One Bride, Two Dresses

By Denise Balkissoon (well, by all of the brides, actually)

For many, The White Dress is an essential piece of the wedding, symbolizing everything from a massive new commitment, to celebrity status for a day, to long-guarded virginal purity (ha). But for mix-and-match Torontonians, those traditions often dovetail with others, which are also marked with fancy dress. Here, some local brides talk about why they chose to wear both a white gown as well as an outfit with different cultural meaning.

Jaclyn Law, Chinese-Canadian
Married in 2001
jaclynlaw-wedding
I’d redo certain things about my wedding, if I could (like not having it in January!), but I still love my wedding dress – it’s so simple and pretty. My husband and I decided to have a traditional Chinese banquet (his idea, actually), so I went with a cheongsam, too. I changed into it after the third course. When I entered the room, everyone started applauding — I probably turned as red as the dress! I got both gowns plus matching hair decor in Scarborough. My husband, whose background is Czech, wore a rented black tux with a mandarin collar. In the pictures, we look like a couple of kids.

 

Cindy Ramkissoon-Shears, Indo-Trinidadian-Canadian
Married in 2008
cindy-wedding

I have always wanted to wear the traditional Hindu wedding sari, even though later in life I became a born again Christian.  Growing up in a Hindu home and attending many Hindu weddings, I fell in love with the designs, colours and accessories.  I remember being a small child and seeing one of my elder cousins in the traditional red sari walking down the stairs to meet her groom, having the veil of flowers hanging on her face. From that moment I knew that is what I wanted to wear at my wedding.  My spouse is not of my culture but he welcomed my ideas and so did our wedding party. I chose to wear baby yellow, as the traditional wedding colours are red or yellow.

We were married in a church and our pastor was very excited that although were we being married under Christian rites, other cultures and traditions were still being represented in our clothing.  My pastor and his spouse also wore traditional Indian outfits at our ceremony.  After the ceremony, we changed into the traditional white dress and white suit for the remaining of our pictures and for the reception.  Honestly, if I could dance in a sari, I probably would have continued to wear that throughout the night!

Jacqueline, Canadian-Trinidadian
Married in 2011
jacqueline-wedding

When we got engaged I knew it had to be both–a sari to represent my Indian heritage and a wedding dress for my Canadian heritage. The sari was from an Indian store on Airport Road in Malton.  I’ve been there a few times and I like their stuff. The dress, I actually went Buffalo and got one at David’s Bridal first. A knee length one with a little coat. Then my dad kept asking  how come I can wear long dresses to work and not my own wedding. So my sister found Amanda Linas in Woodbridge. She started picking and I started trying on. They were really nice and helpful and sold dresses to all sizes!

I originally thought we would do a Muslim and Hindu wedding but we made it simple and went to City Hall, which is when I wore the sari. We still did the Hindu stuff for me and we did a Muslim reading for him. I wore the dress at the reception afterward. I loved how it looked.

Fiona So, Chinese-Canadian
Married in 2003
fionaso_wedding“White dresses are for funerals,” I remember someone telling me, but even my ultra superstitious in-laws had no issues with a white dress. I suppose it has become such a common and widely accepted practise that it wasn’t even considered taboo. My dress was ivory and sleeveless. Simple, delicate beading punctuated an embroidered flower pattern that danced down one side of this A-line dress. It had a ridiculously long and heavy train with an equally long veil to go with it. My necklace was a gift from a friend and I was allergic to my earrings. My shoes were purchased from a clearance centre and were different colours. I did my own make-up on one-hour of sleep. I looked great.

A classic white wedding invitation was immediately shot down (again, white was for death). I found a beautiful red and black Kai-po for the evening but I was instantly forbidden to get it. Black was for death too. Also blue if worn in the wrong way. Eventually, I got a simple Kai-po off the rack and, like a good Chinese, haggled for a discount.

There were many things I was told to do. There were many things I chose to do. I refused the tradition of having my fiance fight and bribe his way past my relatives to retrieve me from a locked room in my house, but agreed to give our guests $10 bakery gift certificates in lieu of “wife-cakes.” I struggled with identity and tradition but in the end, it was a great wedding.

Vicki So, Chinese-Canadian
Married in 2010

vicki-soweddingI wore a traditional North American white wedding dress, but instead of changing into the traditional red Chinese qipao as is the custom during the reception, I wore an ivory silk Mandarin-style jacket over the dress for the tea ceremony (it was $40, from the shops in Pacific Mall). I didn’t want to spend money on a second dress I’d wear only once, and I didn’t want to go through an awkward change in the middle of dinner. I wasn’t even going to do the tea ceremony at first–it’s just a simple ceremony where you serve tea to the elder members of your family and receive a gift in return–but it was important to my family, and I wanted to pay tribute to them. The night before the wedding, we invited my new in-laws to share in the tradition. It was fun and helped bring our families closer together.

Andrea Wallington, Macedonian-Anglo-Canadian
Married in 2001
andreawallington-weddingI was practically a child bride (23!!), so it was before the age of digital cameras and we didn’t hire a professional photographer. Both dresses were chosen quite spontaneously. The legal marriage was in a mosque, and only family came. The green Pakistani dress was borrowed from my sister-in-law (my husband’s family is half Italian-Canadian and half-Indian-South African).  The funny thing was that people asked me how I knew to wear green when in fact there’s no Islamic “colour” for a wedding (only regional cultural colour standards, and even then, I’ve found any colour goes).  I liked that dress because my hair was dyed auburn at the time so I thought it was a nice contrast, even though it was mostly covered.  Immediately after the marriage service, my mom actually said “you look like you’re in a school play.”
 
I wore the white dress for the reception at the Balmy Beach Club. I thought I wanted a long-sleeved Elizabethan-style princess dress, but the ones I tried on look dowdy. Then I put on this number with a super poofy skirt and it made me feel great  (I paired it with white Pumas with a silver swoosh – which made them dressy).  I also wore a Macedonian gold coin necklace with the white dress which totally didn’t go with my other jewelry but my baba gave it to me. I was working for an Aboriginal organization at the time so we also had a native blanket ceremony at the reception.
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2 thoughts on “One Bride, Two Dresses

  1. Pingback: The Wedding Issue | The Ethnic Aisle

  2. Great article.
    I loved reading about the different cultures and yet bonding together with the famous white dress.

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