While couples today have the option of adhering to traditional wedding customs, many are choosing to incorporate cultural elements, with some modern updates, into their weddings to honor their respective heritages. Here, several brides — and brides to be — share how they and their grooms made their weddings meaningful to themselves and their families.
Dara Silverman and Douglas Seldin
Dara Silverman of New Jersey and Douglas Seldin of New Canaan incorporated their Jewish heritage in their wedding — with a twist.
“I loved the breaking of the glass,” notes Silverman, explaining that this tradition is believed to frighten away darkness. The groom typically breaks the glass, but Silverman and Seldin tweaked this tradition to reflect modern times. “We each stomped on our own glass,” explains Silverman. “Now the fragments are in a tube in a beautiful little sculpture that says ‘LOVE,’ the tube being one of the lines in ‘V.’”
Most Jewish weddings are performed under a chuppah. The couple worked with a floral designer to create an arch of flowers, including roses, ranunculus and tulips. “Our wedding colors were purple and green and he used every shade imaginable,” Silverman recalls.
Since both the bride and groom are stage actors, they performed their “first sword fight” after their “first dance.” Silverman also used part of her mother’s wedding dress. “We found a way to fit some lace from my mother’s wedding dress into the lace of my own,” she explains, adding her dress came from A Little Something White in Darien.
Cristina Poulos and Ben Romeo
Growing up in cultures rooted in close-knit families, Cristina Poulos (Greek) and Ben Romeo (Italian), both of Stamford, included many traditions in their wedding.
They opted for Jordan almonds as favors, a Greek and Italian custom, giving them out in an odd-numbered increment, symbolizing that the couple will remain undivided. They had a traditional Greek Orthodox wedding with a Service of the Betrothal and the Ceremony of the Marriage Sacrament.
“A special part of the entire service is the role of the ‘Koumbari,’’’ Poulos explains. “In our case, it was a married couple who are our close friends. They act as a ‘sponsor’ of the marriage. The priest blesses the rings and marriage crowns, then the Koumbaro exchanges them between the bride and groom three times, symbolizing that in married life, the weakness of one partner will be compensated by strength and perfections of the other.”
Poulos’ grandfather, a retired priest, married the couple on his 96th birthday. “My wedding was the first one he performed for a grandchild,” Poulos says. “It made the wedding ceremony so much more personal.”
Cristina Melean and R.J. Kornhaas
Cristina Melean, of Stamford, was born and raised in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She incorporated Bolivian/Latin traditions into her wedding to R.J. Kornhaas, also of Stamford, and honored him by holding the ceremony at St. Joseph Church in Danbury, where he attended grade school. “It was very important that both our families felt represented, and we tried to find a good balance between the two cultures,” notes Melean.
Porcelain plates hand-painted in Bolivia were given out as favors, and signature drinks included Singani 63, a liquor found and produced in Bolivia. Melean also danced a traditional waltz with her father.
“We incorporated the ‘hora loca’ [crazy hour] after midnight as a surprise for our guests,” Melean recounts. “In Bolivia, parties tend to last until way past midnight. [Then] there is a performance of dancers, stilt walkers, and musicians that energizes the party. With our reception being held on New Year’s Eve, the concept fit perfectly to ring in the new year with an amazing burst of energy from these performers. [At midnight] four samba drummers and two dancers came into the room and started their performance.”
Shruti Yedave and Aniket Joshi
For Shruti Yedave of Danbury, her upcoming wedding to Aniket Joshi, of Wallington, N.J., will honor Indian culture. “My Indian heritage has always been a very important part of my life,” Yedave explains. “My parents have always fostered love for our heritage.”
Watching many Indian movies over the years, Yedave will attempt to recreate what she saw on screen with a Hindu ceremony.
For the Hindu wedding, the priest will perform several rituals prior to the wedding. There are poojas (rituals/prayers) for the ancestors to bless the couple and their upcoming children, and the groom will give the bride a mangalsutra, a necklace that symbolizes the union of the husband and wife and protects them from evil.
“There are a lot of ceremonies and rituals that we perform at the bride’s home before the wedding and the groom’s home after the wedding,” explains Yedave, adding that many of the couple’s relatives are traveling from India. “For many of the rituals, the presence of extended family members is important.”
Vivian DeAraujo and Kurt Kannemeyer
Harvest Time Church (HTC), in Greenwich is a special place for Vivian DeAraujo, of Scarsdale, N.Y., and Kurt Kannemeyer, of Ossining, N.Y. “Kurt and I met at HTC while serving together in the ministry. Our story started in between the church walls, so we would love to share our vows there,” says DeAraujo. The couple will be married in September.
DeAraujo and Kannemeyer will honor their respective cultures, Brazilian and South African. Recently, Kannemeyer lost his parents and sister. “Keeping his heritage alive is an honor for us,” explains DeAraujo. “Kurt is the only son in the family, and our wedding will be an opportunity to celebrate the life and the legacy of his family.”
African culture is collectivist, so everyone will be invited to their church ceremony where they will share cake with the congregation before the reception. “We’ll have Brazilian and South African food stations during cocktail hour and two signature drinks: Brazilian caipirinha and a South African drink made with Amarula,” says DeAraujo. “Guests coming from South Africa will represent the culture by wearing vibrant African attire. At the reception hour, guests will be serenaded with traditional African drum music.”