The second part of this interfaith or multicultural stories series is Daya & Murphy’s* multicultural story. Daya and I had been emailing about protests from a certain faith, which led her to share her own personal story on the blog.
Where are you both from?
I am from the UK, parents from Punjab, India. My hubby is from Ireland.
What religion are you?
Sikh and Catholic
How did you meet + your first date?
We both worked in an engineering company in different departments. He was always very kind, if I had a deadline or work problem he would talk. We always got on and he was a great listener. I think over many months I realised he was a breath of fresh air… not dragging me down but always trying to make me feel good. We exchanged a few book suggestions (I am an avid reader and I now realise he isn’t but bless him he trawled his way through whatever I lent him) until I plucked up the courage to ask him to see a movie. This is pre mobile phones so even getting his number was a massive deal, I was so nervous. Believe it or not he said no to the movie but kept me on the phone for an hour and we arranged a movie the following week. He then bought me dinner and insisted on paying (A sure sign it was a date in 1991 rather than friends eating together).
How did you find dating someone from a different faith or culture?
I had to be able to trust and talk to him. I realised it was a huge pressure on him. He wanted an easy going happy relationship and my background was that dating him would bring about anger, complications, stress. I didn’t want our relationship to have that pressure of tearing me apart from my family. So I kept my focus on spending time together doing things we loved. Usually cooking, music, movie nights. We were very trusting of each other very quickly and he tried to get me to meet his friends and family which was not easy for me to reciprocate. There are differences but we dealt with them as they arose in a specific way.
For example I was really mad when he invited me as a date to a family wedding, and every woman wore hats in the church apart from me!
Having said that we had a lot more in common. We both had big families, and a desire to cook and host gatherings and parties.
Were your parents accepting of your partner?
This is a difficult question. Within a week or two of dating I had told two of my sisters. One was very negative and one was trying to keep me and the family happy, trying to be supportive. The negative sister went on about my selfishness, how I was secretive, lying to my parents. I hated that feeling of lying but felt I had to allow my relationship to blossom without pressure. After about six months he proposed and I told mum and dad. The effect was devastating and I felt like I was the worst daughter. I told them and left the house as no one really wanted to talk to me but I went back the next day. My then fiancee wanted to come but I wouldn’t let him. I had to do this on my own. I felt I was the same daughter, sister I was just making some choices for myself. Mum felt ashamed and felt I was risking being left abandoned and pregnant. Dad cried thinking I no longer respected or wanted to belong to my family.
Eventually over the years my mum and dad did come to accept my husband. My parents saw with their own eyes the care my husband gave me and eventually our two children and they adored him for that love and care.
Was there any issues from extended family or the community?
I had some threats, some odd looks. I didn’t feel safe walking hand in hand in my hometown. I was told not to invite my sister and brother in law as if certain people had an invitation with the date and venue of the wedding there would be disruptions… weddings are stressful enough as it is! Marriage in the Gurdwara was not an option for me in 1993!
Some people were just silent and not standing up for me which felt harsh too.
Over time my parents became my greatest advocates. My mum was the first of her friends to talk in public about her daughters choosing partners for themselves and it wasn’t a threat to her faith.
Tell me about the proposal
The proposal itself was a simple affair between the two of us one night after six months of dating. He cried, I cried. He didn’t want to ask me as we knew I would then tell my parents and he didn’t want to see me estranged. I told him it was my choice.
Was the parent’s permission asked?
No… but it would not have been given. My love was non negotiable.
How did you decide on having 1 or X amount of ceremonies?
We hit a stalemate on the wedding planning. We wanted a religious ceremony but a gurdwara was out of the question and I thought a Catholic ceremony would ask for any children to be raised as catholic which I would not agree to on principle. Having a choice would have been a luxury!
We stopped talking about a wedding due to lack of options and eventually had a massive argument about it. Making up after the argument we realised we wanted to get married, but it would take more than love. We needed solutions, and focus, not problems. This was still pre mobile phones and we rang round friends and supportive family and said “We are getting married in two months” (how is that for focus). People were amazing and suggested practical solutions. At this stage my dad had totally accepted my choice. Instead of being doubtful about ourselves we were confidant and friends responded to that. I realised that in spite of my feelings of being without most of my family we had lots of friends who were supportive. It was a lovely and amazing feeling when we did manage to arrange a wedding within two months.
Did you have any difficulty in finding a place of worship to perform the ceremony?
A mutual friend suggested we talk to his local priest at the Catholic Church. At the time we had to commit to a six week course marriage preparation course which was a great way for us to explore our commitment, faith, and what community meant for us given we were both living “outside” our communities. More importantly I learnt I was not expected to commit my children to a particular faith to get married in a church. I still have the handbook we got on that marriage course somewhere. “How to survive being married to a catholic” It was written for differing Christian denominations but worked fine for us.
Did you have any issues with regards to language barriers?
There were no language barrier issues for us.
How did you decide on food catering?
We are both foodies and listened to the hotel manager where we planned the reception. I just wanted lots of hearty food that I enjoyed myself.
What traditions were you determined to have?
To get married in red in a religous ceremony was my only wish.
How much of a say did your parents have?
Dad helped me by accepting that a Catholic wedding was ok. He actually advised me not to get married in the local gurdwara. I think he thought it safer for me and as he said “It is all one God anyway”. He really helped me clarify that the important thing was a wedding and our commitment not the details. He walked me down the aisle at the church which was very special.
How did you decide on entertainment?
We had an Irish band playing live music. We had a lot of musician friends who all joined in at various times.
Most stressful part of wedding planning?
The decision to get married, the fear of who would or wouldn’t disrupt the wedding, letting go of my Sikh wedding dreams and the week before a massive fight on what readings to have in the church. I was asked my opinion and I made it clear I didn’t care. After the fight I realised this was a fight about my stress levels not about readings in the church.
Choosing guests was stressful. We realised early on we would have a small wedding. We simply couldn’t invite loads of Irish family versus three people from my family. Mostly people understood and we came up with novel solutions, like asking the mother in law to host a wedding cake party for the aunts and uncles we couldn’t invite back in Ireland.
There were lots of hard conversations. People who wanted to come but couldn’t, people who thought I was selfish. Everyone had an opinion and I mostly just had to agree to disagree.
Advice you would give to other couples planning their multicultural – fusion – interfaith wedding?
First and foremost concentrate on the person you love, and be sure you can live with them! Be open, be honest, be respectful, laugh, have fun. For us we had lots of conversations which didn’t always result in a decision on which way was right or wrong. But did allow us to explore our feelings together and learn something new from each other. Finances are a huge part and although initially it felt sad to plan a small wedding ultimately it left us in control about the day and that gave us more control which was good.
And any other information you want to provide
23 years married. Looking back over time I am sure I have remembered some bits wrong, but it is amazing how far we have come as a society, how much more accepting people are. Getting married was very important for me as it felt like an incredibly optimistic action during a bleak time. And I do feel family and friends have helped us through bleak times and been there to celebrate during good times. Ultimately we had a “happy ending” although I don’t take that for granted and I don’t think I have all the right answers.
I hope I made things easier for the multicultural weddings that followed mine in my family. I think people understand that nothing ‘bad’ comes from love.
*Please note that names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.3