Accommodating cross-cultural weddings
By Kimberly Elsham For Sun-Times Media
A beautiful setting
The photo scene on this page highlights the Grand Ballroom at the DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago-Alsip, 5000 W. 127th St., Alsip. The bouquet of flowers held by the bride is courtesy of Sid’s Flowers and More in Palos Hills. The room’s lighting was done courtesy of Finest Events Lighting of Joliet.
Cross-cultural marriages are on the rise, according to area hotels.
Kelly Sujka, director of sales and marketing at the DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago-Alsip, in Alsip, said she’s seen a change in requests for marriage ceremonies and receptions during the last two years.
“We’re seeing more and more of not typical cookie-cutter marriage,” she said, attributing it to the area’s demographics.
“The Southland area is a melting pot of ethnicities,” Sujka said. “People are getting back to the basics of family, culture and roots.”
“The brides and grooms are coming to us saying they want to do something different and bring their ethnicities to food, décor and other elements. They’re not going with standard agendas; they’re creating an agenda to make it their own.”
In these weddings, the cultural traditions can be small additions, such as a table of homemade sweets at Hispanic wedding receptions, or as elaborate as a two-hour wedding ceremony for Indian couples, replete with a ceremonial wedding tent and symbolic fire-lighting.
Weddings around the world
Lisa Cosgrove, wedding sales manager at the DoubleTree in Alsip, deals with each couple directly to plan their wedding events at the hotel. In her 20 years of industry experience and 10 years at DoubleTree, she said she’s seen many different cross-cultural weddings come through the hotel and provided some examples:
African-American weddings: Jumping the broom is an African tradition during the ceremony that symbolizes a commitment to the new home. Right before the couple comes back down the aisle, they turn to face the guests and jump over the decorative broom together. The broom is a thin-bristled wheat broom, with decorative ribbons or fabric wrapped around the handle and flowers adorning it.
Asian weddings: A tea ceremony that takes place after the wedding ceremony, where the couple is serving tea to the parents to welcome and thank them.
Hispanic weddings: For the reception, the family members bring in homemade sweets and baked goods for the sweets table, a special accommodation since the hotel generally doesn’t allow non-catered food. Family members will also contribute as a group to pay for the reception.
Greek weddings: Greek receptions also have a sweet table, with baklava and Greek cookies, made and individually wrapped by the family.
Indian weddings: The bride, groom and parents stand under a “mandhap,” a ceremonial tent, together. Bridesmaids and groomsmen are present, but are seated with the rest of the guests.
The bride and groom exchange red and white leis, and light a small fire together. These ceremonies can last one and a half or two hours.
South Asian weddings: Brides wear red or burgundy and gold dresses that can weigh 60 pounds for their ceremonies. For the reception, they’ll change into a party dress, which is usually a midriff top and long skirt. The groom’s family traditionally pays for the reception.
Even with the vast differences in cross-cultural marriages, Sujka said the process for these couples is the same, but the hotel’s experienced staff knows the right questions for the particular culture.
“It’s the same but different,” Cosgrove added, “different questions I know to ask for an Indian wedding than an American one. For example, with an American one, with a year out, it is to research music or photographer. Those two book up fast, especially if they have a favorite.
“For an Indian one (I may ask), ‘Have you talked to a décor company, what caterer are you using?’”
Sujka said DoubleTree can accommodate any cultural request, “if you’re looking to customize something, without having that feel of restraint on the venue and their way of doing things.
“Not only are we dealing with ethnic diversity for weddings but we also accommodate commitment ceremonies as well as commitment celebrations and wedding renewals.
“There are no rules, and we want everyone to have their wedding be their own.”
More information about DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago-Alsip is at www.alsipdoubletree.com.