Earlier this month my husband and I got married at the beautiful Barceló resort in Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico. My husband, Arturo, is from Mexico City and I’m Canadian so this was a destination wedding for both of us. Obviously if you’re planning a wedding you already have a lot to think about. However, if you and your partner are from different countries you will have a couple of extra things to consider too. Here are some things to consider when planning a bilingual, multicultural, destination wedding.
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When we first started planning, we decided we would have our ceremony in Mexico and an engagement party in Canada. That way if some Canadians couldn’t make the trip, we would still get to celebrate with them before going.
Partway through planning we found out that it would cost extra for us to get legally married at the resort. This meant we would still have our ceremony there but would have to get our marriage license once we moved to Mexico City. After realizing this and realizing that there were a big number of family and friends who couldn’t come to Mexico, we decided to have two ceremonies. We basically just kept the date of our engagement party in Kelowna, but changed it to a legal ceremony.
For Arturo and I, it was important that both our families could be able to attend our wedding, so having two ceremonies just made the most sense. Two ceremonies was more expensive for sure but we managed to save money by having the Canadian one at my parents house.
If you and your SO are from different countries it can be hard to decide on which country to get married in. Will you have two ceremonies, one in each country in case people can’t make it to one? Will you gather your closest family and friends and get married in a country between the countries you come from? Would you consider getting married in one country and having an engagement party in the other?
Since Arturo and I had two ceremonies we didn’t really have to choose one country or the other after all. However we did decide to make our ceremony in Mexico bigger and a little fancier since we had more guests at that one.
Since most of our Canadian friends either live in, or have connections in Kelowna, we didn’t have to book a section of hotel rooms for everyone to stay there. My aunt and uncle stayed in their camper on my family’s property and Arturo’s family stayed in an Air B&B. We would have loved to housed everyone but didn’t have the space. Since we were having a ceremony in Mexico as well, no one else from Mexico came to the Canada ceremony. In fact, the ceremony in Mexico was much larger than the one in Canada.
At first when we were planning our ceremony in Mexico, we wanted to do it at an hacienda. Haciendas are small hotels that used to be ranches here in Mexico. The only problem was they were too small to house everyone we invited. This was true even if we held our ceremony in Mexico City, where most of Arturo’s family is from.
We decided to have our ceremony instead at a resort in Oaxaca. Choosing a resort meant that all our guests could stay at the same place and get to know each other. The other part of our reasoning for choosing the Barceló Resort in Huatulco, was that of sustainability. Now, the Barceló Resort chain is not specifically an eco-resort chain. However, we went to Huatulco, Oaxaca since it is an area that is not as well known by foreigners. For example, we didn’t want to go anywhere that suffers from overcrowding of tourists like places such as Playa Del Carmen.
Most of the people who retreat to Huatulco are from Mexico and when we were there it was way less crowded than previous resort trips I’ve been on. Plus we learned that as an area, Huatulco is one of the most sustainable parts of Mexico. I was extremely happy to see that Barceló Huatulco had a good recycling system, did not serve plastic straws and had signs at every restaurant telling guests to not waste food.
To be totally honest, choosing to have our wedding at a resort in Mexico was way cheaper than choosing a venue in Canada. If we hadn’t had our Canadian ceremony at my family’s house, we probably would have only gotten married in Mexico. The resort requested that we pay a deposit of 20 rooms for 1 night each. This was a kind of promise that we would bring at least 20 guests to the resort. Due to that, our reception was free and we got the deposit back after. The money we got back went to paying for some of the costs of the ceremony itself and some extras that we chose to have as well.
Destination weddings are quickly gaining popularity since they can often help the bride and groom save a lot of money. However you have to remember that the wedding will be much more expensive for your guests to attend. You can’t get too upset if some people can’t go based on costs. If you and your SO are both from different countries though, then one way or another, some guests are going to end up spending money to come anyway. That’s why Arturo and I had a small gathering in Canada before we left as it was free for most people to attend, aside from those coming from other nearby cities.
