Translation: Here, we speak Spanglish.
Planning a wedding sometimes brings out issues that nobody anticipated, and for us, language was a big one. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m Cuban, while Mr. Waterfall comes from a French Canadian family but was raised as an Anglophone. Spanish is obviously my mother tongue, and Mr. Waterfall has actually become quite fluent in it during the 10 years we’ve been together. We met while attending an English-speaking college, so naturally we speak English at home, and occasionally some Spanish. When we visit my parents, we mostly speak Spanish; when we visit his mom, we speak English; and when we visit his extended family, we speak French. It’s like the freaking United Nations, but it works!
Image via rottenecards.com
We never really gave much thought to it until it came time to book our church and we were asked whether we wanted the service in English or French. To say that language is a very touchy subject in Quebec would be a huge understatement. I won’t get into it here, but just know that there are very strict laws in place designed to protect the integrity of the French language, and that the Anglophone and Francophone communities of Montreal are often at odds about it. Mr. W’s family is very Francophone, but they all understand English fairly well, while my side of the family is obviously more comfortable in Spanish, but most of them speak English or French, if not both. It was one of those situations where no matter what we did, we were bound to offend someone, so we decided to have our wedding in English. While we were definitely met with some strong reactions at first, it just made the most sense for us. English is not only the language that Mr. W and I most often speak to one another, it was also the common language that most people at the wedding spoke, or at least understood.
Surprisingly, one of the people who was the most upset by this was Grandma Waterfall, who insisted that we needed to get married at La Guadalupe, the only Spanish church in Montreal. It took a lot of explaining for her to understand that having a full Catholic mass in Spanish would alienate half of our guest list, including the groom himself! While I really wanted to incorporate my heritage into the ceremony, I didn’t want to make the already long service even longer by having the priest say everything in two or three languages! So we decided to have all the readings, gospel, and homily be in English, while the arras and the blessing of the rings would be in Spanish, and finally, our vows would be half Spanish/half English.
We were faced with the question of language once more when it came time to design our invitations, and while we could have easily designed three separate sets—one in each language—it seemed like a huge waste of time, so we stuck with one invitation in English as a way to let people know what language the wedding would be. I’m sorry, but ain’t nobody got time for that! Then, when it came time to build our website, we decided it might as well be in English also, and were met with several comments about how the content should have been in French or Spanish instead, or even better—in all three. Building our website using my nonexistent coding skills was already hard enough, and now I was expected to translate multiple pages into multiple languages? Because, you know, apparently, I had nothing better to do…
The last straw was picking our music. I was running our music selections by my family when my grandmother got upset yet again that none of the songs were in Spanish and that I was abandoning my cultural heritage by picking only English music. I had to sit down with my grandmother to better understand why she was so upset, and had to remind her that a wedding is a merging of two people, two families, and it was important to have both sides evenly represented. As it turns out, it wasn’t really about the language, but more about Grandma Waterfall trying to hold on to her culture in what is still a foreign environment to her. So I calmed her down by pointing out all the ways that we would be incorporating our Cuban heritage into the wedding day.
In the end, our Spanglish wedding was a success, and everybody had a blast, regardless of what language they spoke. We actually had one guest complain to Mr. Waterfall that they didn’t feel included because there hadn’t been enough French in the wedding, but you can’t please everyone, so all in all I would still call it a success.
Are you dealing with a bilingual (or trilingual) wedding?