Author Topic: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower  (Read 1832 times)

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White Dragon

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My colleague recently married and brought his new bride to Canada.
They are both from Pakistan and the wedding was a traditional Muslim ceremony.

Our company would like to host a "welcome/congratulations/bridal shower" for the new bride.
She literally knows no one in town aside from her husband.

I am looking for some guidelines to help things go smoothly and not inadvertantly offend.

We know not to serve pork (something we are already careful of for colleague), so no bacon-wrapped scallops!
We know that she observes halal in choosing meat, so we can make sure to get that.

Are there any food combinations that are not okay? I'm thinking of the Jewish restrictions on mixing meat and dairy - is there anything similar for muslims?

Are there any other foods (seafoods etc?) that are also off the menu? (We won't be serving any alchohol as the bride doesn't drink.)

For gifts, is there anything that would be considered odd or inappropriate?
For example, in our area, a knife is not given as a gift - it must be "bought" with a penny or other small coin, as giving a knife "severs" the friendship.
I know some cultures consider some colours, or numbers, to be bad luck. Is there anything we should keep in mind?

The newlyweds weren't able to bring a lot of items with them and they moved into Colleague's furnished apartment (which she promptly started civilizing.  ;D)

Any input would be greatly appreciated!

edited for typos
« Last Edit: July 17, 2013, 02:54:47 PM by White Dragon »

TurtleDove

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2013, 03:05:47 PM »
I would ask the colleague and his wife directly.

Outdoor Girl

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2013, 03:07:07 PM »
I don't have any advice but I do think it is a lovely thing for you all to do for your colleague and his new wife.
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Lynn2000

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2013, 03:18:55 PM »
I would ask Colleague directly. A similar thing happened with my colleague, bringing his wife to the US from a Muslim country. If we wanted to have a welcome party for her/them, I would ask him if such an event would be considered appropriate culturally and appreciated personally (what if she is super-shy), and from there what kind of food and gift would be appropriate. Do you know if Colleague's wife speaks English? It would be rather awkward to have a party for her where no one but her husband spoke her language. Also, right now it's Ramadan, and my understanding is Muslims can only eat at certain times, usually at night. At my work we don't know any other Muslims or people from my colleague's country, so I would rely on him for guidance. Personally I would guide my co-workers more towards giving the couple a gift certificate, or inviting all spouses to attend a generic party (at which appropriate food was available). It's a nice idea but I see a lot of things that could go wrong if people get information from the wrong source.
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Outdoor Girl

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2013, 04:14:05 PM »
Good point about Ramadan.  I'd forgotten.  You'll either have to wait until it is over or have the party after sunset.  I agree that it would be best to ask colleague how best to go about this.  I would even ask him if there were specific things they needed.  Although I might be more tempted to get them a GC to a store where his wife could (help) pick out things to her (their) own taste.  Or if he thinks the mismatched flatware he's had since college is fine but she'd like a reasonably nice, matching set.   ;D
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ladyknight1

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2013, 04:26:37 PM »
I just talked with a Muslim coworker, and she suggested you wait until after Ramadan. Dietary restrictions are pork and non-Halal meat and alcohol is prohibited. I think a nice card and gift card to a home furnishings retailer would be most welcome.

veryfluffy

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2013, 05:41:59 PM »
If you are mainly going to be catering for non-Muslims, you may want to consider not serving any meat at all, as many people have an objection to the methods of slaughter involved in halal meat.
   

NyaChan

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2013, 05:48:37 PM »
Yup we are fasting right now, so during the day they probably won't be able to have food or drink if they observe that practice. 

When you do have the party, I'd double check with the coworker on what meat in terms of halal/zabiha/etc. they will consume as people can be really particular about it or not particular at all.  In terms of gifts, anything for the household would be appropriate.  For weddings, non-family members usually give money, anyone who is somewhat close will often give the bride jewelry, but household items would work too.  I would stay away from anything that is overtly romantic (I bet you would anyways, but just in case) because it can make people uncomfortable since we often don't acknowledge that part of getting married in public.

