If family members, or a significant percentage of your guest list, do not understand spoken English very well, I encourage you to inquire with your vendors about what accommodations can be made. Depending upon the area of the country, some entertainment services offer bi-lingual DJs. For example, here in Florida, it is not unusual for the larger companies to employ at least one Spanish speaking DJ. If you’re looking for a bi-lingual DJ, officiant or photographer who speaks Latvian you may be out of luck. But even then, there are accommodations that can be made.
With advance preparation, printed materials can easily be translated into other languages—invitations, orders of service, place cards, and even the text of the ceremony itself.
Some officiants, like myself, are not fluent in other languages but have enough familiarity to be able to read another language well even if we do not understand 100% of what we are saying. After using Spanish in ceremonies, I am sometimes approached by excited guests who assume I am fluent and I have to break it to them that, “Lo siento, pero hablo muy poco español. Muy pocito.” I could also include French in a ceremony with a little time to practice, but that is apparently not a high demand language here in Central Florida.
As an officiant, I recommend the following accommodations if you cannot find an officiant fluent in the necessary languages. All of these I have done gladly.
Use an “on-the-fly” translator at the ceremony: In these cases, the translator has not seen the text prior to the wedding and can either translate as faithfully as possible or summarize the officiant’s words. The ceremony needs to be written in a way that allows for frequent pauses to allow the translator to do his or her work. I recommend such ceremonies be kept short and simple as the translation can double the length of the ceremony. Translators can be professionals or bilingual family members. If using a family member, choose someone who is comfortable speaking in public and is highly competent in both languages. I have officiated an English-Swedish and English-German ceremony in this manner.
Have the officiant coordinate with a translator prior to the ceremony: This is very similar to the first recommendation, but adds a collaborative effort where the officiant and the translator have plenty of contact during the writing process to prepare a seamless bi-lingual ceremony. Again, I recommend short and simple because this definitely will double the length of the ceremony. I have officiated an English-Korean wedding in this manner.
Rather than a full translation, include key portions of the ceremony in the other language: This is what I usually do when I include Spanish in a wedding ceremony without a translator, and can also be a strategy to be employed by a translator. Most of the ceremony is in English, but a sentence or two in Spanish is added during each section that enables the guests to get the gist of what is going on. Here is an example of a ring blessing I included in a bilingual ceremony recently:
Let us bring blessings to these rings (Bride and Groom) are about to exchange. May these rings forever remind them of their covenant with one another, as well as the circle of love they have publicly created here today. May their compassion and kindness for one another always be like these rings, with no beginning and no end. May the precious metal remind them of their precious commitment, and if either begins to tarnish, may they joyfully undertake the sacred duty to make it shine brightly again. May their relationship always be like these rings, separate but close, simple but beautiful. May these rings always belong to their hands, and their love always belong in each others' hearts.
Los anillos de boda son un signo visible de espiritualidad y gracia, significando asi para todos la union de (Novio y Novia) en matrimonio.
As you can see, the Spanish section is much shorter but it conveys what is happening.
Provide written translations: With enough notice, a good officiant will be happy to prepare a text of your ceremony to be translated into the other language. The ritual of a wedding is fairly recognizable, so it is not terribly difficult to follow along with a translated text. It is pretty clear when the bride and groom start slipping rings on one another’s fingers that we have gotten to the ring exchange. Or if they begin to pour sand we have a sand ceremony going on. I have had texts of my ceremonies translated in advance into Spanish, German, Russian, Italian, Polish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Krio. (Google it)
If you prepare a written translation, for heaven’s sake, do not use an on-line translating tool. If you wish to be considerate of your relatives who do not speak English, but are not that competent in their native language yourself, get a family member or professional to translate the ceremony for you. Online translating tools work well for vocabulary or short basic sentences, but churn out rubbish beyond that.
Good Luck Buena Suerte Lycka Till Bonne Chance Veel Succes
Photo Attribute: Invitation available at www.invitationpie.com