If your families have different first languages, you will have to decide what language the ceremony will be in. You will also need to decide if you need a translator or not. This totally will depend on if your families understand the other language or not.
Arturo and I did not have a translator at our ceremony in Canada. The ceremony was in English and Arturo’s immediate family were the only Spanish speaking people who attended. They all have a pretty good understanding of English so we didn’t need a translator. We did however get our pastor to print out a copy of the prayer he would say for us so we could translate it and print it out in Spanish for Arturo’s family.
In Mexico we had a fair number of Canadians, Americans and Mexicans attend our wedding. For this reason we decided to have a translator for our wedding ceremony but not at the reception. This way everyone was easily able to understand our ceremony. Luckily the hotel provided translation services. There were speeches at our reception in both Spanish and English but it would have taken too much time to have them all translated. Most people had a slight grasp on both languages anyway and if they didn’t we just explained the speeches to them after. We also made sure that there were Spanish and English speaking people at every table. This way people could help out if someone didn’t understand something.
There are so many other ways you can incorporate two languages into your wedding. You can do your vows in each other’s languages or write up bilingual wedding programs. Another thing you can do is put Conversation Cards on each table at the reception with basic phrases in each language. If you want more ideas on how to incorporate two languages into a wedding, check out this article.
I’m not sure what real Canadian wedding traditions even are as I’m not an indigenous Canadian. Canada is such a huge conglomerate of immigrants and descendants of colonizers that it’s hard to tell what traditions are actually Canadian and what ones are European or from other places.
Nevertheless, some traditions that Canada and Mexico seem to share are that the bride wears a white dress, the couple exchanges rings, say vows, etc. Both cultures also have dances including a First Dance, Mother-Son Dance and Father-Daughter Dance. Some ceremonies I’ve been to in Canada will have the combining of sands. This is when the couple pours sand from two separate vases into one vase to symbolize the couple becoming one. It isn’t common in Mexico and we decided not to do it.
My family background is actually very Scottish so my dad actually wore a kilt to his wedding reception. I read that one tradition is to have the mother of the bride give the groom a kilt and I liked the sound of that but kilts are expensive so we decided to skip that tradition.
In Mexico, there is a tradition in which you nominate ‘godparents’ of a variety of wedding gifts. These are a set of gifts traditionally given to couples during their wedding. One of them is a Bible, one is a set of collectable coins, one is a lace, and one is the wedding rings. The lace is traditionally wrapped around both couple’s heads during a prayer to symbolize unity. Traditionally the couple will pick different family members to be the godparents of the Bible, and of the coins etc. Those godparents will then gift the Bible, coins, lace, and rings to the couple.
Arturo and I liked the symbolism behind a few of these gifts but decided not to ask anyone to be godparents. Most people coming to our wedding were already spending a lot of money just to get there. Plus, we didn’t want to ask anyone for gifts that we didn’t really need. Also, our families chipped in a ton for both our ceremonies so asking for extra things that we probably wouldn’t use much after just wasn’t necessary.
One tradition I did follow was the something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. This is traditionally a British custom which has grown in popularity in Canada and the USA as well. My something old and borrowed was a bracelet that my sister lent me. My something new was my wedding dress, shoes and jewelry. Originally I wanted to get a used dress but couldn’t find one that I liked. Finally, my something blue was my engagement ring and a little blue ribbon that my seamstress sewed onto the inside of my dress.
If you want to find out more about the symbolism and meaning behind the something blue tradition, read this article.
Congratulations on your engagement! I hope that this post has helped you clarify some ideas on how you might go about planning your multicultural and/or destination wedding. Remember that at the end of the day, it’s not all the little details that matter most, but that you’re marrying the love of your life. Congrats!
If you are having a bilingual, multicultural or destination wedding, let me know in the comments! I would love to hear about how you are planning everything. If you have already had a similar wedding, let me know in the comments about what it was like! Is there anything you would add to this list of things to consider?
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies Leaving Footprints. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.