Love is a universal language that is communicated across all cultures. That’s what makes weddings the perfect opportunity for two cultures and families to come together and celebrate, but it can get a little tricky when it comes to planning. The officiant’s beautiful words and the vows being shared between the couple are arguably the most important part of a wedding (basically the whole point of getting married!), so how can we ensure that all guests understand, enjoy, and feel included in the ceremony? It’s not as hard as you might think. Here are 8 Tips on Planning a Bilingual Wedding Ceremony!
Before you start planning, sit down with the couple and discuss what their priorities are. Asking the right questions and being on the same page is key to creating a unique ceremony that’s representative of the couple.
- How important is having a bilingual ceremony to them?
- What language do they primarily use to use communicate with each other?
- What’s the main language most of the guests speak?
- How many people attending will speak a different language?
- Are there any preferences on what parts of the wedding are bilingual?
1. Bilingual Officiant or Translator
If you’re going to take anything away from this piece, it’s this! Hiring a bilingual officiant is the number one way of planning a successful ceremony that is inclusive of everyone. Bilingual/multilingual officiants are experts at interweaving language into ceremonies and making them as special as the couple’s love story.
A bilingual ceremony doesn’t mean that everything has to be repeated twice or that the ceremony will be extra long. We know ceremonies work within the time constraints of the venue, so having a professional that knows the ins and outs of officiating and speaking to multiple audiences will make this entire process easy and smooth for everyone. Some bilingual officiants will lead the ceremony in one language and use the second language chosen by the couple to summarize + fill in the gaps so it’s not repetitive for bilingual guests. Some couples may prefer to have two different officiants that each lead in one language. This can be a nice touch and add more personality to the ceremony. If this is the option your couple opts for, make sure the officiants have time to plan together accordingly. The officiants and storytellers at Once Upon A Vow dedicate themselves to making the couple’s ceremony a remarkable day to remember. When choosing a bilingual officiant, keep this kind of energy in mind! Find a bilingual officiant that's perfect for your clients.
“Having a bilingual ceremony should be a way of enhancing the experience for the couple and their guests. It means telling the couple’s love story in its entirety and capturing every aspect of who they are and what brings them together.”
If the number of guests that speak the second language is small, and having a bilingual officiant isn’t a priority to the couple, getting a translator that sits with those guests could be a great option as well!
2. Hire Vendors That Speak Both Languages
Besides having a bilingual officiant or translator, having other vendors that speak the languages will make the rest of the day inclusive and comfortable for all guests. You never want guests to feel left out—as the festivities continue, keep them in the loop! Below are the main vendors that will enhance the experience for guests:
- A photographer that can directly communicate and tell the wedding party and guests where to go and how to pose.
- A DJ that can add in splashes of both languages, make important announcements, and play music to cater to both languages.
- Waiters/ bartenders that can assist guests with food and venue amenities.
- A wedding planner that speaks both languages. If you’re the couple’s wedding planner, but aren’t bilingual or multilingual, build a team around you that is!
3. Bilingual Stationery & Signage
Every piece of written/printed communication should be bilingual. I know this sounds like extra work but it is definitely worth it and goes a long way to communicate to guests that the couple cares about them.
When it comes to stationery, couples have several options. They can include both languages in one design or create designs for each language. This all depends on the budget and the type of design that the couple wants. If their desired designs are elaborate, then they likely will want to have one language per invitation. This goes for all other forms of stationery. Going back to the topic of having smaller groups of people that speak the second language, if this is the case then, printing select menus for them in the language they speak is ideal for saving space. But if the couple really wants to immerse all guests, then having the menu in both languages for everyone could be a special touch! A good place to start is Minted—they make exquisite bilingual stationery templates!
- Save the dates
Appropriate signage is fundamental! As pros, we know good signage can make or break guests’ experiences. Signage orients guests through the day and eases confusion. So print that signage in both languages!
4. Customize the Wedding Website
The wedding website is the hub for all things wedding! This is the first tool that sets the tone for what guests can expect on the wedding day. The nice thing about websites is that they can hold much more information than an invite. Make the website bilingual! Think about accommodations/directions for guests that are traveling from out of the country. Especially if the wedding is a destination wedding!
5. Include Both Languages in Vows & Speeches
Vows and speeches are the most touching parts of the wedding and nobody wants to miss them! Couples can interweave both languages into their vows, create brief poems that summarize their vows in the other language, or couples can each say their vow’s in their partner's language. After all, this is a union and each partner is committing to celebrating each other’s cultures.
When it comes to speeches, guests speaking should speak in their native language of course, but a good trick is to alternate speeches in different languages to keep all guests engaged and included. All speeches should be short and sweet, 10 min tops!
6. Be Intentional With The Seating Chart
Creating the seating chart is exciting but also daunting. When helping your clients with their seating charts, encourage them to consider if they want their family and friends that speak different languages to sit together and get to know each other or if you want to be strategic about keeping those that speak the same language at the same table. If intermingling sounds like a good idea, then make sure you have at least two people that speak the same language together so they can have some safety net. Take it a step further, and you can even create cute cards for the table with conversational phrases/translations to encourage guests to learn about each other and interact.
7. Play Music in Both Languages
Music is the great unifier and for most cultures, it plays an integral part in celebrations. An easy way to incorporate both languages is through music! The couple should make a playlist that includes fan-favorite songs in each language. The DJ can be instructed to intermix them so there’s a balance of both. Another option is to hire live musicians to play at different parts of the wedding. For example, at an English/Spanish wedding, an English duet can sing during cocktail hour, while a mariachi band plays during dinner. Check Out Latin Food & Music in Weddings for more inspiration!
8. Incorporate Cultural Traditions
Along with music, including the cultural traditions of each heritage will make the entire experience feel authentic and immersive.
- Food, drinks, & desserts
- Religious traditions
- Traditional activities
- Traditional decor elements
Hero photo courtesy of Lily Tapia Photography