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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 3, 2010

Traditions blend in multicultural weddings

 •  'Guru of joy' to visit Isles

By Jessica Yadegaran
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Family and friends toast multicultural couple Raziel Ungar, second from right, and Hava Tabari, at his side.

SHERI LAVARS | Contra Costa Times via MCT

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Next month, Rachel Carroll and Michelle Matt will walk down the aisle to the sounds of Caribbean steel drum music. Once they are under the chuppah, or wedding canopy, a rabbi will read passages from the Torah and instruct Matt, who is Trinidadian, to step on glass, a custom in Carroll's Jewish faith.

Later, at the San Francisco reception, guests will nibble on Trinidad Black Cake, a fruit cake made with rum. The cake will be inscribed with a verse from Corinthians, representing Matt's Baptist roots.

"It's been a joy," says Carroll, 43, of planning a cross-cultural ceremony. They got help from Berkeley, Calif., wedding planner Nelle Donaldson. "The only thing that's been challenging is figuring out what we want to do and finding a way to physically manifest it."

Planning a wedding is hard enough with one set of traditions. When a couple comes from different cultural or religious backgrounds, however, they must integrate both of their traditions into their special day. Some cross-cultural couples get particularly creative, blending traditions with help from family and wedding planners. Ultimately, though, they follow their own sensibilities to select the rituals that resonate the most with them and represent their style as partners.

Matt and Carroll, who've been together for four years, had much of that figured out before their engagement one year ago, the Oakland couple says.

"The wedding is really the culmination of having had those conversations and celebrated cultural events together already," Carroll says.

Oakland, Calif., wedding planner Marilyn Ambra says communication is key when navigating a couple through the cultural highlights of their nuptials. She tries to make sure both sides are represented in the ceremony, the wedding's spiritual core.

"We tell couples not to shy away from the concept of blending the two cultures," Ambra says. "A unique celebration can be created that is very personalized, respectful, and represents both values and beliefs. And that's so vital."

This summer, Ambra's San Francisco clients, Rasiel Ungar and Hava Tabari, are getting married in a Calistoga wedding that is a one-of-a-kind tapestry of their roots.

Ungar grew up Jewish and remains active in his faith. Tabari is half Jewish and half Persian and was raised with cultural elements of both.

Their biggest piece of advice? It's the same as any engaged couple's. "Other people will give you ideas, but the vision should be yours alone," Ungar says.

Ada Chen and Sachin Rekhi concur. She is Chinese; he is Indian.

"He had some sense of what his mother was expecting, and I had an idea of what my family wanted," says Chen, 24. " So we had to figure out how to blend the two to meet our style."