How to entertain an international audience at a wedding?
March 7, 2006 5:01 PM   Subscribe

I am to be the best man at a wedding of a German and Italian (the bride). I have been asked by the couple to speak in English on the day. Most people attending should be able to understand some English but unfortunately there will still be a number who will not understand. Any clever ideas on how to bridge the language barrier? German humour and Italian humour - what are they? Are they compatible? How could I work them together? As I am British, I don't know the different customs and practices at Italian weddings and German weddings. What are the things I should really make a point of doing and not doing? Are there some finer touches that would really go down well?

The wedding ceremony will be in Germany. As well as Germans, a lot of Italian family and friends will be travelling to the wedding along with smaller numbers of Americans, Spaniards, British and a few other nationalities. The majority of the Germans who will be attending do not understand any Italian and the nearly all of the Italians do not understand any German. The couple feel that more people will understand at least a little English than any other language but this still feels a little unsatisfactory. Delivering the speech in English, German and Italian is not desirable as it would be long and tiresome.

The couple have told me that content-wise anything goes. I’ve also been told to expect a lot of singing. So singing a song is not out of the question... Any ideas?

One way or another it would be great to get all the different nationalities noisy and laughing, to really set them up for the evening where we hope they will mix together.
posted by BritishBestMan to Human Relations (12 answers total)
It's probably safe to assume that they've watched more American movies than British movies. So in addition to speaking slowly and clearly, you might aid their comprehension by leaning toward an American accent (e.g. by pronouncing Rs).
posted by Aknaton at 7:04 PM on March 7, 2006

As always, Google is your friend in finding out about common practices at these events.

Speaking as someone who is of German heritage, but hasn't yet married, I can only pass on what I know of my German heritage. The first thing that comes to mind is whether the groom is a South German or a West German? West Germans generally dislike South Germans, for their strong Catholic religious beliefs and the fact that they see them as a bunch of hicks, generally. So if he's from the west or the north, which I assume he might be (given that content wise "anything goes", which suggests a distinct lack of Catholicism), no mentioning of lederhausen and the like in your speech. He'd probably think you were using the traditional German stereotype, which is the Bavarian South German one I just mentioned. In all likelihood, he'd hate it. That said, Germans in general love their beer, so maybe the distinction isn't that great.

Come to think of it, even now I'm still sort of using Cold War terminology in breaking up the country. Is he an 'East German'? Did he ever live behind the wall? If so, I got nothing. Though it could add a poignancy to your speech, were you to allude to that.

German humour is often on the raunchy side. At least, my dad's jokes often are, so whether that's the norn or not, I don't really know.

That's all I've got for now. Sorry I couldn't be more help.
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:08 PM on March 7, 2006

Perhaps you could do something thematically related to their cultures -- Gustav is orderly and Lucia is fiery... Driven to perform at his peak, Gustav is like a Mercedes on the Autobahn, Lucia, detail focused, is a Fiat in the back alleys of Rome... etc... You could finish up by describing ways that the two cultures can blend together to produce something beautiful (if it would be politically reasonable, you could draw parallels with the EU).

Regardless, I would encourage you to throw in a few lines in each language, just to keep the folks paying attention.
posted by i love cheese at 7:24 PM on March 7, 2006

WWII jokes should abound.
posted by klangklangston at 8:05 PM on March 7, 2006

Whatever you do, don't mention the war.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:00 PM on March 7, 2006

I am German. All the clichees mentioned above are bull, I think. Young people celebrating an international wedding sounds like a pretty laid back affair. Be yourself, that's what made you their friend. I wouldn't decorate my speech with british Nazi jokes. And that's about it. Globalization is everywhere.
posted by ollsen at 12:04 AM on March 8, 2006

Subtitles: how about a set of large cue cards with key words (or wildly OT) handwritten on them, alternatively in German/Italian, à la Bob Dylan video?
posted by ceri richard at 3:12 AM on March 8, 2006

I've been to two bi-cultural weddings eg Irish and British-Chinese, and British-Chinese and Vietnamese.

In the Irish/British-Chinese one, the groom made a few jokes. This went down like a *lead* balloon.

In the British-Chinese/Vietnamese one, the best man stuck to a script prepared by the bride, and most of the families nodded their approval.

During the wedding dinner itself, I'd highly advise against making jokes or trying to entertain the crowd unless you know what you are doing. It's tricky enough at a "normal" wedding where there are guests from 5 to 75. Imagine doing that for people of two, three different cultures. Some globally aware, some locally ignorant.

The time to joke'n'laugh, IMHO, is afterwards when all the "adults" and family members have sloped off to bed, and you can all laugh and joke in the disco afterwards.
posted by badlydubbedboy at 4:06 AM on March 8, 2006

Would you have the facilities to do a multimedia presentation? Perhaps you could backdrop your speech with a slideshow of photographs of the bride and groom and their families, so even attendees who can't understand you don't feel so left out. Or you could use it to simultaneously subtitle your speech.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:29 AM on March 8, 2006

End the speech with the native word for "Cheers!" in both languages.

I know the German word is "Prost" (pron. with a long o sound)

Not sure of the Italian.
posted by spakto at 10:33 AM on March 8, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks so much for your response!

I had wondered and am leaning towards using subtitles within a Powerpoint type presentation as both ceri richard and Lyn Never suggested. I think this would allow for some visual humour which I hope all nationalities and ages would be able to 'get'. Is that too big an assumption? Any clever ideas along these lines?

As Effigy2000 cleverly deduced, the groom is a Protestant. He is not a Bavarian and is from the former West Germany. The Italian bride is a Catholic. The couple have agreed that the ceremony will be in a Protestant church in the groom's small home village. I don;t know what the Catholic family make of this, or if it is even an issue. I had already thought there could be a joke when relaying messages/telegrams - something like "Sorry I couldn't be there on your special day, from Pope Benedictus XVI". Bit weak isn't it! Now you know why I need your help!

I'm still very interested to hear about the sorts of things that people have experienced at weddings that have really gone down well. What has been memorable?
posted by BritishBestMan at 4:03 PM on March 8, 2006

no mentioning of lederhausen and the like in your speech

I think a wedding reception in a leather house would be really memorable. Italian leather, though, of course.
posted by xanthippe at 7:03 AM on March 9, 2006

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