Culture Clash?

Mrs. Bee posted about Interracial Marriages a little bit ago. I’m very interested in this topic for the simple reason that I’m in an interracial relationship along with about half of my friends. Coming from different cultures is fun because you get to experience new things. For example, my fiance celebrates St. Nick on December 6th. That’s when his family opens all their stockings. It’s so fun!! His Mom gives all of us a giant stocking filled with all sorts of goodies. It’s definitely something I’ve gotten used to. Haha Now, he definitely wants to keep that tradition for our future kids.

Along with the fun comes some “heavier” issues, like what kind of ceremony to have, which cultural traditions to incorporate into the wedding, what kind of “church” to get married in, what religion to raise the kids and so on. It seems like a battle of trying to please everyone. Also, worrying how your parents and his parents will get along. I mean, they never say it, but I know my parents would have preferred if I married someone Filipino. My parents always talk to each other, the relatives and their friends in Tagalog. Plus, my Mom still has a thick accent that perplexes us all since she’s been here longer than she’s lived in the Philippines. (My Dad lost his years ago. Go figure.)

I know this is a huge issue because the other half of my friends refuse to date anyone who isn’t from the same ethnic background or religion. I’m mean and I tease them. “What if you fell in love with someone who wasn’t (fill in the blank ethnicity)? How hard is it to find someone you click with, someone you can talk to, someone you’re madly in love with, someone whom you can picture spending the rest of your life with and consider helping you raise your children? And you’re going to narrow down the odds even further? You don’t choose who you fall in love with.” I know, like I said, mean. But true.

It’s not always that simple I suppose. A lot of my friends have grandparents that can’t speak English and parents who speak minimal English. I understand that they would like their significant other to be able to communicate with them. Also, it would be rather difficult if someone is athiest and another is a devout Christian. (Although, I’ve seen this situation work out before.) Lastly, parents are not always as understanding as we would like them to be. A lot of my friends would get disowned if they married someone who wasn’t the same ethinicity or religion. But I do believe true love conquers all. I know it’s difficult but I have had friends who fought through years of grief from their parents and it’s worked out in the end.

Was this an issue for any of your readers or anyone you know? Did it all work itself out?
Those of you in interracial relationships, are you using any special traditions for the wedding?
Lastly, if there is a culture clash, how do you plan on raising your kids (religion, traditions, etc.)?


Mrs. Hibiscus

Orange County
Wedding Date:
July 2007
My Hairpiece
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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    glass, Guest @ 9:45 am

    My fiance and i are both Korean but are different religions which is making things VERY difficult during the wedding planning. It was never a problem up until now. I guess it has to do alot with the fact that it’s not just us anymore. Our families are involved too. Sigh…and i thought marrying someone who was Korean was all that i needed!

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    Jasmine, Guest @ 10:25 am

    I am in an interracial marriage now. I am Chinese and my husband is an American mutt (his family can trace their ansestors back to the Mayflower and there is a park in his hometown with the family last name which shows you how long they have been living in the same area) We had no real issues when it came to planning the wedding though because even though I am Chinese I was born in America and basically adopted American culture while I was growing up. My mom was a little disappointed that I didnt do any Chinese things at the wedding but not tremendously so. I had a red signing cloth as my guestbook but that was about the only Chinese thing I did. The only religious thing we did was my husband’s family is Quaker so we did a few Quaker things at the church but all in all it was pretty much a typical American wedding.

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    Bridget, Guest @ 10:44 am

    This has been a bit of an issue for my fiance and I, but nothing insurmountable. He’s Taiwanese…his family came over when he was 8, so he and his brother speak English just fine. But his parents make no effort to speak English in front of me. I completely understand how hard it is to learn another language, so I’m not trying to judge them. But his dad works for the federal government…I’m pretty sure that he can speak English okay. Yet whenever we see them it’s all Mandarin, all the time. So, I’m planning on taking Mandarin classes, now that I’m officially going to be part of the family. I think if I show them that I’m making an effort, maybe they’ll make an effort too and we can meet somewhere in the middle.

