Ask Linley

Honoring Traditions.

I have some very religious family members who don’t really understand the barefoot-on-the-beach wedding thing. How can I accommodate them and make them feel appreciated?
– Free Spirit

So maybe you have a grandmother who is waiting for the thunderclap since you decided to exchange vows on the beach rather than inside a traditional place of worship. Or maybe Dad isn’t quite buying the whole nature-is-a-temple argument. There are lovely ways to accommodate the devout without compromising your wedding vision. Consider asking a special guest to recite a prayer during the ceremony or toasts, or to say a blessing before the meal. Make a toast to Grandma, perhaps offering an anecdote about wisdom you’ve gained from her or what her commitment to her faith might have taught you.   

My soon-to-be spouse and I come from different cultural backgrounds and are looking for ideas on how to celebrate both on our big day. Any suggestions?
 – All-Inclusive Union

It can be challenging to make everyone happy in one six-hour span of time, but keeping this one thought in mind might help: integration. You are combining more than just the lives of you and your soon-to-be spouse. The two of you, your families, and other loved ones with whom you’ve chosen to share this day will quite likely be breaking bread – whether challah or naan, or both – for many years to come.

You might include favorite recipes and ethnic dishes from both families on the menu. Consider bringing cultural details and colors into the d├ęcor. A tented lounge area with furniture, fabrics, and accents reflecting your different backgrounds would be inviting to all of your guests and especially meaningful to your families. Tables might be named for places important to the family histories – the cities, regions, or countries of your heritage. Find a special place to display wedding photos of your parents and grandparents and some cultural and family trinkets, as a tribute to where you came from and to the foundation on which you will build your future.

We’d like some ideas on how to incorporate our venue choice into our vows. Are there any Vineyard traditions we might include?
 – Mermaid for Hire

You have chosen Martha’s Vineyard as the locale for your “I dos” for a reason – whether for the miles of sandy shores, the meandering stonewalls marking farm lands and pastures, or the harbors filled with stalwart vessels. So, yes, bringing the natural beauty and lifestyle of the Island into the celebration in a bigger way is fitting.

Treasures collected from the shore are perfect components for coastal themes. Consider a sand ceremony, in which you and your beloved each pour sand from individual vessels into a shared vase, combining the many grains of sand as you will the many facets of your lives. Glass vases layered with sand, beach stones, or shells might be used for table centerpieces or as complements to the floral arrangements. Nautical themes, which might include flags, anchors, and nylon cord, are suggestive of life on or by the sea, as well as being symbolic for setting sail into married life. The Island is renowned for its bounty of fresh fare from land and sea. (See our photo essay on page 40 on ocean-inspired menus.) Your menu might include such surprises as setting up a chowder bar at the ceremony site, where guests can mingle after the ceremony before making that long (and picturesque) stroll back through the beach grass or meadow to the reception site.

We would like to avoid the traditional wedding readings and do something a little more “us.” Any ideas?
 – Keeping it Real

There are plenty of ways to seal your union without citing a letter from John to the Corinthians. While John was quite eloquent in his assessment of love, you are looking for something a bit different to demonstrate your feelings toward your beloved – and you should. Consider a favorite poem or the lyrics to a song that you both love. A friend recently chose a favorite children’s book for one of her readings, while another chose an excerpt from a novel. And I was at another wedding recently where a poem about penguins was recited – okay, my husband and I were the readers. And we wore penguin hats. Might be over the top for some couples, but it worked for this zany pair and we were happy to be part of it. The point is, don’t hold back on finding something that really represents the two of you.