By Suchi Rudra
It’s no surprise that fusion weddings—weddings that combine two or more religions and/or ethnic backgrounds—are increasingly popular in a city that is well known for its diverse population. A Penn State study published in 2012 found that the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area ranked as the 4th most diverse metro area in the entire country.
And as the city with the 3rd largest south Asian population in the country, Hindu-Christian fusion weddings are especially common, says Vicky Choy, founder of Event Accomplished. In the ten years that Vicky has been operating her Arlington-based special events planning and management company, she’s overseen dozens of various ethnic and religious combinations in fusion weddings.
Neeva Dhariwal, owner of Project Bride DC, a wedding planning and event coordination company that’s been around for two years, says she and her team specialize in multicultural weddings and have coordinated many Hindu-Muslim, Muslim-Christian and Hindu-Jewish fusion weddings.
“But the traditions within Hinduism are so vast that we could even say that a north-south Indian Hindu wedding could be considered fusion as well,” Neeva adds.
Wedding planning, fusion or not, can test a couple and their families, as Vinodhini (Vinnu) P. Kudva of Events by Design points out. And with fusion weddings, the complexity and sensitivity of different cultures can add to the stress of planning a major family event.
So for those considering a fusion wedding of any kind, here are some words of wisdom from three of Washington DC’s fusion wedding experts:
–Figure out what’s important to you as a couple.
The decision to have a fusion wedding is wholly dependent on the couple, their relationship and the foundation they wish to build upon. Neeva says couples should decide which traditions are important for them to carry forward and merge for their new family. If the religious and/or ethnic backgrounds are important to and define who you are, then bringing those elements into a wedding make sense. Vicky says relatives are usually thrilled that the engaged couple wants to incorporate and combine religious and/or cultural aspects into the wedding, rather than being opposed to it. “I think as children of immigrants, you see that sometimes religious and cultural traditions have gone away or have become less integrated into people’s lives. What’s fascinating is that weddings are the one event where people still cherish those traditions and want to embrace them.”
–Communicate your needs early on to your family and your planner.
Once you’ve decided on the elements you want to incorporate in your wedding, discuss this with all parties involved, including your families and your officiants for the ceremony portion–and then with your wedding planner, caterer and DJ or band. “Especially with cultural traditions, your families may have particular expectations on how those should be conducted. You don’t want them to be surprised on wedding day,” she notes. Neeva adds that communicating early enough also gives you time to gain everyone’s support on your decisions. The biggest challenge for her is deciding which traditions to include and how this will impact the families. “Traditionally, fusion weddings have to compromise the cultures of two different backgrounds, so finding the middle ground can sometimes prove difficult. The best way to resolve pending issues is to get both families on board with the approach and traditions so that the wedding itself is smooth.”
–Prioritize to keep your budget in check.
If incorporating your culture and/or religion is high on your priority list, Vicky suggests appropriating a higher than average amount of time and budget to ensure that you can include those cultural or religious elements in your wedding. “If it’s not high on your priority list, then pick something easy and simple and move on,” she says. Major cost drivers at any wedding are the number of ceremonies that will be held and the number of receptions and venues that need to be booked—and fusion weddings tend to double up on one or the other, Neeva points out.
–Determine a general outline of your day.
Vinnu encourages clients to figure out the times for all ceremonies and receptions, how many people are invited and other big, important numbers. “Determining these details before choosing a venue will alleviate the stress of having a venue that doesn’t work for what is needed.”
–Work out the timing needed to smoothly tie in the different religious ceremonies.
This is where a couple can really look to their planner for help. Vicky finds this to be one of the biggest challenges of a fusion wedding, but finds that it’s usually a matter of finding the right timing. “For example, with a Korean Pae Baek ceremony, there is quite a bit of set up needed and the couple will also need to change into their Korean wedding attire. So if you are following a typical American reception timeline, you will need to find the right spot to accomplish all that without interrupting the flow of the reception.”
–Maintain perspective throughout the planning process.
In the long, stressful weeks of planning, it’s easy to lose yourselves, so it’s all about putting things into perspective. Vinnu says she advises her clients to first breathe and keep in perspective what the day is really about. “A wedding and reception is full of logistical details, but the most important detail is that the wedding day is really about their union. Don’t lose sight of that.” Vicky agrees: “This is not about finding that perfect favor to give to your guests. I suggest having date nights or even weekend getaways where you are forbidden to talk about the wedding and decompress a bit.”
No matter what sort of fusion wedding you envision, the real trick, Neeva says, is to have a vision of your wedding and ensure that those who matter most are supportive of your vision.
Vicky agrees that a wedding should definitely reflect the couple and what they are about.
“Planning begins with a little soul-searching, answering the questions of what the couple is about, what’s important to the couple, what represents them. Figure out the big picture things first.”