    On the religious front, I was raised Catholic, and my FI wasn’t raised with any religious influence. As a result, he’s pretty much agnostic now, and is particularly wary of western religions. Even though I’m not super religious, I did always see myself getting married in a Catholic ceremony. But, I’ve let go of that and we’re just having a civil ceremony. It wouldn’t make any sense for me to ask him to marry me in the ceremony of a religion that he knows almost nothing about and, truthfully, kind of freaks him out a little bit. I want our ceremony to be meaningful for both of us. I don’t know yet how we’re going to raise our kids. I’ll probably take them to church once in a while, but I don’t want them to think that they have to be Catholic. FI would prefer that they got no religious exposure, but he knows it’s important to me that they grow up with an understanding of spirituality, so he’s willing to cede that to me.

    I don’t think we’re going to be doing any cultural traditions at the wedding. FI was pretty much useless for telling me about any Taiwanese wedding traditions. We’ll probably ask his parents if they want us to incorporate anything.

    The cultural difference hasn’t been a big deal for my extended family, even though we’re the first interracial couple and non-Catholic wedding. They’re just happy I’m happy. His family likes me, except for his grandmother. The one time I met her, she wouldn’t shake my hand or make eye contact with me. FI said that she doesn’t trust white people in general, so I’m not taking it personally.

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    olive, Guest @ 11:23 am

    I’m taiwanese, FI is mixed European-American. His family is Catholic, my parents are Buddhist, I am Protestant. Originally I didn’t agree with the Catholic teachings, but since I am not very religious I decided to compromise and have a Catholic ceremony (sort of). Unfortunately since I am not going to convert, and the wedding is not in a Catcholic church, our marriage is not going to be recognized by the Church. However, it will still have the same air as a Catholic ceremony, and that pleases his family. We haven’t decided how to raise our children (that’s still far off in the future), but my fiance is not very religious either, so it is not a big debate for us yet. Luckily my parents are less religious and not very traditional (even though they are 100% Taiwanese), and do not care to have any tradition in the wedding. It will be a full western-type wedding.

  5. Guest Icon Guest
    Carrie, Guest @ 11:55 am

    My FI and I are both Caucasian but I am from a non-practicing Jewish family but we are a Holocust survivor family. His family are very devout Catholics but he is non-practicing. We aren’t really having any conflicts with the wedding. We decided on non-denominational. Although my mom is disappointed that we are not having a rabbi, I said it would not be fair, and pretty meaningless for me since I do not practice religion or believe in god. The real problem is going to come when we have children. I know my MIL is going to want my child baptized and I can’t allow that. So, it wouldn’t be fair to have any Jewish ceremonies, such as a bris if we had a boy.
    So what my FI and I decided is that we are not raising our children with any religion. We don’t practice it or believe in it, so why should we. I know this might be a problem as well, but I think we are going to stick by it.

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    Miss Lime, Guest @ 12:14 pm

    we are from different ethnic backgrounds, but they’re both asian cultures.

    my mom’s advice is that while she is ok with us marrying people of other ethnicities, that in many cases you can connect that much deeper with someone of the same ethnic background and through a potentially shared second language. also, it helps on the family front and makes life easier for you and your fiance. surprisingly, my very traditional extended family has been very accepting.

    we are both the same religion and thought it very important to marry someone with the same background, although we both have dated outside of it before getting together.

  7. Guest Icon Guest
    Lixue, Guest @ 12:53 pm

    My parents had an issue w. my fiance being caucasian (i’m korean) but now my mom says that it’s made everything easier b.c she can’t argue w. the in-laws b.c they don’t speak korean and she doesn’t speak english! hah

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    Mrs. Bee, Guest @ 12:54 pm

    my parents ideally would have wanted me to marry someone that was korean, but once they met mr. bee they loved him. now i don’t think it really matters.

    we did have a traditional korean ceremony in our wedding and i would have done a japanese one too but mr. bee didn’t want too. 😉

    as far as raising our kids, i hope that they can appreciate all of their cultures (korean, japanese, american)…. but i’ve found that you often identify with the culture whose food you grew up with. nothing says home like what you grew up eating. i can’t live without korean food so they’ll be eating a lot of korean. :)

  9. Guest Icon Guest
    Amnesia, Guest @ 12:56 pm

    Excellent post– this is a topic I’m very interested in!

