Last year Seven’s Bride & Prejudice was filmed with such secrecy that some of the participants did not know the name of the show, so as to keep them from knowing its tone.
Portraying cross-cultural marriages, on age, sexual identity, ethnicity and religion, it was inflammatory, divisive and all the words we have come to expect of the Reality genre.
SBS now tackles the same proposition in Marry Me, Marry My Family and the results are far less provocative. There is still plenty of conflict, indeed even some inherent racism, but the context and balance is much more palatable.
Episode 1 features two mixed-heritage marriages. The first profiles Armenian Christian bride Nancy who is marrying Indian Hindu groom Ashu. Nancy, who grew up on Sydney after her Armenian parents moved when she was 7, is the only daughter in her family. Her mother Gulio, has always treated her like a ‘princess’ but has no embraced her 4 year relationship with Indian IT expert Ashu. It led to an 18 month silent rift between mother and daughter.
“It’s probably the most painful period in my life,” Nancy reveals. “She always thought I would follow in her footsteps.”
Gulio is so staunch in her cultural background, she regrets moving to Australia and the obvious consequences.
But Nancy and Ashu are committed to each other, with Ashu even being reluctantly confirmed as Christian ahead of the wedding. Hindus believe there is no 1 true religion, Ashu is able to embrace Nancy’s faith without conflict.
“For me, personally (with) all religions it’s all the same. If you worship one you are actually indirectly worshipping all,” he explains.
The meeting of the two families in Sydney will test all ahead of the big event, and some will find peace with it more than others.
The second marriage sees Adelaide truck driver Mark and Nairobi-born Wambui. Mark is as defiantly-insular as they come, preferring the borders of his local turf and having only travelled overseas once before to Hawaii. But his love for the sustainability expert will require him to travel to Africa, with family members, to negotiate a goat dowry with the family of his bride.
“There are some demands that are to be made,” a family member explains. “In that time they will reveal he is interested in the daughter of this home. The boy that is interested in her and she is interested in him (say) they are willing to form a family together.”
This experience shows Mark as a complete fish-out-of-water in Nairobi, including his shock at local poverty, but his determination to honour cultural traditions.
Further episodes will feature a real life gypsy wedding, a Sri Lankan Hindu – Chinese Australian couple, a Pakistani – Australian relationship and Indigenous & Maori marriages.
Produced by CJZ and narrated by Anthony Griffis, Marry Me Marry My Family is respectful of differences whilst underlining unconditional love.
As Ashu says during his wedding speech, “Look at this Bridal table. You’ve got a German guy, Nigerian, white American, Indian groom, Armenian bride, Asian girl, French girl, and an Australian girl. Honestly, this is what Australia represents.”
Marry Me, Marry My Family airs 8:40pm Tuesdays on SBS.