Cultural norms / Family / Personal / Relationships / Turkey

How we tried to reach cross-cultural wedding nirvana

Today the very last of our wedding guests FINALLY pushed off, ten days after the day itself, and suddenly we are left alone to contemplate this whole being married malarkey. Scary stuff.

Not that I begrudge these guests their stays with us: their presence made the wedding. I’ve never felt prouder or more loved than when I walked down that aisle and saw the ranks of “English” guests on “my” side of the aisle (sure, they couldn’t compete with E’s nearly 200 guests, but I’d say 50 plus of the most important people in my life coming all the way to Istanbul is not a poor show!). And my gratitude wasn’t just confined to “my” guests – the wedding and all the months leading up to it really made me feel like I’d become a real part of E’s family once and for all.

Our cross-cultural wedding in action

Our cross-cultural wedding in action

But still. It will be nice to spend a few quiet nights in with my new husband for a change!

It’s going to take me some time to process everything that has happened over the last week, let alone write it down. Going back to work the Monday after certainly hasn’t left me a lot of reflection time.

But in the meantime, here’s a flavour of how, after much cross-cultural trepidation, we tried to bring our rather different approaches to getting married together… and how it worked out in the end!

  1. Dragging it out: instead of going for the standard Turkish evening celebration, we started at a slightly more English 3pm with a boat tour on the Bosphorous. Although a bit unorthodox for some of my more traditional friends (we were going to SEE each other BEFORE we were wed? And I WOULD be wearing my WEDDING DRESS already???? Oh the horror), it went down an absolute bloody storm. Well, of course it did. It was a boat tour on the Bosphorous, on a sunny late September day! There were canapés and cocktails and even some bloody dolphins. And there was dancing. A lot of it. Seeing my school friends trying to dance the horon alongside E’s cousins and aunties is a moment I will treasure for the rest of my life.
  1. Walking down the aisle: I was shocked when I realised that I absolutely had to walk down an aisle if I was going to get married. Explaining this concept to my new in-laws involved rather a lot of consternation, but in the end it was completely the right thing to do. Walking down the aisle with my parents on either side, with Pachelbel’s Canon in D playing in the background* was one of the most emotional moments of my life. When everyone started clapping and cheering, I nearly had to stop for a tissue.
  1. The (musical) clash of civilisations was fought out on the dance floor at our wedding. After some really cheesy but oh-so-wonderful first dances (“Falling in Love With You” and “You and Me”), the Turks seized control of the sound system. Cue some (read: a LOT) of horon (the traditional dancing of Medet’s home town – check this out for an example of something similar). This, while great fun for everyone who knows it, led to quite a lot of ritual humiliation for the English. So after a while, one bridesmaid sneaked up on the sound system and whacked a bit of Out Kast on. Suddenly it was the turn of the English. They stormed the dance floor and started shaking it like a Polaroid picture. This left the Turks looking on bemused from the fringes, as if trying to learn the steps to this bizarre English folkloric dancing. But by the third or fourth track (I think it was probably something brilliantly awful like Timber, when it dawned on everyone present that there really weren’t any steps), everyone was throwing shapes and busting moves, in a glorious, intercultural riot.
  1. Takı ceremony: I have never in my life felt more awkward for someone else than when my parents’ dutifully pinned their very generous gift onto to E’s sash to kick off the takı ceremony, as they had been instructed, only for E’s cousin to read out the amount over the loud speaker. While this is completely normal in Turkish culture, my dad looked like he wanted to crawl under the stage. I could see my relatives and friends who were still waiting to hand over their gifts trying to work out if they could make a dash for the exit. Needless to say, the cake tins and other more traditional English gifts were discreetly deposited in our kitchen the next day, without so much as a murmur.

That’s really all I’ve got headspace to write down now. I need sleep, and lots of it. But I’ll be back with more soon…

*And yes, I did go THAT cheesy and I’m PROUD. After months of searching for an appropriate piece of classical music for the aisle, and several extremely classy choices, I realised at the last minute that it just couldn’t be. Canon in D is practically the first thing I learned to play the cello, and what I’ve always imagined walking down the aisle to. And so I did. And it was WONDERFUL.


10 thoughts on “How we tried to reach cross-cultural wedding nirvana

  1. Wow! What wonderful times, It all sounds great, I’m glad you had an amazing wedding and that you got to walk down the aisle. I kinda was glad about the explanation at the end of choosing Pachelbel hehe, I get it. Not that my opinion matters on your music choices anyway.
    The combination of cultures sounds like a funny and wonderful thing. Rest and enjoy your post-wedding time!

  2. hi there! As a fellow newlywed (with dad issues!) I just stumbled across your blog looking at the wedding tag. I’m loving reading about your cross cultural journey and wedding, too. Looking forward to going back through your old posts and reading more! Congrats on your marriage- and your fun blog!

  3. WOW 50 guests came from the UK! How fabulous!! I really wanted to wait until November so I could have family and friends come to India but in-laws wouldn’t let me. SO AM JUST THRILLED FOR YOU!!! I know how much it must have meant to you!!

    Must have been so beautiful to see all of the people you both love together!!!

    CONGRATS ❤ xxxxx

    • Thank you thank you! Poor you, I hope you will still be able to celebrate at another time with more of your loved ones. It really does make a difference, as I’m sure you know!

      Got so many more posts / ideas for posts to write – you’re so much better at writing regularly than me. I find it SO hard to process my experiences, let alone write it all down in vaguely coherent form!

      Hope all’s going well with you my dear xxx

  4. Love the post..I’m also going to be facing the same decisions too! Definitely do not want traditional turkish music or the taki ceremony. But I am sure it is not going to be easy to implement…

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