanks, Ashley. We wanted to incorporate who we are as a couple, in addition to who we are individually. It was a magical day.

  5. Thanks so much, Mel! It was such a perfect day. We were, and continue to be, so very blessed. Thank you for your visit. :-) I hope you come back again soon.