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Story by Bre Hamilton

With more Canadians than ever in intercultural relationships, weddings are increasingly offering an exciting opportunity for couples to blend traditions while forging new ones.

The soulful, intimate portraits on the wedding photographer’s web site tell the story of modern Canadian marriage more eloquently than words. In one, a happy couple the bride of Persian heritage, the groom from a Korean family stand in the dappled light of a church, being married under the gaze of a serene Buddha image to the ethereal sound of Tibetan singing bowls.

In another, a woman of Japanese heritage and her Italian-Canadian husband, both in traditional Japanese dress, share a quiet moment together in the corner of a garden. In yet another, a radiant African-Canadian bride leaps barefoot into the arms of her Latino husband, her white dress and veil billowing and filling the air behind her. Canada’s recently-released census data only confirms what most of us already know or are ourselves living: more than ever, Canadians are involved in mixed marriages or mixed common law unions.

In fact, intercultural unions have grown an astounding 30 percent since 2001, and experts predict that number is going to grow dramatically in the coming decades. While 85 percent of mixed unions currently involve one partner who is white, more and more often couples from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds are falling in love and committing to one another. In 2006, 42,000 couples in the country came from different, non-Caucasian backgrounds.

Again, experts predict we’ll see that number trend upwards in the coming years. As for who is most likely to enter into a mixed union, Japanese Canadians are the most likely, followed by people of Latin American descent, followed by people who are of African and West Indian descent.

Least likely? Those of Chinese and South Asian descent not that it doesn’t happen, it does indeed but sociologists suggest that because those communities are so large and established in Canada, members are more likely to marry someone of their own ethnic background.

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So if you’re thinking of getting married in the near future and you’re based in Greater Vancouver, it’s more likely that you and your sweetheart will be in the intercultural vanguard; Greater Vancouver has twice the number of intercultural marriages (7.8%) than the national average (3.2 %) and beats both Toronto (6.1 %) and Montreal (3.5 %). Even if you’re not about to embark on an intercultural marriage, it could be you’ll be borrowing from a tradition outside your own.

And why not? As Vicki Singh, the project manager for Vancouver’s annual Grand Wedding show put it in a recent article in the Vancouver Sun, “We live here and we can really take the best part of any culture we want and make it our own.” Brides and grooms are now free to pick and choose their favourite traditions and practices from all cultures, whether it’s the brilliant colours of Hindu and Sikh weddings, a Chinese Lion Dance or Western-style toasts. (Full disclosure:for our September 2007 wedding,my husband and I were definite cultural “borrowers.”

Although his background is Lithuanian/ Italian and mine is English/Scots/Irish, we chose to marry in the private Scholar’s Courtyard of the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese garden—a nod to Mark’s profession as a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Our joint vows to one another were Buddhist; a dear Venezuelan friend played and sang flamenco at our reception; and hot French crepes were served from a little Romany wagon under the late-night stars in a backyard garden. Quite the mix, but it suited us perfectly.)

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Whether you have one ceremony that blends your favourite elements of your chosen cultures or have several ceremonies to honour each tradition individually (in the latter case, prepare to change outfits a LOT I know one Chinese-Canadian bride who married a man of German heritage; they had three ceremonies and changed outfits a total of four times) the best part of an intercultural wedding is the opportunity it offers to learn more about yourself, your heritage, what you value and one another.

(For expert tips on planning an intercultural wedding and wedding traditions from around the world, see the sidebar.) Ultimately, the rise in intercultural weddings promises to have an enormously positive impact on Canadian culture. Although we think of ourselves as a tolerant nation that’s fully accepting of intercultural marriages, nothing makes any lingering hint of racism disappear faster than having in-laws of another culture, or beloved grandchildren of a racial and cultural mix.

Because that’s one thing Canada appears to be guaranteed in the near future; another generation of beautiful—and sometimes beautifully multiracial—children!

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