Being from two different cultural backgrounds Lee and Alex decided to exchange their vows twice. Here is how they did it.
As more and more couples now come from different parts of the world or cultural backgrounds, a new trend of having two weddings is emerging. And when it came to Lee and Alex celebrating their union it made perfect sense to have two separate ceremonies, in order to do justice to each.
“I am Chinese and the customs are obviously very different – and beautiful – and we didn’t want to attempt to merge them together,” revealed Lee. “As we wanted to celebrate with two weddings: a Chinese ceremony and tea, and an English ceremony and wedding breakfast, we kicked off the planning almost a year before our special day.
“We picked Brandshatch Place because of the feel of the venue and location – I am from Orpington which is less than 30 minutes away from Fawkham and Alex is from Isleworth in Middlesex so no one had to travel very far. We also loved the driveway leading up to the hotel and surrounding parkland, it gives a great impression, and we loved the house itself. It was the perfect size for our wedding party and we could have everything in one place, as well as offer rooms to friends and family with the added bonus of a spa for them to enjoy. For the evening party we had our own separate games room and relaxing room, so that the guests did not feel cramped.”
The day started with traditional Chinese wedding games in the Boardroom, which is typically reserved for more intimate occasions, so proved ideal – it was also away from the main wedding ceremony and breakfast. In Chinese communities, ‘wedding door games’ as they are known are set on the groom (Alex) as he attempts to collect the bride (or in this case the other groom Lee) from her home on the morning of the wedding. Common games include singing and dancing, the groom correctly answering questions about the bride and their relationship, and the consumption of unpleasant foods. “It was really good, or so I am told, I was not allowed to watch,” laughs Lee.
Once the games were over they changed the room around to enable them to carry out the Chinese tea ceremony, which is a highly treasured part of a Chinese wedding as it represents the formal introduction of the couple to their respective families and demonstrates respect for all the years of love and care. “It was a very accepting ceremony,” revealed Lee, “and it showed that each person was welcoming myself and Alex into each other’s family.
“The staff were really accommodating too, and helped us with everything we needed. They were amazing from start to finish actually – they were friendly and flexible, and helped to incorporate all of our special cultural requests.”
After the tea ceremony, Lee and Alex went back to their honeymoon suite to change into their traditional English wedding outfits. “It was handy that our suite was located so closely to the function rooms, as it meant the guests did not have a huge void to fill during the changeover,” stated Lee. “Obviously the English wedding ceremony featured more British wedding traditions, but having handmade decorations made it more personal and special.”
The centre pieces were thousands of beautiful paper cranes which Lee spent the best part of 12 months making. Origami cranes are an ancient symbol of peace, luck, good health and longevity, and in Chinese mythology they are generally connected with the idea of immortality. “I wanted everyone who helped and celebrated our day to have a crane from us to show our gratitude and for those that were in love to have lastingness in their relationship,” said Lee.
The paper cranes also featured on their cake (more on that later) and made up the bouquets for the Groomsmaids and also the brooches for the button holes, as neither of them wanted flowers. Quite often when planning a multicultural wedding you can run the risk of quickly taking a turn for the tacky, but Lee and Alex’s wedding is a lesson in subtlety, simplicity and elegance in design.
With both ceremonies performed the happy couple then had their photos taken outside. “The country house setting was superb and the weather held up for us. Our photographer, David Burke, was fantastic. He caught every moment that we missed and was very professional, friendly and patient. He spent the whole day from start to finish with us and we would highly recommend him to anyone. Our guests really liked him and have also commented on how lovely the pictures are.”
After having canapes and drinks, Lee and Alex then settled down to their traditional wedding breakfast. “This might sound a little geeky, but Alex loves Battlestar Galactica and I love a Japanese anime TV series called Saint Seiya. Luckily both of these have one thing in common, which is Greek zodiacs, so we really focussed on this. The tables were named by the zodiacs and we used figurines from Saint Seiya holding flags from Battlestar Galactica, which represented that table’s zodiac. We also left blurb on the table about that specific zodiac and who at the wedding had their birthday in that zodiac,” explained Lee.
“It was so good to see everyone really enjoying themselves and admiring all the hard work that went into making it such a special day. Everything went to plan and when the evening reception started the staff turned the room into an amazing place for everyone to enjoy themselves. We hired Discologic as our DJ and they put together a great playlist that fitted in with our request for an eighties party. The dance floor was packed until midnight when it ended and the guests loved it,” laughed Lee.
Between their two first dances (one an English song, the other a Chinese love ballad), both Lee and Alex performed the ceremonial cutting of the wedding cake. Given the pair were after something very unique they opted for multi-award-winning cake designer Shelley’s Cakes. “It was exactly what we wanted and tasted amazing, in fact everyone commented on how great it looked and tasted. It featured the traditional Chinese double happiness sign with baby blue ribbons to tie in with our colour theme, and a small bamboo bird cage on top of the cake.”
Planning an intercultural marriage while incorporating your own personal tastes requires a lot of careful planning and logistics, but Brandshatch Place stepped up to the challenge and ensured no comprises were made. As a result both Lee and Alex enjoyed every second of their day – a good job too, after all, you only get married twice, once.
PHOTOGRAPHER: David Burke (01892 518803 / davidburkephotography.co.uk)
DJ: Discologic (0800 043 4019 / discologic.co.uk
CAKE: Shelley’s Cakes (shelleyscakes.co.uk / 020 8325 6930)