    This has been a little bit of an issue for us, particularly with family members, but I think it has required everyone involved to be very patient (and it will be a continuing challenge). My FI is a Japanese-born Japanese American, and I am the Caucasian mutt. He moved to the states when he was fairly young, so there is a cultural (and sometimes generational) gap that sometimes exists between himself and his parents, and there isn’t a lot of open communication between them. I know that his parents weren’t thrilled that I wasn’t Japanese or even Asian (more generally), but it’s aggravated by the fact that my FI doesn’t always communicate things smoothly. There is a partial language barrier between myself and his parents, who primarily speak Japanese, which adds another level of distance. It’s just meant that it’s taking a long, slow process to figure out expectations, behavior, and communication. There is progress but it occurs slowly…sloooooowly.

    We are having a Western style wedding but incorporating a lot of Japanese motifs and touches to make it more of a fusion of “us”– origami cranes, shakuhachi and taiko for the ceremony music, a sake ritual incorporated into the ceremony, and a few other things here and there.

    I was raised Protestant, but am very loose on the religious background. He remembers Buddhist practices from his childhood but then went to Catholic school in the states and is mostly a humanist. We agreed that if we have kids, they’d probably be raised in a humanist belief structure and we might attend a unitarian church. We’d try to provide them with language resources so that they could develop bilingual skills that would help them form a relationship with their grandparents (and just might be an added asset to navigating their world).

  10. Guest Icon Guest
    Tea, Guest @ 1:41 pm

    i’m a product of an interracial marriage and will, eventually, be in an interracial marriage. i’m korean and black and my bf is black and a tiny hint of white [i believe his dad was a 1/4]. i know it may sound weird that i still consider our relationship to be interracial, but it is since i identify as both black and korean [now if my bf was also korean and black then it wouldn’t be much to talk about! lol]

    my parents have always been open to whoever we dated and never placed any restrictions. the only thing that matter to me was a shared religious background.

    i do plan on having a paebaek along with a regular western wedding because it’s such a great ceremony and is part of me. my bf has always held an interest in asian cultures so he’s totally on board with anything i may throw at him.

    as far as rasing our kids, it’ll be the same as my parents, a nice balance of both cultures. they’ll definitely be eating korean food since we both love it.

  11. Guest Icon Guest
    Aliya, Guest @ 1:51 pm

    My fiance is a white-bread midwestern boy from an Italian Catholic family, and I’m a mutt (dad = Pakistani, mom = American farm girl, and I lived in PK from ages 3-13) — so while our marriage will technically be interracial, we’ve had more conversations about the cultural aspects of our mariage. We’re getting married in a Catholic church b/c that is VERY important to my FH (and I’m not religious one bit), but we’re having a very liberal priest perform the ceremony and there are specific things I want — so it may end up being “Catholic Lite” so to speak.

    My parents didn’t talk about any issues of culture, religion, family, geography before they got married, and they are now divorced (not only for this reason). FH and I are going to be OK, though, because we’re talking about it now and realize that a lot of this (how we raise kids, etc.) will be a work in progress. I think the key to all of this is communication and understanding. I also realize that it can be difficult if in-laws/parents get involved, which has happened with us but not TOO bad (yet).

  12. Guest Icon Guest
    Plumsauce, Guest @ 2:05 pm

    I am really glad to see this topic brought up once again. I recently got engaged and when I told my parents the news, they were not very supportive at all. I am Chinese and my fiance is 1/2 Scottish and Vietnamese. My parents were so upset that he did not go proposing, the “traditional” Chinese way – where the groom to be’s family invites the bride to be for a meal and marriage is discussed. So right then and there, we started off rocky on the whole engagement thing.

