In Texas, bilingual weddings aren’t that uncommon. However, I recently officiated a bi-lingual wedding in which the bride’s parents spoke only Russian—and that is a bit more unusual around these parts.
The bride told me right away—we don’t expect you to learn Russian, but we’d love to include my parents in some way. What can we do? She was so worried about her parents flying all the way to America only to basically miss the ceremony. At the same time, they didn’t want to translate the entire ceremony either—having the entire ceremony basically performed twice can get tedious for guests in both languages.
I had a plan: Step one was for us to create their personalized ceremony–keeping it just a little shorter than usual to account for translation time. Once we had that in place, I went back through and highlighted the bones of the ceremony—the key thoughts and transitions. I kept a balance between translated & untranslated pieces—no one had to sit through 5 minutes of incomprehension. And I didn’t worry about translating pieces that were more visual —such as a ring exchange vows. Then the bride’s cousin was given the entire script with my highlights, and she translated the key lines. We practiced beforehand. She was also a bridesmaid & so when she arrived at the front, I handed her the script with her translation. Then, she & I alternated speaking smoothly from English to Russian throughout the ceremony.
I wasn’t sure of the success of this method until the bride snuck one of my kleenex (which I keep tucked into my ceremonial book) to her mom—tears were streaming down her mother’s face. The joy & gratitude on her parents faces needed no translation.
Including family is so important in a wedding ceremony, and lots of families don’t fit the traditional mold. Maybe step-children are involved—or the biological father & the step-father both want to walk the bride down the aisle, or maybe a couple is getting married for the second time—to each other, after being divorced. Maybe your marriage is a secret. Or maybe a total surprise to the guests. Yep, I’ve encountered all of those. if you have an unusual situation & don’t yet have a solution, contact me-–we’ll find it together.