Here’s a little fact about me. I’m Maltese. Usually when I tell people that they literally look at me like I have two heads. The conversation usually goes like this…
“Mal-what?” they ask.
“I’m Maltese!” I say.
“Oh, like the dog?”
“Well, not exactly. My family comes from Malta?”
“Malta? What’s that?”
“An island in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Sicily”
“Oh, so…your Italian?”
Then I go into my favorite part where I get to talk about Malta. How it’s a country composed of three “tiny” islands (about 200 sq miles) between Sicily and North Africa with a population a little over 400,000. How it has some of the oldest ancient ruins on earth that predate the pyramids of Egypt. How it has its own unique language (Middle Eastern/Arabic with a mix of English, French and Italian) that’s the only Semitic language that’s written in the Latin alphabet. I could go on and on because I love educating people about Malta.
I’m first generation American on my father’s side, second generation on my mother’s side. In fact, if you do the math, I’m probably more Maltese than American (though I’m proud of both my heritages equally). But here’s the ironic part…I’ve never been to Malta (yet).
I’ve come close twice. Once in college when I was studying abroad in Europe (but wasn’t allowed to travel outside of the group I was with) and once the year I got married, when my cousins went. I couldn’t go then because between saving and planning for a wedding and saving for a house, it just wasn’t financially possible at the time. So, visiting is still on my bucket list.
That being said, because I’m so proud of where my family comes from, it was very important to me to incorporate my Maltese heritage into my wedding. I’ve said over and over that one of the best things about weddings is that it’s a great opportunity for the couple, even though they are coming together as one, to showcase their induvial styles, religions, heritages, cultures, etc. So, here’s what I did…
I incorporated my Maltese heritage in the details
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” This is a rhyme brides know all too well. The “new” was easy…that was my dress. The “blue” was easy…stickers I put on the bottom of my shoe that read “I Do.”
The “old” and “borrowed” was tricky. I was trying to figure out what those could be and then my mom had an idea to look through her jewelry box.
As we were going through the box which is full of family heirlooms, I found a magnificent filigree Maltese Cross pin that belonged to my grandmother as well as some lace she made. Making filigree jewelry and lace are traditional Maltese arts. My thought was to use them both on my bouquet. While I opted, in the end, not to use my grandmother’s lace (for fear of getting it stained from the flowers, or oils from my hand), I did have lace wrapped around my bouquet as homage to her and attached the pin to it. (There’s another story here on how I lost the pin on my wedding day and miraculously found it the next day…but that’s a whole other story for a whole different day).
I incorporated my Maltese heritage through romantic proverbs
My husband is Irish, so Irish wedding traditions and blessing are easy to find. Maltese wedding traditions and blessings, not so much.
Most Maltese are Roman Catholic, in fact, we’re some of the oldest Catholics in the world, dating back to 60 A.D. So, other than having a full Roman Catholic mass wedding, it was really hard for me to find ways to incorporate Maltese wedding blessings. Not to mention, the Maltese language is very complex, so I needed to find blessings that also had English translations.
I thought a cool thing to do would be to have Gaelic and Maltese love proverbs scattered on the tables during cocktail hour. I went online to see what I could find, because we know that if it’s online it must be “true”, right (haha!), and held my breath that what I found was correct (I’m not too fluent in the language). My saving grace was that if they weren’t right, only a few people would know. Thankfully, I have a cousin in Malta who looked over the sayings and said that, for the most part, they were right, so I went with it.
I honored my Maltese heritage by keeping my last name
My last name, Zammit, is not common at all over here in the States, but in Malta, my last name is like Smith or Jones here. It’s very common.
When couples marry, 98% of the time the bride takes the groom’s name. However, I didn’t want to lose my very Maltese name. Now, I know no one can take my heritage away from me, but without my last name, no one would be able to tell, from the outside, what or who I am. It’s very much a part of my identity and how I define myself.
A disclaimer here is that changing your name is a very personal decision. Everyone is going to have a different reason for changing or keeping their name, and whatever you decide is correct. For me, I wanted to keep my name but also honor my husband and our unity by taking his name as well, so, I hyphenate my last name.
Hopefully, learning how I incorporated my heritage into my wedding will give you some ideas on how you can do the same for your wedding. What specific part of your heritage or culture are you incorporating into your wedding? We’d love to know.
Featured Photo Credit: Majestic Studios