debbie eko photography

virginia wedding photographer


Shockoe Bottom Engagement: Clark & Sarah, Pt 2

Couples, Engaged, Family, Personal

the blog:

It’s easy to be excited, for obvious reasons, that my brother, Clark, and his girl Sarah are getting married next year! (Peep part one of their engagement photo session from a few months ago!) Some of those clear reasons are 1) we are getting an amazing new sister-in-law, 2) we love watching what these two bring out of each other, 3) we get an excuse for all the Deans + friends to gather in celebration, etc etc.

But one extra special thing I love about Clark & Sarah’s union is the collaboration of cultures we’re getting to see and celebrate in their new family unit. All too often, I think it’s sad that we look at couples like Clark & Sarah on the outside and just think, “Oh, they’re just your typical white couple, and she’s got some kind of Asian influence.” That sounds rude and harsh, but come on, isn’t that often how we read our fellow Americans? Do we often slow down to really hear the intricacies of what ethnic backgrounds are woven into each other’s heritage and upbringing? Or consider all the beautiful differences coming together under one new roof in a new, multicultural marriage?

I hope we all learn to slow down and hear one another’s stories more, for it really brings greater depth and awe to how two people found each other and how their differences together have brought new perspective for us all to learn from!

After their photo session, Clark and Sarah answered some questions about their backgrounds and what they’ve learned in their families of origin that influences the blending of their own little new unit. Two of the pervasive themes in their answers is the way FAMILY and FOOD is represented in their cultures, and what they’ve learned about each other through these two categories!

Sarah shares: “My parents are both American but from different coasts (Dad from New Jersey, Mom born in California and grew up in Nevada)! My grandfather on my mom’s side immigrated from the Philippines as an adult, whereas the rest of my grandparents have heritage from Western Europe (largely Ireland and Italy but also Scotland and Canada). My parents mainly focused on including our heritage through food! My mom would teach us how to make Filipino food like lumpia, pancit, and adobo, while my dad made traditional spaghetti and meatballs the way his dad taught him.”

Clark, being my brother, is obviously from the same upbringing as I am! As he put it, our “Dad is a fairly standard red-blooded American, Oklahoma-born with family roots in Europe. Mom, on the other hand, has a Puerto Rican mother and a Norwegian father.” Our home growing up was filled with baseball games, pot roasts, piano, and The Andy Griffith Show (white culture isn’t all the same but pieces like these listed here and more made up many of our close white friends’ homes growing up too!), and our primary non-white influence came from Granny. This was partly from the food she would make, partly from her Spanish sass and quick temper, but mainly in what she communicated about how she viewed the world. She often shared fond memories of childhood in Puerto Rico and how communal and safe life was on the island. She also had impeccable work ethic and a drive to succeed, knowing she had to labor to earn things in life.

“Looking back now,” Clark shares, “I would say a main cultural impact I have noticed is primarily in the conversations I have with Granny and how her Puerto Rican/immigrant perspective, living her adult life in the U.S., influences how she approaches situations or gives advice. Her experiences have definitely opened my eyes quite a bit.”

Jumping from our upbringing into Sarah’s family, Clark had much to say about what is special to him about her family and their cultural mix. “Sarah’s family definitely has some culinary influences that I quite like, especially the concept of food and eating meals together as a priority. Along these lines, I would say the biggest thing I appreciate is their approach to family. Sarah’s family highly values togetherness and relationship in a such a way where family always comes first and is the central focus. This perspective seems to be especially prevalent on Sarah’s mom’s side of the family, the Filipino influence.”

Sarah added here that the togetherness of her family can be a gift and comical struggle in their relationship. “Clark comes from a bigger family than mine, so while they all get together they are also okay doing things independently. On vacations, people go off and do different activities and eat different meals, only gathering together for specific times. My family, and the way many Filipino families operate, is to do everything together all the time. So, on vacations, we are doing every single tour together, every single shop together, every single meal together. This past summer when in Europe with my side of the family, we had to walk half a mile to get to a castle tour. That half a mile took HOURS because my family members kept stopping into random shops and cafes and of course, everyone has to go together. For Clark, this was at times funny, and at times a frustrating lesson in patience and understanding that different families operate differently. My family and culture may not be focused on efficiency, but it is a lot of fun to be together and I wouldn’t change it!”

When thinking more about combining life with Clark, Sarah also emphasized her appreciation for how food and family is important to Clark. “His Granny makes such yummy dishes and I had never had much Puerto Rican-influenced food before being with Clark; now I’m a big fan. Additionally, I think both of our cultures lean toward respecting our elders and valuing family, which has been super special to me because family is one of the most important things in my life. I have loved getting to know his family and having him get to know mine so that when we get married, we get to combine not only our lives but also our families!”

“God truly works in wonderful ways,” Sarah closes. “He allows us to have these wonderful experiences with different people to open our eyes up to the beauty of the world. Small things, like playing new games with each other’s families, have been such a joy! Bigger things, like sharing different holidays together have been better than ever could have pictured. It’s always funny to see what is the same between our families and what we do differently. I love sharing and experiencing new things with Clark, like cooking him new Filipino dishes and introducing him to the beauty of my home in Arizona. Clark has made lumpia with me before, and it was super funny and rewarding to see him grow in his skills of rolling the food! God did not make us all to be the same, and I am so grateful for the different heritages Clark and I have!”

Even with the joy of combining families, and the yumminess of new cuisines, food differences can definitely have their challenges too! Clark added these words of wisdom to remember with foods that haven’t been his favorite, “Just eat whatever is shared or given to you. At least try it. It probably won’t kill you and could start WWIII if you don’t.”

Clark closes by sharing, “I think there is something special about unifying despite differences, rather than dividing over them. It can be pretty easy to take similar backgrounds or preferences for granted when you grow up with people that are the same as you, but it’s uniquely rewarding to work through differences and enjoy the varying gifts or perspectives that are brought to the table. I think God’s design of all peoples and tribes unifying together under Jesus, in the Gospel, is so much cooler than one homogenous group following Him. Being able to see that unity, even in a small way, in Sarah and I’s relationship is a humbling thing to be a part of.”  

I’m so thankful for the time Sarah & Clark spent writing out bits of their story as a multicultural couple so I could share with you! I hope it encourages you to be curious about the people in your life… what do they eat? How do they view family? What are their vacations like? Let’s be careful to judge each other by initial looks or answers, and be fascinatingly curious of one another!

And join me in the happy countdown to these two’s wedding day!!! Just under six months to go!!

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