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Wedding advice
Thread poster: Rachel Gorney

Rachel Gorney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:29
French to English
Jan 28, 2008

I'm getting married this summer in Paris -- I'm American and my fiance is French. Unfortunately, almost no one on his side speaks English (and I mean not a word), and only a few people on my side speak French.

For all of you who have lived this first hand, how did you negotiate the language barrier at your wedding? Do you have any suggestions/advice for helping people communicate and understand everything?

Thanks in advance!

-R


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 15:29
French to Spanish
+ ...
Hire... Jan 28, 2008

...one of us as an interpreter!

And don't hire Mr. Bean as the priest with his: "...and the Holly Goat..."!

Anyhow, best wishes to both of you!


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Heidi Fayolle  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:29
French to German
On finit toujours par se comprendre.... Jan 28, 2008

Chère Rachel,
on dit que le vin délie les langues .... et c'est un peu vrai. A notre mariage, il y avait de la bière bavaroise (importation directe...) et du bon vin bordelais (je me suis mariée près de Bordeaux), des spécialités françaises et allemandes ... et je peux te dire que la gastronomie rapproche les gens (à la fin tout le monde connait les noms des différents plats et boissons). Pour la musique le même "mix" avec quelques aires/danses folkloriques où tout le monde participe et apprend.
Avec tout cela, on m'a dit à la fin de la fête que "là vous avez fait plus pour l'amitié franco-allemande que Adenauer et de Gaulle".... Mais n'éxagérons pas.

Pour le côté plus spirituel, c'est à dire la messe, nous avons choisi de lire des textes en allemand et en francais. Pareil pour les chants. On peut aussi trouver des chants dont l'aire est connu dans les deux pays et chanter alternativement un couplet en français et un couplet dans l'autre langue.

A la mairie c'est forcément en français, ce qui n'empêche pas la famille qui ne comprend pas de pleurer au bon moment...

Je garde un excellent souvenir de mon mariage (pluvieux donc heureux depuis 17 ans). Je pense qu'il ne faut pas se faire trop de soucis, mais entrainer tout simplement tout le monde dans la fête.

Je vous souhaite tout le bonheur du monde!
Heidi


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simona dachille  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:29
Italian to English
don't worry Jan 28, 2008

my friend got married in rome and all her family came from Birmingham. The Romans didn't speak English and the Brummies didn't speak Italian. She like you, was also worried but said that everyone got along fine, using a bit of sign language and open-mindedness! The alcohol also helped! I wouldn't worried, everyone will be making an extra special effort on your special day and people can communicate amazingly well when there is the necessity. Relax, enjoy your day and best of luck with it all!

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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:29
English to Dutch
+ ...
Bilingual papers Jan 28, 2008

I don't know what you have planned for your wedding day, but for the 'official' stuff (town hall, church, schedule of the day) you could hand out a bilingual programme, including the texts of the ceremonies and 'fixed' wordings, like you usually have on occasions like these.
If you are going to church, try to find a mixture of songs and hymns in both languages, and include a translation of each. It will help everyone to know what's going on and feel included.

[Edited at 2008-01-28 19:38]


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Sara Fiorelli
Italy
Local time: 22:29
English to Italian
+ ...
Fifty-fifty Jan 28, 2008

Hello Rachel,
my boyfriend's brother got married with a Portuguese girl (we are Italian). At the marriage the two families were present - nobody speaking other family's language. Besides this, everything was fine: they had bilingual papers, as Margreet suggests, so that everybody could follow the ceremony. Several passage from the Bible were read in both languages…of course, the vicar was Italian so he celebrated in Italian, but I think all of them knew what was going on. Then, during the feast, the wine and food did the rest: it seemed that everybody knew what the other was saying (thanks to some English though). However, I agree with the others…I wouldn’t worry J
Ah, one last thing: they had hired a singer that sung in Italian and in Portuguese. I think this was a great exchange of cultures, very funny!
Bye!


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MDI-IDM
United States
Local time: 21:29
Spanish to English
+ ...
What my niece did Jan 28, 2008

Went to my niece's wedding close to Montpellier last summer - she volunteered her brother-in-law to interpret the civil wedding service (consecutively) from French to Spanish so everyone could follow - the groom's father officiated and he was very proud to announce that there were guests and friends from 3 continents and 21 countries present! Then during the drinks and dinner whoever spoke French and Spanish helped others communicate. You probably won't have as cozy a situation in Paris - but everyone puts their best foot forward at a wedding. Have someone either interpret or commentate the official stuff and toasts, make announcements and put out printed material in both languages, place bilingual guests strategically, and it should all work out.
And focus on your own experience from then on - it's YOUR wedding!


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 16:29
Spanish to English
+ ...
Since you'll be in the centre of things anyway Jan 29, 2008

MDI-IDM wrote:

. Have someone either interpret or commentate the official stuff and toasts, make announcements and put out printed material in both languages, place bilingual guests strategically, and it should all work out.


and you speak both- I found at my wedding (Hebrew, SPanish and English...and lots of folks who did not speak other languages...don't ask), that people were happy to see the bride explain and interpret some things. I interpreted my father in law's speech from Spanish and he was both relieved and emotional (me too, I admit). Explain customs and rituals for those who may be confused also.
All my best wishes, in all languages!


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:29
English to German
+ ...
My own wedding.. Jan 29, 2008

All I can say is: Hire an interpreter!

