Foreign Accents

Turn your wedding into an international affair, borrowing customs and rituals from abroad, without ever leaving home.

You don’t have to hit the road to host a destination-theme wedding.

Borrow the customs and rituals of a popular destination’s culture and hold a memorable, out-of-this-country wedding in Orlando. On the following seven pages we offer four of the most popular destination themes—Spanish, Italian, Asian and Indian—with the significant customs of each, and include suggestions for customizing your event according to the destination.  Your worldly adventure begins with Laura Diaz (pictured), a local radio personality. She didn’t have to go to Spain, her family’s home country, to have the wedding of her dreams. She found a little piece of Español in Winter Park, at Casa Feliz.


Casa Feliz’s Spanish architectural influences brought home memories of Madrid to Laura Diaz.

¡Viva Lo Español!

XL106.7’s Laura Diaz shares ‘Everything Spanish’ about her dramatic dream wedding.

Photos By jeff hawkins

Laura Diaz and Mike Oliver are your typical 21st century love story. Boy e-mails Girl. Boy and Girl exchange e-mails for three months. Boy gets Girl’s number via e-mail, then texts Girl. Girl texts Boy back, “Just ask me out already!” Eventually, Boy and Girl change Facebook statuses to “Married.”

Their cyber love story began in September 2007 when they met at WKMG Local 6 News where Diaz anchored the morning news and Oliver sold advertising. After their first date, Diaz says they were instant BF and GF (boyfriend and girlfriend). Two years later, Oliver proposed, and they were married on Oct. 15, 2010.  

Nowadays, Diaz dishes drama every workday morning as co-host of XL106.7’s hit show, Johnny’s House, and Oliver sells advertising for web-based sales companies.  
“Career aside, everything about my life is dramatic, and passionate,” laughs Diaz, a Spanish-American born and raised in Lake Mary. “So when it came to my wedding, no one expected anything less.”

She first thought about getting married in Spain, where her mother’s family is from, but too many friends and family members in the States would be left out. So she and Mike opted for a Spanish-themed wedding with a few twists mixed in to honor his Southern gentleman’s Kentucky roots.

Laura Diaz wears her grandmother’s bold red mantón (shawl) around her waist as she and Mike Oliver perform a tango during their first dance.

Two weeks after the proposal, Diaz boarded a plane to Madrid with her mother, Lucia, oldest sister Louvi and future mother-in-law, Jo Anne, in search of a dress. “It was very important to me to have an authentic Spanish wedding dress,” Diaz says. She found it at Pronovias, an exclusive bridal house in Madrid. While abroad, she picked up additional details for her Spanish ensemble: Swarovski crystal earrings, a white abanico (Spanish fan) that she carried instead of a bouquet, and a large red-rose hairpiece that was fashioned for her Spanish bun-styled hair.

“The dress was critical, but the venue was the second most important item on our consumer–conscious budget list,” says Diaz, who happened on Winter Park’s Casa Feliz during a Google search for local Spanish venues. “I knew it was the place the first moment I saw it. It looked just like this little place I love in Madrid, and it means ‘Happy House’ in Spanish. How could it not be perfect?”

They married in the outdoor courtyard of Casa Feliz on a picture-perfect day. Her mother, dressed in purple, served as matron of honor, while her brother, Anthony, walked her down the aisle to “Ave Maria,” her grandmother’s favorite song. The bridesmaids were dressed in black; the two flower girls wore Spanish-inspired embroidered dresses.

“We were hysterical, so everyone else was hysterical,” says Diaz, referring to the outpouring of emotions the ceremony unleashed. “Reverend Kevin Knox said, in 30 years of doing weddings, he had never seen two people cry so much during a ceremony. It was so dramatic, he made us kiss three times before the actual kiss just to calm us down.”
Diaz says family members helped her with many of the details that went into her wedding day. “Our family members really stepped up and did things we wouldn’t have done because we’re not into frivolous spending,” says Diaz, the youngest of four children raised by a single mother, a three-time breast cancer survivor. “Mike’s mother was instrumental, and my sisters, knowing me, went the extra miles to do things I may not have ever done.” 

