A Bilingual Wedding

I've given hundreds of speeches, but I never had one translated live. Until this wedding.


My friend Jelitza is originally from Puerto Rico. Her first language is Spanish. She's done very well at teaching herself English over the last few years, but some of her family still prefers Spanish, especially the ones who traveled from Puerto Rico to Michigan for the wedding.

Luckily Jelitza has a cousin that is fluent in both English and Spanish, who was also willing to speak in front of a crowd, Margarita. The core group of the wedding party met a few times before the ceremony so that we could figure things out. There were a few things that were different about this ceremony, such as the blessing done at the end by two of Jelitza's cousins from Puerto Rico who are ministers. But, the translating was the part that I was most concerned with.

Margarita and I worked out where I would stop and she would repeat what I had said. I gave her a copy of my ceremony so she could translate it for her notes. There were some changes that needed to be made. Near the beginning I make a little joke about people being at the wedding for free drinks. She translated that and didn't think it sounded like a joke in Spanish. We asked Jelitza's uncle Eric and he confirmed that it did not sound like a joke. So, instead of doing that we replaced "free drinks" with "free centerpieces," which is just as applicable.

I made sure in my notes to put a "(T)" at every point where I would stop for Margarita to translate. We did have one little slip. In part 3 I left a minuscule little pause between two sentences and Margarita started speaking. It caught me off-guard, but I acted like it was supposed to happen and no one noticed, even her. Instead of three translation sections in part 3 we ended up with four, which was fine. Somehow we had marked down different spots for that break, but that was the only time that occurred.

As it turned out the translation ended up going perfectly. Which was good. But we had an even bigger problem. The weather.

This was a beautiful outdoor wedding, until the pouring rain and the driving wind blew us all inside to stay. It was bad. The bride had stayed up late putting signs that she had hand-made on the reserved seats. They were all ruined.

The facility has the ability to have an indoor ceremony in the space that the reception was going to be held. But, we had to rearrange everything. The staff was willing to adjust things in any way we wanted. The only problem was that the original backup plan had this tiny little walk for the bride where there was essentially no aisle. That just doesn't work for a wedding.

I was able to coordinate, and convince, people to change the entire setup. We were able to work with people in two languages to get everything arranged. And, the bride ended up with a nice long walk that allowed everyone to see her. And, the ceremony went great. Here are my notes.

- - - - - - -

0. Margarita and Raimundo. Announce phone ringers off. Announce people walking down aisle. Ring bearer will sit in the aisle seat on the groom’s side.

1. Jeff. “All rise.”(T) Music. Jelitza with mother. Stops just before front. Mother between William and Jelitza.

2. “Who offers this woman in marriage?”(T) Mother says “I do.”

“Everyone may now be seated.”(T)

“William and Jelitza, please step forward.”(T)

3. “Ladies and gentlemen. Some of us are gathered here today for free drinks, some of us are gathered here today for cake, and some of us are gathered here today for dancing, but all of us are gathered here today to witness a wedding. And more than that, to witness a commitment. Commitment comes from the Latin com mittere, meaning to send together.”(T)

“William’s entire past, every moment, was necessary to bring him to this one. Every decision that Jelitza has ever made has led her to this very place. William has had good times in his life, and hardships. Some that he brought upon himself, some that he did not. Jelitza has had moments of joy and moments of despair. Some that she chose, others that she did not. In the future, too, there will be good things and there will be bad things, there will be joy and there will be despair. Which brings me to this question - why get married?”(T)

“It’s an important question, hopefully asked before now (smirk). And the answer is this, we do not get to choose many of the hardships that we will face, but we do get A choice. We get to choose how we will face these hardships, and who we will face them with. William and Jelitza are here today to make a commitment, we are here today to witness their commitment, and to send them forth into the future, together. That, is why there is a wedding today.”(T)

4. “Please join hands.”(T) Jelitza hands off bouquet to aunt.

5. “William and Jelitza have prepared the vows for their union.”(T)

“William will now give his vows.”(T)

“Jelitza will now give her vows.”(T)

“William and Jelitza, in the future, when you are confronted with hardships, remember these vows, so that they may bring you closer together.”(T)

6. “William, do you take Jelitza to be your lawful wedded wife?”(T)
“Do you promise to love, honor, cherish, protect, and be faithful to her?”(T)
“Do you promise to do the dishes and pick up your clothes off the floor?”(T)
“Do you promise to love her even when she cries for no reason?”(T)

“Jelitza, do you take William to be your lawful wedded husband?”(T)
“Do you promise to love, honor, cherish, protect, and be faithful to him?”(T)
“Do you promise to not whine at him when he forgets to do the dishes and pick up his clothes?”(T)
“Do you promise to love him even when he has two tv’s on at the same time?”(T)

7. “Bring forth the rings.”(T)

“These rings are a symbol of your commitment to each other.”(T)
“(William/Jelitza), repeat after me.”(T)
“I (William/Jelitza), take thee (Jelitza/William), to be my (wife/husband),”(T)
“to have and to hold,”(T)
“in sickness and in health,”(T)
“for richer or for poorer,”(T)
“in joy and sorrow,”(T)
“and I promise my love to you.”(T)
“With this ring, I take you as my (wife/husband), for as long as we both shall live.”(T)

8. “We will now have the sand ceremony.”(T) Sand pour table set up inside of gazebo. William and Jelitza go through and start.

“Two different colors of sand. Each beautiful on its own, but more exquisitely intricate when combined. Once combined the two cannot be separated, and will stand as an ongoing testament to the commitments made here today.”(T)

9. Return to positions. “By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”(T)

“You may kiss your bride.”(T)

10. Blessing. “At this time we will have a blessing of the wedding, the commitment, and the couple.”(T) Ministers come around side from front row of bride’s side.

11. “I would like to introduce the happy couple, William and Jelitza Quintero.”(T)

- - - - - - -

Neither multiple languages, nor the tempest tossed winds of mother nature, need obstruct the path to an excellent wedding ceremony. Prepare and have a plan. Then, when your preparations are dashed upon the rocks, and your plan has been torn asunder, adapt and reclaim the joy that is a wedding day.

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To read more from Jeff go to JeffThinks.com or JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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