Conflict-free Diamonds

By Kristen Castillo

May 30, 2017 5 min read

Wedding planning has its challenges all over the board, but when cultures and traditions collide, the situation can get very stressful.

Preeti Moberg knows what it's like to have mixed cultures at a wedding -- that's because she's Hindu Indian and husband is white Lutheran. She runs a South Asian wedding blog, The Big Fat Indian Wedding, which features many mixed race and mixed religion weddings.

"When you're part of different cultures and religions, there will be plenty of differences," says Moberg, who suggests focusing on what is important to you culturally, what is important to your family and what is important to your partner. "Mixed religious weddings tend to have family involvement so understand what is important to them, how you can value their traditions and then how to merge that with your ideas."

*Double Time

One solution for celebrating both cultures and traditions is to do everything twice.

"When religion is an important aspect of your cultures, you can have a double wedding ceremonies," says Moberg, noting this means having one religious ceremony followed by another.

The downside? Investing extra time and extra money. You'll likely need two or more outfits, different officiants, additional d?cor and more music.

Many couples create a "best of traditions" ceremony, blending the best traditions of each religion into one ceremony.

"You can take the bedeken, signing of the ketubah, smashing the glass from a Jewish wedding and blend it with the pheras, varmala, jai mala, saptpadi of a Hindu ceremony into one large ceremony," says Moberg.

*Dealing With Conflict

Stress can be painful between partners and in families, but don't ignore it.

"Never avoid conflict in any relationship," says psychotherapist Mark O'Connell, who urges expressing your needs and listening at the same time. "Listening doesn't mean backing down."

Instead he advises finding ways for both perspectives to coexist. Try to learn from the other side. Couples struggling with family conflict can try couple's counseling.

"Long term relationships are most successful when both partners are open to help," says O'Connell, who reminds couples to always prioritize their connection over being right.

In his book, "Modern Brides & Modern Grooms: A Guide to Planning Straight Gay and Other Nontraditional Twentieth Century Weddings," O'Connell writes about a Jewish bride and her Catholic groom.

The bride's brother was Orthodox, and her father had converted to Catholicism and was a deacon. At first, her brother refused to attend the wedding and her father was upset the wedding wouldn't be even more Catholic, since the groom was Catholic, too.

"She spent a lot of time crafting words for her father and brother, emphasizing her desire to connect with them as the priority," says O'Connell. "They both attended."

*Celebrating Differences

Fighting over wedding details is a big strain on relationships, but it doesn't have to be.

"In my interviews with hundreds of long-married elders who survived their own weddings, as well as those of their children and grandchildren, I heard one piece of advice over and over: Lighten up," says Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist in Cornell University's College of Human Ecology, who interviewed 700 long-married couples for his Marriage Advice Project. He wrote "30 Lessons for Loving."

Pillemer says just by asking, "is this really worth it?" will help couples and families avoid or at least minimize conflict.

In his research, Pillemer, who says "openness and cultural differences can enrich a wedding ceremony" learned one "magic bullet" for dealing with conflict over weddings: each person in the couple should think what's most important and then let each person get that one thing.

"Many couples find that she cares about the cake, he cares about the band, and nobody cares much about the wedding breakfast," says Pillemer. "Once you know what each of you cares about most, be flexible on that issue, and a lot of tension melts away."

Kristen Castillo is a three-time Emmy Award-winning journalist. An editor and writer for wedding magazines, she's written hundreds of wedding articles, as well as an e-book, "Weddings on a Dime."

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