Real Bride Advice: Planning a multicultural wedding with a soul

Amber and Nhut lives in Newark, California. We were so delighted when Amber said ‘yes’ to a Silviyana eco wedding gown, a timeless sweetheart, relaxed mermaid dress made using our hand-woven pineapple fiber and recycled Mulberry silk. Amber was quick to say ‘yes’ as she felt that Silviyana “was a smaller wedding boutique that didn’t feel so corporate.” She adds, that

“ I also loved the material (pineapple eco fabric) and the story behind it as it brought together my Filipino heritage without even me realizing it. I visited a lot of other bigger wedding boutiques but found that none of the gowns was what I was looking for. It felt all too commercial. And when I saw you (Silviyana) at the Bay Area Wedding Fair, the dress had all the elements that I was looking for. Literally, all the elements on my Pinterest account!”. 

Amber also got to meet the designer of her dream wedding gown. Rania Hatoum and Amber met at our pop-up event in San Francisco, where they talked about customizations. She made a few design alterations to her dream gown, by making it a sweetheart neckline, and chatting how it would look like with the designer. Amber beamed as she said “it was wonderful to meet the designer of my gown face-to-face! And be able to get reassurance on my design modifications.”

We chatted back with Amber a year after her wedding day to reminisce on her wedding, and get some inside scoop on tips in planning a multicultural wedding that pays tribute to heritage. 

How was your wedding planning experience?

Wedding planning was an overwhelming experience for me.

I was lucky to have found a co-worker’s cousin that was a wedding coordinator and we ended up hiring her to coordinate the actual wedding day. I had 2 receptions to plan for. I am half Pakistani and half Filipino and it was important to me to have a reception that highlighted both my heritages. 

Having a wedding coordinator was helpful to me as it put me on the right track with wedding planning. The wedding coordinator right away provided me with a checklist, provided me with some timeline and helped me along the way to find other vendors that I needed to plan my wedding. She also helped me find a caterer for my wedding cake! 

Our wedding coordinator, Dianne, and her team were very helpful in buffering issues on the day of our wedding, so we didn’t have to deal with it. It was also very helpful to be able to enjoy the day and be in the moment and not have to worry about what is next since the coordinator is taking care of that. Our wedding coordinator was in the range of USD $3000 and was a real blessing, as she helped me navigate the day, hassle-free, allowing me to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime moment with my husband, family and friends!  

If you are on a tight budget, I would highly recommend appointing a few close family or friend to help with coordinating the day.

How was it like planning a wedding that was bringing cultures from different parts of the world?

My husband and I were very involved in the wedding planning experience. We wanted to make sure that our wedding day represented both of us and our heritage. My husband was in charge of the second reception, figuring out the menu items, drinks and seating chart. The menu for our second reception was primarily a Vietnamese cuisine style. We had a seven-course meal. Looking back I think it would have been helpful to have a Dinner Menu that highlighted all the food dishes that were being served.

Compromise is key in planning a multicultural wedding. Remember that the wedding day is just one day, but marriage is for life. It is not about his or my heritage, it is about being representative of both of our heritages in one big party. A few items that we had to compromise on:

  • Pakistani weddings are typically 3-days long, but we made our Pakistani wedding celebration limited to just 1 day. 
  • To respect other religions, we made our ceremony to be non-denominational but incorporated certain elements of a typical Filipino wedding in the reception, like having a Father and Daughter dance and following the speech sequence for all of our toasts. 
  • Since we were already living together prior to marriage, we felt that we didn’t need to have a Vietnamese Tea Ceremony. Vietnamese Tea Ceremonies are done so that the groom can go to the bride’s home to take her away to his home, and that wasn’t aligned with us.
  • I wore 4 outfits to represent my heritage and personality. My wedding gown was made with eco fabrics from the Philippines, using blends of pineapple plant and recycled silk. My first reception dress was designed for a Pakistani wedding, known as Lehenga, designed and made in Pakistan. My second reception dress was the traditional Vietnamese outfit, known as the Ao Dai, designed and made in Vietnam. I ended the night with a party dress and sneakers, so I could dance the rest of the night away. 

I absolutely love how you incorporated paper umbrellas on your ceremony, tell me more about that!

We really wanted an outside wedding, and we remembered that we visited the Japanese Garden once and found it beautiful. We looked at the venue, with our budget in mind and it seemed the perfect venue for us. The day of the wedding was very hot. It was around 80 to 95 degrees outside. The Japanese Garden staff was kind enough to provide us with paper umbrellas to help with the heat. It turned out to be a beautiful addition to our tribute to our Southeast Asian heritage as the parents of the groom and bride, as well as the bridesmaids, all paraded down the ceremony using these beautiful paper umbrellas!

Any final tips on dress shopping?

I would highly recommend not to be shy about trying different styles of dresses as sometimes the style you might think would not fit you well might just be the perfect dress. This also applies to different types of materials and shades of colors. Also, if there is just minor things you would like to change to a dress to make it perfect, do not be shy to ask about customizations.

This wedding filled with love, authenticity and cultures was made possible by the amazing hard work of:

  • Photography: Toan Ven Nguyen (@toanven on instagram)
  • Event Coordination: Dianne Events (@roca_deezie on instagram)
  • Wedding Gown: Silviyana Weddings (@silviyana_weddings on instagram)
  • Venue: San Jose Japanese Garden (website)