My American husband and I married in Germany. My husband doesn't speak German. The rudimentary school-English of my family collided with American English. The bride (me) didn't get a bite to eat because she was the designated interpreter. Three hours and three glasses of wine later I started talking to my husband in German and to my family in English. I have never been so groggy in my life..

Ackh!!!

=)


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Danuta Michelsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:29
German to Polish
+ ...
If any of your friends speak French - ask them for help! Jan 29, 2008

I'm Polish and my husband is German and we got married 3 months ago. Our wedding took place in Poland. My family doesn't speak German, his family doesn't speak Polish. So I asked my best friend, who can speak both languages very well, to translate the most important, official part of the wedding (like the speech of my dad for example) and it worked very well! At the beginning of the reception, most of the guests were pretty shy and stayed with the people they knew and could talk to but after 2 hours of dancing and drinking they started talking to everybody. After the party I found out that it worked pretty well and some of the guests stay in touch with each other until now!

So don't worry!

For the wedding ceremony, which took part in a hotel where also the reception took place, we hired a certified interpreter so that everybody can follow it.


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Monika Coulson  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:29
Member (2001)
English to Albanian
+ ...
Hire an interpreter Jan 29, 2008

I have been in several weddings, where either the bride or the groom ended up as interpreters. Poor them, did not enjoy their own wedding

I have also interpreted myself in a wedding (I was hired to interpret for the groom's parents, who did not speak a word in English) for a whole week. What a relief to the groom and everyone was so happy with that solution

Monika


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simon tanner  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:29
Member (2007)
Italian to English
+ ...
a few essentials, and then relax Jan 29, 2008

I am married to an Italian (we got married in Sicily), and our situation was very similar to yours. We decided to prepare a booklet for the wedding service with all the ceremony and readings etc in Italian and English, and did the same for the menu at the reception, to try and make sure that everyone could at least follow what was happening, and what they were eating (it's a good idea to try and make sure the food caters to both cultures, by the way).
It might be an idea to hire an interpreter for any speeches, but I'm not sure it's completely necessary. It's obviously impractical to have a squad of interpeters translating small talk. Basically, it's your day, and people are coming to see you and meet up with friends and relations on their 'own side' who they may not have seen for some time. Don't worry - on such a happy occasion, plus good food, wine and friends and family together, people are bound to enjoy themselves. The guests will in any case try to mingle using improvised broken French/English and gestures, and this is actually part of the fun! On occasions like this, language barriers are never a barrier to basic communication and empathy.
Oh, and congratulations!


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French Foodie  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:29
French to English
+ ...
same situation, but other side of the ocean Jan 29, 2008

Hi Rachel, and congratulations!

I think you've already received some excellent advice (mainly, relax and let the joyful atmosphere do the work for you), so I only have a few things to add.
I was in the same situation as you a few years back, except that my husband and I got married in an English-speaking area of Canada. Limited French on my family's side, and next-to-no English on his side. Luckily, many of my friends spoke both languages, so they were a great deal of help. Weddings are already so expensive, and friends are generally more than happy to help, so if you have bilingual friends, then I would ask them as opposed to adding the expense of an interpretor to what is no doubt already a long list.

Here is more or less how I went about it:
Invitations were in both languages.
The wedding ceremony was officiated in English (since the pastor spoke little French), however, I had the bulletins done in both languages so everyone could follow. The readings were done in both languages as well, and I choose hymns that had French/English lyrics (eg, Beethoven's Ode to Joy/Hymne à la joie), so we could alternate verses. I said my vows in French and my husband said his in English (which was hilarious, because he was struggling with the pronunciation of "In sickness and in health", which kept coming out as "in sickness and in hell" during the rehearsal!)
For the reception, I asked a bilingual friend to MC. We made the DJ some CDs of French music to add to his selection. For the speeches, I didn't have interpretors, and I was amazed at how touching they were without them and the efforts people made to communicate. Again, bilingual friends can help here, too.
And, as others have already said, keeping the champagne flowing works absolute wonders


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 13:29
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Similar situation Jan 29, 2008

My husband is American and didn't really speak or understand any Portuguese six years ago. Legally, we had to hire an interpreter, since we got married in Brazil. For obvious reasons, being the interested party and all, I could not linguistically interfere while we were signing the papers.

The interpreter couldn't stay for the reception, so we were pretty much going from table to table and I would be the interpreter to make the introductions and in case my relatives wanted to know something about the groom. Even though some in my family could get away with some English (aunt who's a high school English teacher, engineer cousin who has an educated English level, cousin who went to English school with me...) nobody really tried to carry a conversation with him--only one uncle sat down to try to talk to communicate after a few beers.

Anyway, if you're getting married in France and you speak French, you're not legally required to hire an interpreter, since you're able to understand what's going on. If you're having a religious ceremony, maybe it's a good idea to talk to the priest and see if he/she is comfortable having an interpreter around. It would be nice to have both your families understand what's going on if you're exchanging your vows, for example.

During the reception though, I believe there will be little interaction between your families and I don't see the practicality of hiring an interpreter specially for that purpose. Maybe for the occasional toast, if you don't feel like doing it yourself. But if you're having a lot of relatives for the reception, how many interpreters would you have to hire to go around the little groups of people and offer linguistic help?

Well, I wish you all the best and let us know how it goes!

[Edited at 2008-01-29 15:40]


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:29
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Don't get married... Jan 29, 2008

only joking...

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