My Big, Fat, Racially Segregated Wedding



(This piece is featured in the Fall issue of Wedding Nouveau, "the premiere digital and print-on-demand bridal resource for multi-ethnic weddings and intercultural brides who dream in culture.")


Out of the 365 days of the year, for 364 of them, our wedding DVD collects dust on a bookshelf in our living room.  But every August 19th, my husband and I dust it off, watch and remember the day our family began.

At one point during our wedding ceremony, the officiating pastor asked us to turn around and face the audience.  I still remember how I felt in that moment, looking out into the crowd of 300-plus people waving, smiling and snapping photos.  And even in that solemn moment, with a heart full of emotion and gratitude, displaying nothing on my face but a great big smile, I was really thinking:

I can’t BELIEVE my dad forgot to lift my veil! It’s so hot under here! I can barely see my groom and the pastor through this thing let alone anyone else! 

And while the pastor challenged the crowd to do all that they could to uphold the sanctity of our union I thought:

Hold up! Where did all these people sitting on my side of the church come from? Because all these pews were not this full when I walked down the aisle!

And while the crowd joined in prayer with arms outstretched toward us, I remember surveying the racial makeup of the room and thinking:

Interesting…by the looks of this crowd you’d think this was the 1950s…

On the right of the aisle, a largely black and brown crowd composed of my family, high school teachers, former bosses, college friends, law school classmates, and relatives who flew in from around the world bearing wedding favors wishing us “conjugal bliss.” And to the left of the aisle, a largely white gathering of my husband’s stereotypically-large, Irish American family, old roommates, co-workers, pastors, and mentors.  In that moment, I realized that a random stranger could walk into our wedding off the street, look around the room at our racially segregated wedding, and correctly guess the race of my husband and I without even meeting us. Even after five years, the irony that our interracial marriage began with a racially segregated wedding ceremony isn’t lost on me. 

But neither is the revelation that once our wedding ceremony ended, we would never look out onto a crowd with that kind of racial make up ever again. From that moment on, all of our guests--regardless of last name, ethnicity or national origin--ate cake together, took photos together, made toasts together, and Electric Slide-ed together.  The beginning of our family meant the end of choosing sides of the aisle, and that the next time a stranger walked into a family gathering and looked around the room, it might be a little harder to guess who was with who.

2 comments:

  1. beautiful article. I started out laughing along with your inner thoughts, and ended with a tear in my eye, witnessing the cusp of the transformation of "family."

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  2. @wendyjane
    Aw, thanks. Sounds a lot like when my husband and I sit down and watch our wedding video too. Although I think the crying and laughing is pretty evenly dispersed throughout scenes from the ceremony and reception, lol.

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