Multicultural Guide to Wedding Etiquette for Families
The wedding season is upon us, highlighted by the recent royal wedding. But if you are invited to a wedding from a culture other than your own, it can be difficult knowing what to expect – especially if you have children. Are children included in the invitation, and if so, how are they expected to behave and dress? I’ve asked parents from around the world to share their tips for wedding etiquette for families from their own cultures, and it’s a fascinating view!
Many thanks to those that graciously shared their experiences with me for this article! Share your tips on wedding etiquette for families in the comments, and don’t miss my review at the end of the post of a new children’s book about Indian weddings!
Multicultural Guide to Wedding Etiquette for Families
What to Expect
India: Sumiti: “I grew up in a big Punjabi family. And weddings were a big affair. It was minimum 4 days affair (could go up to a week) and the relatives and friends from across the world would stay at our house. The meals (breakfast/lunch/supper/dinner) were catered for all or women of the house would take turns making meals.There is one big evening only for Henna Ceremony, where men are at the bar and women are getting henna done and it’s an evening of dance and fun. All the neighbors are invited for the functions and are treated as family.”
India: Puneeta of Maple and Marigold: “Indian wedding celebrations traditionally carry on for many days. Close family and friends will often travel far distances to attend…Mid-morning naps, dinner before you leave home and comfortable shoes, all work for kids. And parents too. There’s usually loud music so carry headphones for the little ones.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “A Chinese wedding is like marrying two families. It is a huge event, and it often starts from the engagement ceremony and the delivery of engagement cookies with fancy packaging to relatives and close friends. A Chinese wedding can be extravagant, and it can easily have several hundred guests in a hotel ballroom, a restaurant, or a huge block wedding feast with live music entertainment.”
Mexico: Becky of Kid World Citizen: “There is a lot of dancing, and the party goes on very late.”
Poland: Hanna of HannaCheda.com: “There is a mass or wedding vows at a town hall and then a wedding party at a ball room/hotel,etc. Loads, loads of food. Traditionally people had a band playing live music instead of a DJ. Many still do. Tons of food and vodka during the whole night. Hot food is served all the time. It’s not a single dinner. There is often a brunch on the next day also involving alcohol.”
Fiji (Indian): Ashi: “Indian weddings in Fiji are traditionally multi-day affairs which encompasses many elaborate ceremonies such as putting hardi (turmeric) on the bride and grooms body, henna (mehndi) which is painting beautiful designs on the hands and feet of the bride, prayer ceremonies and etc. I would say, the weddings are divided into three segments, pre-wedding, main-wedding celebration and post-wedding celebrations. For each daily festivity, they expect close to 100 people to show without any RSVP. In Fiji, people do not believe in the concept of RSVP. My grandma always said to us guests is like gods. They’re okay having extra food prepared but no one should leave the wedding functions hungry.”
Mexican-American: Chantilly of ChantillyPatino.com: “People stay forever, eat, drink, dance, visit, etc. A wedding is an opportunity for community and reuniting family you might not have seen in a while. There’s usually recuerdos, candies, cake or centerpieces to bring home. Nobody goes home empty handed.”
Russia: Varya of Creative World of Varya: “In Russia the wedding is celebrated 2 days – first day at the bride’s home where her parents give her away, second day – at her new home, where the groom’s parents receive her into the family. Lots of food, dancing, some love inviting entertainment.”
Read about a traditional wedding in Malawi!
What to Wear
Across the board, the safest bet is to not wear white – no matter what the bride is wearing! Rita of Multilingual Parenting shares, “I once wore a cream dress when the bride had chosen dark red and felt a bit awkward.”
USA: Even within the US, there is some debate about what is appropriate to wear. Diana of Ladydeelg in NYC thought wearing black was very chic, while Mary-Helen, who grew up in New Orleans, said that “In the South, wearing black to a wedding is a passive aggressive way of saying that you REALLY are unhappy with this particular union” and are treating it “as if there has been a death in the family.” Instead, one should wear something “floral or happy looking.”
India (Punjabi): Sumiti: “Wearing black and white outfits to the wedding or reception is a total No No. The outfits should have bold colors and ladies were expected to wear heavy jewelry.”
India: Puneeta of Maple and Marigold: “Since Indian wedding usually involve dancing until late in the night, comfortable shoes are great for kids and adults. Wear leggings underneath the lehenga (Indian skirt) in case a quick change of attire is needed on the dance floor.”
India: Charu of Ketchup Moms: “In India kids are expected to be dressed in Indian attire for weddings mostly. And interestingly a young boy from the immediate family of the groom’s side is dressed just like the groom and then he ride on the horse with the groom (another custom) to the house of the Bride to marry her. He is called ‘Sarwala’.”
Mexico: Becky of Kid World Citizen: “People get VERY dressed up. Here in the Yucatan, men always wear a guayabera, but everywhere else it would be a suit or tux.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “You will see children dress in new clothing to attend a wedding. Red is always a good color but any bright happy colors are good choices. No black clothing for children or adults.”
