Heather Brady, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - In a traditional Indian wedding, a groom enters the ceremony from an outdoor celebration with music, dancing and drums. He rides a horse to the altar where he meets his bride dressed in a sari and bearing henna tattoos on her hands and wrists.
But what happens when the groom is American?
Though it can cause challenges and family tension, wedding experts say couples of American and South Asian backgrounds often have "fusion weddings" to honor both cultures and traditions.
WTOP talked with four local fusion wedding experts about the ins and outs of fusion ceremonies, mixed receptions and what advice they have for diverse couples exploring their wedding options.
Trisha Cranor is a wedding planner for Working Brides in Germantown, Md. Mekhla Stanton is a wedding planner in Woodbridge, Va. Sachi Sood is a wedding designer for wedding décor company Partyland Flowers & Event Decorators in Gaithersburg, Md. Ron Kee is a senior catering sales executive at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View hotel in Arlington, Va.
What happens during a fusion wedding?
CRANOR: For an Indian wedding, the groom has his own procession, as an American bride does. His typically starts outside. Everybody's dancing, everybody's very jovial, the groom is on a horse or in a very expensive car or on an elephant. The colors are so bright and vibrant.
STANTON: The big thing with the Indian wedding is the mandap, which is the square thing that they sit inside of, similar to a chuppah (in a Jewish wedding). It's a symbol of a new household being started. You cover it up with beautiful drapery on the sides and around the top.
How should a couple approach their families about having a fusion wedding, considering the potential for tension even among the most open-minded relatives?
KEE: Couples nowadays, they're looking for something more contemporary. Their parents, on the other hand, might be more traditional. A lot of my couples come to me first to coach me into how I'm going to communicate and how I'm going to do a site tour for their parents when they come out.
SOOD: One of the most successful approaches that I've seen is mostly concentrating on the bride and groom. I usually like to meet the couple first and get a feel for their style and their thinking.
STANTON: The parents of the spouse who is South Asian are very, very determined about the fact that (a traditional ceremony) is going to take place. A lot of times, the brides and grooms are a little bit hesitant. There is an element of intimidation there.
What are the biggest challenges in blending two sets of cultural and religious wedding traditions?
STANTON: A lot of brides are under family pressure. Let's say the bride is South Asian. The family of the bride, the uncles, the aunts -- everybody has a piece of advice.
KEE: You've got traditional and you've got modern, and realistically making both parties happy is probably one of the most challenging things. Even during a tour, we're talking about décor and so forth. The bride and groom are saying one thing, and the parents are like, "I don't know, that just seems like a bit over-the- top."
SOOD: I have to make the weddings so that people walk in and they say, "This is different, but this is exactly what I would expect from this couple." Even though it's different and unique, I still have to make it so that it belongs to the couple that's getting married.
If couples don't want to have multiple receptions, how can they unite two religious ceremonies?
CRANOR: Sometimes the Christian side isn't very religious, so we lose the Christian element all together. If you're going to do two ceremonies in one, sometimes we have two priests that can be right there at the same time. Or one will go first, and the other is seated. Then the other will take his place under the space. Up under the mandap you've got at least six chairs, you've got the fire box, you've got coconuts, you've got rice everywhere. I usually transition and let them come down so that Christian ceremony can have its own space.
KEE: We just had a wedding about six months ago. It was a Christian ceremony in the afternoon. The room was set up with theater-style chairs, had the aisle down the center and had a stage up front. About two hours later, that same space was used for the Hindu ceremony. The only thing we changed is they added a few more items.