Do I Have to Do Things The Way My Immigrant Parents Want Me To?

May 07 at 9am

I’m a SF native and a total California girl. I’m close with my parents, who are from Korea and pretty conservative. I am getting married next spring (yay!) and my parents want me to have a traditional wedding. I want to do the right thing because I know how important it is to them, but it’s not my vision for my big day. How can I give with them what they want without letting go of my quirky Cali wedding dreams? -FT

Mazel tov on your upcoming nuptials!

I don’t think you’d be writing me if you wanted to gift your big day to your parents, but I also don’t know how traditional you are – or more accurately, how traditional you’ve led your parents to believe you are.

When faced with choices it’s easy to get locked into either/or thinking, but it’s rare that we only have two options, FT. We can’t all be like Kim and Kanye and have several elaborate weddings, but you can do a more humble version of that. I’ve known couples to have one wedding for family that is traditional (and where the most of their money goes), and to also do their own romantic, private ceremony amongst friends, usually in advance of the bigger affair. This is can be a city hall thing, done under your favorite tree, in a friend’s back yard, or some other meaningful and low profile locale. That way no matter what happens on the ‘big day’ with your family, you’ve already had your own special ceremony to make up for the compromises. It’ll take more creativity and energy to plan, but it can be done super cheaply and help you to feel good about having the traditional wedding that’ll make your family happy without giving up on your dreams. I think it’s wildly romantic, too!

Being a child of immigrants can be hard because as much as you may wish to respect your parents’ values, they may not be your own. Growing up in ‘Merica with its staunchly individualistic ideals can make honoring your parents' traditional expectations of you feel schizophrenic, no matter how much you love them. 

Being a child of immigrants can be hard because as much as you may wish to respect your parents’ values, they may not be your own. Growing up in ‘Merica with its staunchly individualistic ideals can make honoring your parents' traditional expectations of you feel schizophrenic, no matter how much you love them. This isn’t good or bad, but it can be wicked complicated. There’s value in giving your parents the traditional Korean wedding they want, especially if they’re paying for your ceremony. You have to weigh out how important it is to honor their desires against the drama it may cause if you don’t. You also need to consider if it will harm your fiancé's relationship with them; if you decide to go California dreamin’ style on your wedding, will they blame him, thinking that their daughter would never dream of acting against their wishes? As a married person you have to consider how your actions will impact your partner, and make sure they don’t put him in the doghouse with his new in-laws.

I admittedly have a very Western perspective, and from my point of view getting married is a major step in paving your own road in life. It’s messy to start off on that path pretending to be happy with something you really don’t want. If ever there were a time to do things on your own terms, this’d be it, FT. If you want a close relationship with your folks you’ve got to let them know who you are, and I don’t see how this is possible if you’re not forthright with them. Even if you decide to have a traditional wedding I encourage you to respectfully tell them how and why you’re compromising. Don’t be a martyr about, but do be honest. This is unlikely to go over well, but sometimes it’s better to be real than easy. It just might start the ball rolling for a new, more adult relationship with them. No matter what you choose, once you decide how to celebrate your love, promise that you won’t second-guess yourself. Enjoy your wedding and the start to this new chapter in your life!

xo,

Jessica

The Mission’s resident advisor gets booked months in advance by San Franciscans seeking help with everything from figuring out their love lives to communicating with their pets. So we asked Jessica if she’d come on board to do a weekly advice column, Truth Talk, for The Bold Italic. If you have a burning question for Truth Talk with Jessica Lanyadoo, email her at truthtalkwithjessica@gmail.com, and check back on Wednesdays to see if she has an answer for you.

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