Poland: Hanna of HannaCheda.com: “You should not wear white to the wedding. Or black (brings bad luck).”
Read about the tradition of a “cake pull” in the US South!
Should Kids Attend?
One of the most hotly debates aspects of wedding etiquette for families in the US is about including children. As we saw at the recent royal wedding, children are often included in the wedding party at British weddings, while in the US they are often not even invited! So how do you know whether or not to bring your kids when you receive an invitation? It depends on where you are:
India: Sumiti: “Children are expected to attend, and it is a fun event for all ages.”
India: Vandana: “Kids are a part of the celebrations and very welcome. When we give the invitation, it’s implied that it is for the whole family, unless specified, which is very very rare.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “Children are always welcome to the wedding. You will see children dress in new clothing to attend a wedding. Children are an important part of a Chinese wedding because they bring happy spirit to the bride and the groom. They are also a reminder for the bride and groom of having a family. There is a Chinese tradition that one healthy happy little boy of a close relative of friends will be chosen by the bride’s or the groom’s family and this child will jump on the bed of the newlyweds prior to the weeding banquet to symbolize the couple will have happy healthy kids.”
Latvia: Ilze of Let the Journey Begin: “In Latvia kids are welcome to all weddings, have never heard of asking people to not bring their children to the wedding (or a part of it) as it sometimes happens, e.g. in the US. Most commonly, the wedding takes place in one location and then the party at another with accommodation included (hostel-style and free of charge for the guests). So many parents just let the kids stay up until they drop, put them to bed, and continue celebrating. On the second day of the wedding, as the guests are slowly getting up, having breakfast and getting ready to leave (noon-ish) you’d usually see children running around and playing.”
Fiji (Indian): Ashi: “When people give out wedding invitation cards, they generally expect everyone from the family to attend most of the festive activities. They’ll invite everyone they know (the whole village). Kids are the blessings of the family and they’re included in all the wedding festivities.”
Poland: Hanna of HannaCheda.com: “Kids used to take part in the wedding, but many parents including us do not bring them. Preferably I prefer to have fun on that night, drink, dance and not to chase after my kids. Only took them to one wedding when they were small and didn’t enjoy it at all.”
USA: In the US, it is mixed whether or not children are included in a wedding. Many report that children are often excluded from weddings, while others say that they are usually invited to daytime weddings. Often people assume that children are not invited and so leave them at home. Even Martha Stewart (or at least her organization) weighed in on how to decide whether to include children at a wedding. Your best bet? Unless it is specifically stated on the invitation, be sure to ask.
But keep in mind this is not true for many groups in the US. Chantilly of ChantillyPatino.com shares that for Mexican-American weddings, “Many times it’s expected that you’ll be bringing the little ones, grandma, etc. I’ve heard that in many American weddings (at least those uppercrust ones) that people have to request to bring their kids. In MexAm culture, for most, it’s expected you would bring them…from newborns to teens. This is a family event after all.”
How Are Kids Expected to Act?
If you do take your children, what behavior will be expected of them? Here are tips on wedding etiquette for families from experienced parents!
Mexican American: Elizabeth says, “Kids were always included and expected to act like kids – dance silly, run around, fall asleep.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “Children love going to the wedding as well. They always have fun with the candy and soda provided on each table prior to the beginning of the 10 or more dishes are brought to the table one by one. The tips for bringing kids to a Chinese wedding is to make sure they sit through the wedding ceremony (it can go up to an hour) before the banquet starts.”
Latvia: Ilze of Let the Journey Begin: “On the second day of the wedding, as the guests are slowly getting up, having breakfast and getting ready to leave (noon-ish) you’d usually see children running around and playing.”
Fiji: Ashi: At a wedding in Fiji “you’ll hear screaming, crying, whining, kids running around but we’re all accustomed to all these noises. Children are considered blessing, they’re included in all the functions in Fiji Islands.”
New Children’s Book About Indian Weddings
I received a complimentary copy of Let’s Celebrate an Indian Wedding for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
And now you can share the joy and beauty of an Indian wedding with your children thanks to the new children’s book Let’s Celebrate An Indian Wedding! (Maya & Neel’s India Adventure Series, Book 9). This book is a great way to prepare if you are attending an Indian wedding or simply want to learn more about it. This is the latest installment of the adventures of Maya and Neel, and it does not disappoint!
I love the emphasis on the diversity of Indian weddings. While Maya and Neel are attending a wedding in New Delhi, there is also information about weddings in other regions, such as Tamil Nadu, where the bride and groom sit on a beautifully decorated swing!
Related Post: India for Kids: Favorite Resources for Elementary Age
Maya and Neel get to participate in all stages of the wedding, including of course lots of dancing! Kids will love learning about lovely traditions such as stealing the groom’s shoes in order to get a treat!
This is a wonderful book to share with children if you are attending a wedding this summer, or if you’d like to learn more about Indian culture!
What are your best tips on wedding etiquette for families?