I’m so lucky to be able to work with couples across Europe and England and have definitely seen an increase in the demand for a bilingual ceremony and wedding – over 25% of my ceremonies were bilingual last year and this year 35% of my couples are asking me to create ceremony in both English and German.
Most of my bilingual ceremonies are for couples who are looking for a way to include everyone in their special occasion. They themselves are often bilingual too but realise that not everyone of their guests will be. It’s a wonderful way to allow everyone to be present in these special moments.
So having experienced several bilingual weddings, here is my advice on how to plan a bilingual wedding and make it a lovely day for everyone!
If you’ve decided to hold a bilingual wedding ceremony then have this mentioned in the invitation and also use both languages in the text if you can. This allows your guests to be prepared for a somewhat special occasion and a ceremony they’ll understand and feel a part of. It’ll also be a lot longer ceremony – depending on how much is translated it could last up to an hour or more- and some guests will want to be prepared for that.
2. Wedding Website
It’s a great idea to create a wedding website in both languages- with details of your venue, key members of the wedding party, travel, accommodation, menu, gift registry, and invitations to comment or help build the music playlist!
3. Order of Ceremony
This is not always needed but it can be done in both languages too so that everyone knows what’s happening – celebrant ceremonies are totally unrestricted and can include poems, readings, songs, hymns and special symbolic ceremonies which guests might not have experienced before. To save any confusion it’s a good idea to explain the order and flow. Then all can look forward with excitement to these new and interesting elements!
4. Poems and Readings
It’s a lovely idea to ask someone special who perhaps isn’t in the wedding party to take part in the ceremony with a special role as a Reader. The readings could be translated and read in both or several languages by different people. I recently had the parents of the bride read The Wedding Candle poem. Mum read it in English and dad in German. It was so tender and emotional. It was also quite short and so not a huge pressure for those asked.
Songs actually are a lovely way to break up the ceremony without detracting from the flow and don’t necessarily need to be translated as often the music is enough- evocative of the lyrics. But couples might have the lyrics printed out in both languages and left on the seats for the guests to follow along.
5. Vows and Promises
This can be quite a lovely creative touch – for example having the vows read in the non-native language! Or a mixture of both languages. If the vows are a surprise on the day then it would be great for each partner to say them in both languages.
If they are saying the more traditional vows then they can repeat them after the celebrant too if wished.
6. Signs at the Venue
This might not be so obvious but is another small but welcome touch on the day. If you’re able to create your own decor then all the better – as you can easily have the food and drinks menu, favour labels, table plan, and welcome signs in different languages. It really is all about the small personal touches on the day isn’t it?
7. Speech! Speech!
After the ceremony your guests and family will be mingling and happy to congratulate you both and enjoy whatever reception style you’ve planned.
There will be speeches – and perhaps gifts for those who’ve supported and helped you with your wedding plans.
Take a moment to consider speaking to them in their own language. No translation needed – the emotion and the giving of gifts will tell the story.
When it comes to the speeches themselves – it’s important that those speaking feel comfortable and relaxed – remember it really is nerve wracking when asked to stand up and speak to a room filled with people we don’t perhaps know all that well!
I suggest that this is either a moment left as it is – without a translation, or you might find someone who is able to do a spontaneous translation.
But to maintain a balance perhaps consider speeches by different people in their own words and language. And ask them to keep them short in that case, for the benefit of the non-speaker.
8. “Music Maestro”!
Dancing the night away to your favourite beats and tunes is when you can relax and enjoy the moment with all you guests and let your hair down!!
Your music choices add so much to your wedding day! It’s perhaps an idea to book bands or a DJ who are able to support the bilingual element of your wedding – with a blend of music, sounds and tunes and also perhaps can take “requests” from your guests.
Perhaps you’re creating your own playlist – again consider downloading a wider variety and as mentioned earlier on the website section (or as part of your RSVP) ask your guests for their ideas!
9. Hire a Bilingual Celebrant
Yes!!! We do exist and I have many colleagues who are able to create bespoke ceremonies in multiple languages!
My native language is German, but I have spoken English for much longer.
I love the flexibility and choice I can offer couples as their Bilingual Celebrant! My couples are delighted they are able to have as much or as little of the language as they feel is needed.
Sometimes we translate everything and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we will only translate the traditional elements like the I Do, the Ring Exchange and the Vows.
Sometimes I create ceremonies for couples living and working in England that are completely in German, which is fantastic as their guests are going to a “destination wedding” although the couple aren’t!
My focus is to ensure the ceremony is exactly how they dreamed it would be. My satisfaction comes from the smiles and the happiness I see around me.