White Dragon

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2013, 07:31:32 PM »
Thanks everyone, you've been very helpful so far!

Our company routinely has events for weddings/babies/significant professional achievements/'cause its Thursday... (Really!)

We are timing the shower until after Ramadan (I checked, it ends on Aug 7 in our area) and we won't do the shower the next day because that is Eid-al-Fitr (a feast day) and we assume that they will have their own plans.

NyaChan, can I ask what zabiha is?

We do know that the bride is quite soft-spoken but does speak English very well.

Question - do you think she'd be comfortable with a mixed-gender gathering? A coworker who ran into them at the store a few days after they arrived said she seemed very startled when he made eye contact and shook her hand.

For gifts, we will probably do GCs (apparently, the first thing she did was replace his towels and bathmats - I think that she may wish to further civilize her home!)
But maybe a basket of fruit or something too.

NyaChan

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2013, 09:08:21 PM »
Halal is a term that designates what is permissible and what is not:  beef = halal/permissible while pork is haraam/not permissible.

Zabiha refers to the standards for slaughtering animals to get meat.  It includes things like the method of the cut, the person being an adult who is a Person of the Book (Jewish, Christian, or Muslim), draining of the blood, etc.  It is another layer of dietary restriction.

There are Muslims who will not eat halal meats unless they meet the Zabiha standards.  So beef may well be halal, but if you are picking it up from WalMart or eating at a local restaurant, it may not be Zabiha.  My family doesn't follow that restriction very strictly as it can be both expensive and inconvenient to have the meat brought in from another city or to travel to go buy it, but when we are hosting other Muslims we always use Zabiha meat because there are many who do.   

ETA:  I would have males avoid shaking her hand as that kind of contact is not readily accepted between members of the opposite sex who are not related overseas.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2013, 09:11:53 PM by NyaChan »

Pen^2

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2013, 07:45:39 AM »
Depending on how strict she is, I reallly think you ought to ask someone who knows her better. I've met muslims who can't eat cheese because of the renin in it, people who won't eat jellybeans because of gelatin, and some will eat prawns whereas others (I think most, but I'm not sure here) don't. And yes, a lot of seafood is out. There are different levels of the dietary restriction, that vary by community and by the individual. Just ask, or prepare a very conservative menu and ask her or someone close to her to 'okay' it.

White Dragon

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2013, 03:23:28 PM »
Thanks Pen^2, I hadn't thought about gelatin, and I wasn't aware of some of the other things you mentioned.

Her husband has okayed the idea of a shower, but I'll make sure the coordinator double checks with him on the menu.
We have access to halal, but not to zabiha.
We may just choose to go vegetarian.

I most likely won't get to attend, as I am on holiday at the time, but I'm more than happy to help with the planning to make sure it goes smoothly.  :)

ladyknight1

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2013, 12:45:21 PM »
Gelatin is also in marshmallows.

Pen^2

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2013, 01:33:32 PM »
Gelatin is also in marshmallows.

Yeah. I traveled for a spell with a friend who's Muslim and who goes by a stricter definition of what's okay to eat. I was amazed at how many vegetarian things had animal products like this. Just because there's no beef or lamb, it doesn't mean it must be animal free!

Soooo many lollies were out of the question because of gelatin alone, but there were a few other compounds as well that I can't remember. One wasn't even listed in ingredients directly--it was put down as something like "additive 824", on many products that had "vegetarian" or sometimes "vegan" in their labels, despite it being derived from animals just like gelatin is.

Whatever ends up being served, make sure it's checked by someone who knows the bride's eating restrictions more closely, both because of the individual variation that makes checking a list of general rules not quite enough, and because there might be unallowed foods which are completely unexpected.

veryfluffy

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Re: Trying to consider cultural background in planning a shower
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2013, 04:34:44 PM »
Gelatin is also in marshmallows.

I brought some marshmallows round to a friend's for after the BBQ. Her grandson who was visiting was very exciting about toasting them. He's only 7, but has grown up vegetarian and absolutely knows that he does not eat meat. My friend (who is not vegetarian) decided not to tell him about gelatine.