    We got engaged a few days before winter break (I am a grad student) and when I went home for the holidays my parents were making all sorts of demands i.e. what gifts the fiance should give to the family etc etc. I just wanted to ENJOY being engaged and already I felt this tremendous pressure.

    My parents automatically assumed we would have a Chinese wedding. Which btwn the fiance and myself, we had decided to have a Chinese reception. However, w/ all these demands, and the wedding being financed namely btwn my fiance and myself, it seems impossible!!!! I tried to tell them that I would like to incorporate my culture in, however, we must not expect my fiance to do EVERYTHING by the book!!! When I type this, I almost want to cry….I thought engagements are supposed to be happy things, and all it has been is misery…and my parents are causing it.

    I don’t know what to do w/ my parents. I don’t want to end up disowned or anything like that. However, I need to get through to them that we can’t do EVERYTHING the way the “Chinese” do it.

    I would love to hear fr. other brides that are going or have gone through sth similar.

  13. Guest Icon Guest
    lilpetunia, Guest @ 2:49 pm

    My bf and I are not quite interracial ( we are both white) but I am from Europe ( Slovakia) and he is American ( VA). I am non-practicing Eastern Orthodox, he is baptized Protestant but goes to catholic church ( weird, I know).

    Right now my biggest issue is that he doesn’t speak any SLovak and my family doesn’t really speak English, I don’t really want to force him into learning it, since it’s rather difficult language, but I hope to teach our potential children.

    Other than that, no real issues. We celebrate St. Nick’s Day and Slovak Christmas ( on Dec 24th), but also Thanksgiving ( my favorite American Holiday). We go to Church on Christmas Day because that’s important for him.

    I think we will just solve any issues as they come up.

  14. Guest Icon Guest
    Ms. Stargazer, Guest @ 6:01 pm

    I am Vietnamese and my soon-to-be fiance is Chinese. Interracial marriage is a BIG issue in my family because my parents are extremely traditional. Because of this reason, we have been dating for over 2 years and my Dad has no idea (my mom is much more understanding). But this will change after next weekend when I break the news to my Dad. I am not worried about issues such as religion (our families are both Buddhists), his education, or his upbringing. My only concern is the language barrier between him and my parents.

    Wish me luck!

  15. Guest Icon Guest
    Angiepangie, Guest @ 7:13 pm

    I am also in an interracial/interreligious relationship, I am black and Christian and my FI is caucasian and Jewish. We have few problems with our differences mostly because we have similar families and grew up in very similar ways. Because of our shared upbringing, we agree on the important values like family and working hard which makes the superficial (to us) aspects of race and religion seem trivial. It also helps that his mom is Catholic and his dad is Jewish because when I occassionaly freak out (Thanks New York Times for an article about dysfunctional Jewish/Christian families during the December holidays) about potential problems that we might have in the future with kids and holidays he tells me that he has been successfully celebrating both religions for 30 years and our kids will be fine.

    I always thought that I would marry a black man because I wanted to marry a man like my father. But then I met FI in law school and realized that my dad is much more than “just” a black man; my dad is smart, funny, caring, trustworthy, loyal, and so much more. Those are the real traits that are important to me and I decided that those were the things that I needed and wanted from the man that I would spend the rest of my life with. My dad has been so supportive of our relationship from the very start. When I called him to tell him that FI and I were thinking about taking our relationship from a friendship to something more, my dad’s response was “It’s about time, I was wondering when you would do something about the great guy that was right underyour nose.” And now that we are engaged, no one is happier for us than both sets of parents and families.

    We are having a wedding that reflects us and who we are as individuals and as a couple. One of our best friends from law school is going to perform our wedding and we’re incorporating our favorite parts of both cultures and religions into the ceremony. It may not be traditional in any sense of the word, but it will be us.

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