My fiancé has a very small family, while my family is ridiculously huge … do you have any ideas on how we might be able to help his family (of about eight Polish immigrants with limited English speaking abilities) be not so intimidated by my family (of about 50 festive Mexican Americans)? We've already decided that having the guests split up into a groom's side and a bride's side is just ridiculous and we're not having any of that. However, I am at a loss as far as how to diplomatically integrate our very different families. —Veronica
First, I have to take a second to say that Veronica and her fiancé Luke are one of the cutest couples I've ever seen at an Offbeat event. Look at how adorable they are in their matching little veils! So much of teh kyoot™!
But anyway, onto the question at hand: how to deal with enormously lopsided family guest-lists …
When it comes to a wedding where the guest-list is lopsided with a little island confused Polish-speakers floating in a vast sea of Mexican-American revelers, it makes sense to have a small, casual rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, where perhaps the family representation won't be quite as lopsided. Say, maybe eight Poles to 12 Mexicans? This way you give Luke's small family the opportunity to meet and get comfortable with your large family before the wedding, in an environment that's a little less overwhelming. In the context of a small, casual rehearsal dinner, you and Luke will also have more time to make introductions and bridge the language barriers where you can.
An option for your wedding day would finding a couple gregarious Mexican-American family members who could “adopt” Polish guests at the wedding, making a point to engage them in language-neutral moments like dancing, pouring drinks, raising a glass to the the two of you, hugging, etc. By doing this, you're in essence electing your own little family ambassadors! Granted, this would be dependent on finding just the right family members to act as ambassadors, but in a large family you're bound to have at least one chatty, super-friendly auntie or cousin somewhere.
How cool would it be if everywhere Luke's family turned, your family members were saying “Cześć!” (Hello!) or “Na zdrowie!” (Cheers!)?
You could also coordinate with your family to teach everyone how to say “Milo Pana” — Nice to meet you in Polish. How cool would it be if everywhere Luke's family turned, your family members were saying “Cześć!” (Hello!) or “Na zdrowie!” (Cheers!)? You could even go so far as to create a few cards with phonetic Polish phrases for key family members like your parents. This would go a long way towards showing Luke's family that while they might be outnumbered, your family has gone out of its way to make them feel welcome.
I'm also reminded of a wedding that Kelly from Closed Circle Photography recently told me about — the bride's family spoke Spanish, while the groom's only spoke Croatian. “No one over 35 could speak more than a few words to one another,” Kelly said, and when I asked her if it was awkward, and she shot back, “No, it was great! It was a big party where the only forms of communication were dancing, grinning, booze, and shouting happy things at people who couldn't understand a word the shouter said.” She also explained that the Croatian DJ mixed in Salsa tunes, which got the bride's family shaking it on the dance floor. Any chance you could pull in few Polish cultural traditions to pull Luke's family members into the spotlight?
Hope this is helpful — and be sure to keep in touch! I can't wait to see pictures of the wedding. Will Luke wear a veil, too? He's so cute in one!