Her sister Lisa arranged 300 red roses that Diaz bought wholesale, and she also hand-painted the names of Spanish towns on colorful tiles that were used as table labels. Guests received favors of Spanish castanets and abanicos, and the wedding cake, from Publix, complemented the red, gold and black color scheme. The groom’s cake, however, was Mike’s favorite, the chocolate cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. The bridal table was outfitted with Spanish-style, tall hand-carved chairs, and an eclectic mix of Spanish cuisine, such as paella and quesadillas, and Southern specialties like Chardonnay chicken and shrimp-and-grits was prepared by Arthur’s Catering. Music by the Gipsy Kings played during dinner.  

Diaz also wanted their first dance to be dramatic, so she and Mike took three months of lessons with dance instructor Rick Weston.  The couple began their choreographed routine with a two-step, but halfway through it Diaz whipped out her grandmother’s bold-red mantón—a symbolic Spanish shawl—and wrapped it around her waist as she and Mike segued into a passionate tango.

“¡Estoy encantada con mi boda! (I’m in love with my wedding.) It was everything I ever wanted and more,” exclaims Diaz, who’s also quick to point out a few tips for hosting a destination-themed wedding. “There are so many ways to incorporate cultural elements, even on a fixed budget. It just takes time, creativity and support from family and friends. Do a little bit every day, including 5-10 invitations, and you’ll be surprised at how much can be accomplished—and how amazing your wedding can be!”




Some of the most festive wedding celebrations in the world occur in Spain, making nuptials with Spanish influences popular with brides. Add some Spanish customs to your wedding day to make it a lively occasion for you and your guests.

1. Red roses are among the preferred flowers for a Spanish-style wedding; 2. Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine; 3. Sangria as a reception drink; 4. Elegant stationery in deep-red and gold; 5. A white gown is a break from tradition, while a fan, or abanico, honors it; 6. Casa Feliz in Winter Park; 7. Tapas
Roses and Casa FELIZ: Jeff Hawkins; Casa Monica: Kessler Collection; Custom Stationery: Dragonfly Custom Design; Bride, sangria, tapas: ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

The bride and groom give capias, or small corsages, to every guest at the reception.

Traditional brides wear black to show “devotion till death,” while modern brides honor the custom by adding a black sash, shawl or jewelry.

Wearing or carrying orange blossoms represents promise, fulfillment and fertility.

The groom gives the bride 13 gold coins to  symbolize his pledge to support her financially.

A  lasso  is placed around the couple’s shoulders in the shape of a figure 8 to represent binding the couple together.

Men who dance with the bride give monetary gifts, in some regions pinning them to her dress.

For luck, pieces of the groom’s tie are cut up and auctioned off.

A Mexican wedding cake is usually a fruitcake soaked in rum.


Casa Feliz is a beautifully restored Spanish-style farmhouse in Winter Park, with Old World details like whitewashed century-old bricks, a bell tower and a heavy timber balcony.

The Casa Monica Hotel is an elegantly restored 1888 resort in St. Augustine, with architecture echoing the Spanish Renaissance, deep red- and gold-toned ballrooms and a Moroccan-draped tent at Sultan’s Pavilion.


Custom deep red and gold foil for elegant, formal events, or orange, yellow and purple palettes for outdoor affairs. Enhance with bilingual language.


Spanish orange blossoms, red and white roses Gerber daisies and bougainvillea, with Spanish moss as filler.


Traditional wedding capias, castanets, Spanish fans, cross-shaped soaps, embellished candleholders or Murano glass charms or trinkets.


Menus with Spanish influence include tapas, paella, quesadillas, grilled mojito shrimp, braised chicken and rice, Spanish pork and fried plantains, with Spanish beer, sangria and mojitos at the bar.



Some of the oldest and most cherished wedding customs come from ancient Rome, such as throwing confetti and feeding cake to each other. The Roman goddess Juno is the guardian of marriage, home and childbirth, making June the most popular month to marry in Italy. Adding a few Italian touches to your wedding can give it Old World charm, enhancing the romance.

