Monday, July 20, 2009

Do traditional weddings have a place in the 21st century?

Do traditional weddings have a place in the 21st century?

By Ryan Pangilinan
Northwest Asian Weekly

Weddings: They can be a dream, but they can also turn into a nightmare.

There are plenty of stereotypes and expectations attached to a wedding. While some people focus on the bride, the groom, and their everlasting devotion to one another, most people will look to add in their two cents on the matter.

For Asian Americans, a wedding can hit traditional cultural trademarks, be a simple, Judeo-Christian ceremony, or combination of both, providing a truly ‘Asian-American’ experience. By perusing the Internet, someone can find websites dedicated to the various characteristics in traditional Asian weddings, be it Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, or Hmong. is a wedding blog that has several features on a couples’ mixture of a Sri Lankan and Indian wedding, baring the satirical title “Our Big Fat Brown Wedding.”

Looking over the entries for this particular wedding, it is clear that the couples’ individual religious and cultural backgrounds were important enough to have them combined in their ceremonies.

“[We] have figured out a way to make a smooth transition from the Poruwa ceremony to the Hindu ceremony,” wrote blogger Charmi Wijesekera.

A 10-minute YouTube video featured on the blog, as well as several detailed posts, suggested that they were able to pull off both traditional ceremonies. For some couples, however, there can be a bit of a compromise.

For Seattle University graduate Anna Dumo Navarro, having both her and her husband be Filipino wasn’t quite enough to have a traditional wedding.

“Phil is Catholic and I’m Baptist, so we couldn’t get married in a Catholic church. Not that it was even an option,” she said.

The couple eventually used the chapel at Bastyr University as the venue for their wedding.

“Bastyr was a good compromise,” Navarro said.

While a majority of Filipinos are Catholic (80.9 percent, according to the CIA Factbook), Filipino-Americans have taken on other forms of Evangelical Christianity, such as the case with Navarro.

For her wedding, Navarro included one element of a traditional Filipino wedding, the cord and the veil, in which a rope is draped around the couple forming an infinity symbol.

“I guess normal Filipino weddings are Catholic, so we just did the cord and veil because I wanted to add something from our culture,” she said.

Though Navarro was able to add a bit of Filipino flair and tradition, some people aren’t as lucky.

Lizzie Oberlander, an Indonesian-American, found that it was difficult to even have a traditional wedding ceremony, let alone a traditional Indonesian wedding. Her and her husband’s families were too spread out.

“My family is mostly in Missouri and also Indonesia,” Oberlander said. “[My husband’s] family is in California and also Illinois. My grandmother and his grandmother couldn’t travel.”

The Oberlanders instead opted for a small ceremony with a judge and celebrated their union with a reception that allowed their respective families to join them.

“The reception was more of a get together,” Oberlander said. “My mom made traditional food.”

Despite the difficulties of getting their families together, Oberlander said that a traditional wedding would’ve been just as nice.

“I absolutely would’ve loved to have a traditional wedding. In Indonesia, the [ceremony and celebration] lasts a couple days,” she said. “But it wasn’t practical at the time.”

While people can look to a film like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” as a bit of an insight to how a traditional ethnic wedding can go (albeit in a slightly exaggerated manner), it can be said that what matters most is their affection for each other. ♦

Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at