Thursday, November 29, 2012

Planning for Two Weddings: The Cross-Cultural Couple's Dream (or Nightmare?)

I have started prepping for my upcoming trip to Turkey, and besides buying gifts, I'm starting to make a list of all the things I need to accomplish before I get on that plane, as well as everything I hope to do while in Turkey.

Besides work and school requirements that consistently hover in the background and foreground of my life, for the past several months wedding planning has really gotten underway.  I have many 'party-planning' duties (or decisions) I need to take care of here in the USA, and in Turkey as well.

Many little girls dream of their wedding day.  They may draw pictures of themselves as a bride in a beautiful, white princess gown, or imagine all the special moments, or start collecting items for their future home. 

I was not one of those little girls.

The only time I can recall my younger self dreaming about a wedding was after a trip to India.  "I want an Indian wedding!"  I told my mother after I came home.  The colors, the music, the procession, the henna night and the celebration - I loved this idea of a wedding.  But my destiny was not to have this type of wedding.  I am an American and thus American wedding it is (and now, a Turkish wedding as well - so I get my henna night after all!)

When I actually became engaged to H. and the prospect of planning a wedding became a reality, I told everyone "I just want a simple wedding".  Little did I know that my idea of a "simple wedding" was an oxymoron.  A true simple wedding would be driving to city hall and saying "I do" with two witnesses and a couple of signatures (which I have often contemplated doing in recent weeks). 

My false hope of simplicity was having a family affair, in an outdoor setting, with tasteful food and a informal attire.  It seemed so simple - as in "not fancy" - but the reality is "not fancy" does not equal simplicity.  There are so many details, so many decisions and so many expectations that come with a wedding.  Unfortunately, all of these many different components, along with my ill-defined concept of simplicity, have led to several explosions in the wedding planning process.

At this point I have come to terms that my wedding will not be simple, and I will have to compromise with family wishes for certain traditions and details that they feel are important.  I also have to accept that I am not so simple and that my family is not so simple as well - differing world views and values are at the core of many of our complications.  They are who they are, and I am who I am - but, in the end we all love each other and hopefully that is enough to accept was is.

Throughout this mentally-challenging American process I have held the hope that wedding planning in Turkey will be different.  (See we will be having TWO weddings…not so simple at all.)  As I have learned through H. and his family, wedding are typically at a local salon and that there are far fewer decisions that have to be made (as compared to American weddings).  The wedding is fairly standard with some minor personal details.  You see - I don't think they have The Knot, or all the thousands of wedding websites that explain just how important it is for you to personalize every wedding detail down to the cocktail napkins.
Cocktail napkins like these...

With a Turkish marriage there is more focus on "opening" a house or apartment.  The couple are moving in together and they need to create a home.  This home is prepared with all new furniture, appliances, curtains and all the appropriate accessories in advance of the wedding.  The night of the wedding, the couple arrive exhausted to their new home with a full fridge and all the details in place.   In Turkey, the real money is spent in prepping the house for a lifetime and not on flowers that die the next day or little matchbooks that say your name and wedding date for all the guests to take home and remember the special day. 

Well I guess I am blatantly showing my bias here (and overstating some of the details a bit, if I may). 

Through my experience thus far, I am realizing that the 'typical' American wedding is primarily a reflection of our consumer culture and an exaggeration of etiquette and tradition (the average cost of an American wedding is around $27,000!!!!!!).  But, but, but...perhaps it doesn't have to be so.  By trying to keep our purchases local and straightforward, H. and I are trying to needle out some of the blatant consumerism.  We are trying to keep the day real and true to ourselves, which means a little Turklish, with a combination of American customs and some added Turkish details. 

To be fair, our Turkish wedding may not be as easy and simple to plan as I am envisioning - I shall soon find out.

During our trip this December-January we will be making decisions with regard to our upcoming wedding - what food and beverages will be served, what invitations we will order, who will play the music, and more.  The "more" will hopefully not be too difficult.  At least I can sit back and ride through this one - my Turkish is in no condition for negotiations.   I'll let conventions be what they are and I'll keep the decision making easy and straight forward.  Or so I hope.


  1. Wishing you all the best in your forthcoming marriage. You are right to think its much simpler to marry in Turkey and they certainly have their priorities right.
    I am not a resident of Turkey but i have had a home there for 15 years and i love it.

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog and for the well wishes! 15 years in Turkey - I'll be sure to check out your blog to hear about your experiences.

  2. Hmm, I don't know that I agree with Dailymusing that a Turkish wedding is "simpler" but it's definitely different from weddings I've been to in the U.S. You wrote that your fiance and H. explained that Turkish weddings are "fairly standard". I think that's true in that there's a culturally-endorsed idea of what's supposed to happen and when, whereas American weddings are more "to each his own" in terms of style, guest list, locations, ceremony, etc. What Turkish weddings are is exhausting. :-) We went to my sister-in-law's two years ago and it was a three-day-long affair. Of course, as you know, the actual exchange of vows is pretty short and sweet. But the henna night (the night before) and the party afterward the wedding are fun to experience. I look forward to hearing about yours!

    1. Yes, simple is a hard word to define. I think for me the hardest part with the American wedding is making all the decisions from all the thousands of options, while the Turkish set-up has few choices to be made. I'm very bad at making these types of decisions!! I think both weddings are probably going to be quite exhausting and will end up being several day events with many family dinners, breakfasts and long, sleepless nights. Hopefully it will all be fun too! We'll definitely be ready for our honeymoon after the second wedding is over!


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