1. Long cathedral-style veil drapes bride in Old-World charm; 2. Portofino Bay’s Mediterranean-style harbor; 3. Italian cypress trees accent a courtyard at Bella Collina; 4. Table settings in a courtyard at Portofino Bay Hotel; 5. Complete the Italian theme with pasta on the reception menu; 6. Newlyweds depart on a Vespa at Portofino Bay Hotel; 7. Invitation customized with a rosary 
Bride: Heather Rice; Invitation: 2U Collection; Bella Collina; Castaldo Studio; Portofino Bay Hotel: Loews Hotels; Pasta: ISTOCKPHOTO.COM



The groom carries a piece of iron in his pocket for good luck.

It’s considered bad luck for the bride to wear any gold on her wedding day, but she wears green the night before to symbolize good fortune and fertility.

Ribbons symbolize the tying together of two lives and are typically found on church doors.

Tearing the veil after the ceremony is good luck

Releasing a pair of doves represents joy and a new bond.

The best man delivers a pre-dinner toast, wishing the couple 100 years together.

The newlyweds shatter a vase or glass, with the number of broken pieces equaling the number of happily married years.

The couple is showered with confetti that symbolizes the prayers of all for a happy marriage, long life, fertility and prosperity.


Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando features the colorful Italian architecture of a Mediterranean seaside harbor, charming courtyards, Romanesque outdoor chapels and gardens, a Tuscan ballroom, a grand spiral staircase and getaway vespas.

Bella Collina in Lake County is a picturesque Tuscan countryside setting, with archways, cobblestones, exquisite Italian architecture, a fire pit with lake views, a tiered verandah and the signature Grand Event Lawn for ceremonies.


White symbolizes purity but lilac is considered bad luck. Handcrafted Italian paper with gold leafing and calligraphy offer a romantic touch.


Roses, peonies, hydrangeas, calla lilies, tulips, the golden mimosa or sunflowers. Grapevines, citrus fruits and dried flowers enhance arrangements.


Bagged or boxed Jordan almonds that symbolize the bitter and sweet life brings, Italian glass wine stoppers or charms, scented candles, ceramic cherubs, biscotti boxes or mini-wine bottles with customized labels.


Italian-inspired menus include antipasto, wedding soup, assorted pasta stations, chicken scaloppini, seared fish, steak marsala, eggplant, with a variety of wines, Peroni beers and Pellegrino bottled water at the bar.




The Orient lends itself to some of the most colorful, versatile and symbolically significant weddings. Whether it’s a Japanese Zen-style wedding or a regal Chinese-inspired affair, Asian-themed ceremonies allow couples to exhibit profound personal and spiritual expressions amid magical happy-ever-afters.

1. Temple of Heaven at Epcot’s China Pavilion; 2. Favor ideas include customized fortune cookies in Asian take-out boxes; 3. Scroll-style invitation; 4. Bamboo footbridge in Epcot’s Japan Pavilion; 5. Chinese brides often wear red, which symbolizes ultimate joy; 6. Cherry blossoms complement an Asian theme; 7. Sushi is a popular menu item at Asian-style events
Temple, FOOTBRIDGE and Bride and Groom; Disney Fairytale Weddings; Scroll Invitation: 2U Collection; cherry blossoms, sushi: ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

Eight is a lucky number in China, with the

8th of a month considered a fortuitous date for marriage.

A Chinese ideogram called the double happiness symbol is said to bring good luck in love and marriage, and it’s used throughout Chinese wedding elements.

A “good luck woman” performs a hairdressing ritual on the bride the night before or at dawn the day of the wedding.

In China, black and red symbolize ultimate joy while white is associated with death and reserved for funerals.

Chinese food is served in eight courses, and the couple drinks wine and honey in glasses tied with a red string.

In Japan, red and white are a good-luck color combination.

Japanese brides have long worn white and change as many as three times.

A sake sharing ritual represents the building of strong bonds between families in Japan. 


