Recently, I officiated the wedding of a bride from New Hampshire and a groom from Paris. He spoke English with a charming French accent. But his family, flying over for the festivities, did not. The couple requested a bilingual ceremony, but I do not speak a word of French. What was I going to do?These days, this isn’t an unusual dilemma. As our world grows smaller and more interconnected, cross-cultural weddings have become much more commonplace. These types of ceremonies serve not only to join the couple in marriage, but also to merge two cultures and languages.
You can get as creative as you want when weaving another language into your wedding. And if your Justice of the Peace doesn’t happen to have the right foreign language background, there’s no need for him or her to take take a crash course on the Duolingo app. Here are some suggestions for finding assistance to help create a seamless and memorable bilingual ceremony.
- Look for local language groups. In our case, we worked with the town library, which provides language discussion groups for people interested in French (as well as German, Spanish, or Italian). A volunteer translated my ceremony. On the day of the wedding, the volunteer and I alternated reading each paragraph, first in English, then in French, like a carefully choreographed dance.
- Check with your local high school or college. As we all remember, high schools and colleges have a language requirement. A language teacher or advanced student might be willing to help out for a nominal fee (or extra credit).
- Ask a family member. If you’re requesting a bilingual ceremony, chances are you have a friend or family member that is a native speaker. With an officiant in the lead, someone you love may jump at the chance to have such an important role in your special day.
Especially in days of global unrest, it’s rewarding to bring two countries together in love. A heartfelt welcome spoken directly to families in their language sets the tone for the joining of two people, two families, and two cultures. Don’t let language be a barrier.
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Cindy Dumont is a Justice of the Peace in North Hampton, New Hampshire.