You’ve met the person who makes you want to stop the world and melt. Knees have bent, questions popped.
So when the big day comes, whether you want to highlight family heritage or a missing loved one, or you’re looking for ways to celebrate the blending of cultures, how do you weave it all into your wedding?
For Jane Ackerman, who owns Kith & Kin, an event and wedding planning business in Norwich. “There are all different mediums to play with, from food, to flowers, to the ceremony. If you figure out what goes together, it can make for a lovely, unique personalized ceremony.”
The realm of blooms and shoots offers endless possibilities when weaving family and culture into a wedding.
It could be a special color, a vase that reminds the couple of home or a flower native to their family’s place of origin.
Flowers can cast a wedding in a nostalgic glow, said floral designer Erin Ostreicher.
“I often ask if living or departed family members close to the couple have or had flowers that they especially enjoyed,” said Ostreicher, who runs wedding and floral design business Nectar & Root, based in Stowe and Morrisville. “If they are in season, we work to incorporate those into bouquets or centerpieces.”
She has woven Hawaiian wedding leis, provided flowers as part of a Buddhist wedding and highlighted heirloom wedding chuppahs, a traditional canopy symbolizing a Jewish couple’s future home.
Similarly, Ackerman described a ceremony where the couple used one of their grandmother’s vintage shawls as drapery on their chuppah, which members of the wedding party held over the couple.
“It really is emblematic of bringing the whole family, both biological and otherwise, together to witness and bless the decision to get married,” said Ackerman.
At a frosty February wedding earlier this year, Ostreicher speckled bright gladiolas throughout the event and in the bridal bouquet, a nod to bride Julie Kent’s family who used to run a gladiola flower farm many generations ago.
Her maternal grandfather, who worked as a postman, and her grandmother grew glads and strawberries, selling them at a small farmstand in New York.
“Glads have always been a huge part of my family, and this was a really special way to include them,” said Kent.
Soft pastel hydrangeas — her late father’s favorite flower and a reminder of him — dotted arrangements around the venue.
“It was such a small wedding because of the pandemic, and we couldn’t have everyone there we wanted to,” said Kent. “But having flowers that represented both sides of my family — it was like they were there with us.”
At an autumn elopement, where the couple sauntered into Vermont’s red and gold woods with a handful of guests, Ostreicher matched a Celtic handfasting vow ribbon to the one tied around the bridal bouquet.
Handfasting is an ancient Celtic tradition symbolizing two lives binding together.
Incorporating various traditions into the wedding ceremony also creates more opportunity for participation, which can further personalize the celebration, said Ackerman.
One couple she worked with centered their event around the joining of their families and Polish and Indian cultures.
During the outdoor ceremony, the couple held hands and walked around a fire circle as part of the traditional Hindu ritual, the sapta-pad, or seven steps around the sacred fire; each step symbolized eternal friendship and the couple’s journey together through life. Later, the couple took part in a bread and salt blessing, a Polish wedding custom.
“It was really fun to figure out how to represent both cultures in the ceremony,” Ackerman recalled.
Displaying vintage family photographs or old wedding portraits around the reception is another sweet way to highlight tradition, she added.
Ostreicher suggested clients share with guests the cultural and familial significance behind special elements on printed ceremony programs or via a mention on their wedding website.
“Helping to bring your other guests into the circle of learning and celebrating these personal touches makes for an even more connected and celebratory experience,” she said.
Food — the best part of the wedding — or at least a close second. All kidding aside, what better way to imbibe the food of love than to cook tradition into the menu?
For a dimple of dumplings, Brattleboro-based Cai’s Dim Sum Catering cooks up authentic Chinese fare with roots in Sichuan and Shanghai cuisine for small and large weddings. The business is led by owner and chef Cai Xi, who grew up in China, but after 30 years living in the Green Mountain State loves weaving Vermont accents into her childhood favorites.
She uses maple syrup as a sweetener in many dishes and also offers vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
“Making food is making art,” said Xi, who is also a local artist. “The wedding is a starting point; we bring culture and color to their future.” Dim sum literally means “touching heart,” Xi added — a dollop of love perfect for sharing on a wedding day.
At Harmony’s Kitchen, an Afro fusion catering business in Burlington, owner Harmony Edosomwan’s mission is “to fill your bellies and your hearts with exuberant joy.” Her kitchen offers Afro fusion dishes inspired by multiple African diasporas, and she also offers vegan options.
For true Vermont love birds hoping to feature their state heritage in their nuptials, the warm, amber taste of maple syrup is an obvious choice. Mount Mansfield Maple Products in Winooski offers pocket-sized maple syrup wedding favors for guests to take home, and Moose Mountain Maple in Underhill will spin maple cotton candy on the spot.
“I love when couples make it a goal to weave their culture, heritage and family into their Vermont wedding,” said Ostreicher. “There is absolutely something special about Vermont weddings.”