The Orient comes alive in the China and Japan pavilions of Epcot’s World Showcase, with everything from cherry blossoms and orchid gardens to red lanterns and bamboo footbridges, koi-filled ponds and a 7th-century Horyuji temple in the Japan Pavilion. Based on the summer palace in Beijing, the China Pavilion is ideal for outdoor ceremonies with a reception in The Great Hall of China.


Try a Chinese double happiness symbol on cherry red paper stock with Chinese calligraphy, or Japanese-style cherry-blossom or butterfly motifs with Chiyogami papers and sashes.


Popular blooms for Asian-based events include red roses, cherry blossoms, orchids, lilies, lotus, narcissus and peonies. Use large tropical trees, plants, bamboo, bonsai and water fountains to create ambience.


Asian take-out boxes stuffed with treats or trinkets, paper lanterns, origami sculptures, chopstick sets, sake cups, Chinese lucky coins, mini-Bonsai trees or lucky bamboo favors.


Have an eight-course Chinese or traditional Japanese menu customized, or create an Asian-fusion menu with shrimp and rice, teriyaki steak, garlic chicken, lobster and sushi stations. Beverages include sake, lychee martinis, Kirin Lager, Sapporo and Wasabe Brew and jasmine tea.




An Indian wedding is a lavish affair with a series of symbolic events. Among the influences of Indian weddings is the opulent mandap, which has become a popular alternative to the traditional altar. Fusing a few Indian elements can create an elegant and entertaining celebration.

1. Traditional Indian ceremony setup at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes; 2. Cultural elements, including henna applications to the bride’s hands and feet; 3. Indian theme includes colorful wedding dress and head ornaments for the bride; 4.  A mandap at The-Ritz Carlton Orlando; 5. Indian-inspired menu card; 6. Elegant pashmina favors by Occasions by Shangri-la; 7. Mandap and ceremony setup at Hilton Orlando
CEREMONY SETUP and Mandap: The Ritz-Carlton ORLANDO; Cultural Elements, Menu Card and INDOOR Mandap: Hilton Orlando; Pashmina Favors: Norma Lopez Molina; BRIDE: ISTOCKPHOTO.COM


A ladies-only afternoon tea, with symbolic henna applications to the hands and feet of the bride.

The bride wears a red or vibrant-color sari, ornate head ornaments and symbolic accessories from head to toe, and the groom wears a sherwani, scarf and pants.

The groom arrives riding on a lucky elephant or horse during a grand procession.

Vows are exchanged under a mandap and witnessed by the sacred fire, Agni.

A bridesmaid carries a young tree that the couple keeps as a sign of new beginnings.

In a Kanyadaan ritual, the mother of the bride pours water on the palms of the couple.

During a Seven Steps ritual, the couple recites mantras, or promises, walking around the fire.

A ceremonial knot is tied between the bride’s sari and the groom’s scarf, and a blessed thread ties their right hands together. 


The Hilton Orlando’s  sophisticated interior, color palette and partnerships with vendors like Occasions by Shangri-la, which makes handmade mandaps, tents and Indian décor, have made it a favorite Indian wedding venue.

The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes features an outdoor courtyard for majestic mandap settings, interior décor and chandeliers perfect for Indian motifs, and a chef, Jayshree Nathoo, who customizes authentic Indian menus and oversees the cultural events.


White and red are good-luck colors. Burgundy, orange and gold, or modern metallic silvers are also elegant with a touch of flamboyance. Embellish with beads, jewels, embroidery or a henna design.


Roses, jasmine and marigolds, plus lush gardens, tropical trees, fountains and lighting effects for ambience. Symbolic leaves add authenticity: banana leaves for prosperity, betel leaves for good fortune and mango leaves for prosperity, purification and happiness.


Jewel-toned pashminas, chopsticks, incense and oil sets, lucky elephant tea-light holders, golden lac boxes or beaded organza favor bags or onsite henna artist.


Some weddings are strictly vegetarian while others serve curries and meat dishes. An Indian-inspired menu could include curry beef and chicken, spiced fish and rice, tuna, squid, lobster and red lentils. Meals typically end with fresh fruit like mangoes, melons and papayas.


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