Multicultural couples share Asian, Polynesian and American wedding traditions


Zhang Zhi Yun and her husband Rahul Chinna Mungamuri covering themselves in turmeric for an Indian wedding tradition to purify themselves before marriage.

Photo by ADB Productions

Recalling heartfelt memories of their wedding days, the couples shared how they incorporated the cultural traditions of their homes into their special days. They said that learning about their partner’s traditions enabled them to better incorporate culturally important traditions into their ceremonies.

Ellisa Hadley Edeyaoch, a second year student from the Federated States of Micronesia specializing in Pacific Island studies, said it is common for men of Micronesian culture to ask for the hand of the woman in marriage to her clan or her family and bring a sakau, a special plant to drink. “It serves as an offer of peace, and if the girl accepts, she is considered married in the eyes of society,” Edeyaoch explained.

Due to COVID-19, Edeyaoch said they were unable to follow all Micronesian wedding traditions on her wedding day. She explained that they usually invite a nahnwarki, or chief, who helps advise the couple. She claimed that due to the current circumstances, they were unable to return home even though she wished to have a traditional marriage.

Kaytano Edeyaoch, a junior from the Republic of Palau who specializes in information technology, agreed with his wife, saying he wished they could have had a traditional wedding. He explained that men are supposed to collect traditional stone money along with paper money to give to the bride’s family.

“It shows the woman’s family what kind of family the girl is getting married to. It shows that she is going to be in a stable family, ”he explained.

Ellisa (wearing a wedding dress, white flower necklace and haku, while holding a bouquet of white, pink and blue flowers) and Kaytano Edeyaoch (wearing a gray suit with a black tie and a ti leaf necklace around neck) smiling with people behind them.

Ellisa and Kaytano Edeyaoch on their wedding day.

Photo by the Edeyaochs

Zhang Zhi Yun, a sophomore art major from Taiwan, explained that in her home country, it’s common for weddings to be quite westernized. However, she said the groom must get parental approval in order to marry their daughter. In Taiwan, she said the man had to bring gifts to the girl’s family in order to marry her. He must also have a house, a car and a good education to prove that he can support himself.

Yun said she and her husband’s cultures traditionally expected a grand wedding ceremony, but due to COVID-19 they were unable to return to their home countries and were unable to invite a lot of people, including their parents.

Rahul Chinna Mungamuri, a sophomore student from India specializing in business management, said they covered themselves in turmeric powder, a common wedding tradition in India called haldi. He explained that they had done this before the wedding ceremony in order to purify themselves.

He explained, “Haldi is a tradition in India that is believed to cleanse and purify our bodies. It is also believed to prevent evil spirits. Mungamuri said it is a Hindu religious tradition and is followed by most people in India.

In traditional Indian weddings, he added, the bride and those in attendance will make mehndi, a tattoo on the hands with henna. “The hands of the bride and all her friends have it in their hands.”

A woman's hands draw patterns on Yun's arm using henna, with a background lit in yellow.

Zhang Zhi Yun gets a henna tattoo called mehndi, which is an Indian wedding tradition.

Photo by ADB Productions

He said the dough is associated with good humor, luck, health and prosperity. Traditionally, the bride’s designs are the most intricate to set her apart from the rest of the wedding party, he said. Mungamuri said he and his wife wanted to return to India for a more traditional reception.

Clarissa Tekeiaki, a spring 2020 graduate and adjunct professor of EIL from Nevada, said she was able to incorporate American and Kiribati traditions into her engagement and marriage.

She explained that in Kiribati culture, alliances are not common. Instead, the bride is given gold earrings to wear before the wedding. She said: “I got my ring and I wore the earrings given to me to integrate our two cultures.”

Clarissa Tekeiaki said that traditionally American cultures have focused on aesthetics and decorations. “I wanted to make it an experience so we decorated very fancy and had lights and chandeliers and had a very romantic vibe.”

She said her husband’s family from Kiribati didn’t pay much attention to the decorations, but said the food and the reception were much more important to them. Being able to integrate the two cultures made it enjoyable and special, she added.

Timeon Tekeiaki, a senior from Kiribati specializing in accounting, his hometown shared marriages are usually a big party. A week before the wedding, families get together to prepare the food, he explained. He expressed his gratitude to his brother and his wife who were able to return to Kiribati to obtain traditional foods upon their reception.

During the reception, he shared, they do a cake dance where someone dances with the cake to a song from Kiribati as they bring it to the wedding table. He explained that other traditional dances performed by the guests are out of respect for the couple and show their support.

Sydney Sears, a Chinese junior specializing in marketing, said that for her and her husband there are many traditions surrounding food. She said they tried to give their wedding a tropical feel with both the food and the decorations. Although COVID-19 didn’t allow them to have a long guest list, they still had plenty of food from Asia and Samoa, she claimed.

She said, “On my side we had curries and spring rolls, and on my husband’s side we had palusami, chop sui and kalua pig.

Sears said she was grateful to have a more intimate wedding because it made her ceremony more relaxed and put less pressure on her to appeal to high expectations.

Three men wearing dark gray / black pants, brown shoes, white button down shirts and dark orange / red ties dancing in front of a building with arches.  The man in the middle also wears a suit coat and a ti leaf necklace around his neck.

Sydney Sears’ husband Forest Hauck dances at their wedding.

Photo by Sydney Sears

Saane Hullinger, a Tonga senior who specializes in social work, said traditional Tongan weddings feature many dances, including a tauolunga, which is usually performed by people related to the bride and groom. She explained that the last dance is usually performed by the bride and the movements are beautiful and graceful.


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