Intercultural Marriage: Influences on Traditions, Customs and Celebrations

Julie Burke Idé, School for International Training


This phenomenological study examines the influence intercultural marriage between US and West African partners has on the traditions, customs and celebrations expressed in that marriage, exploring three sub-questions: Have traditions, customs, and celebrations changed as a result of intercultural marriage? If they have changed, what aspects have been influenced and what are major contributing factors? And finally, do these couples fit into the family identity patterns described by Joel Crohn in his book Mixed Matches (2002, 149)?

Research methods comprised document review, preliminary questionnaires, and guided unstructured interviews. The data show that the traditions, customs, and celebrations of these couples have changed as a result of intercultural marriage requiring adjustments in how they comprehend gender roles, social interactions, respect for family, celebrations, perception of time and communication. These changes are attributed to four factors: geographical location, people, exposure to and proficiency in a culture, and children. Results substantiate some of Crohn’s family identity development patterns, but find them to be too broad as they do not account for movement over time or influencing factors. This study provides an example to intercultural couples that their traditions, customs, and celebrations can be blended, but a balance must be struck to adjust to the varying factors that can influence these traditions, customs, and celebrations.