Three Cultures, One Wedding: A Filipino-Desi-American Wedding Celebration

Three Cultures, One Wedding: A Filipino-Desi-American Celebration

Curiosity: it can kindle discovery, create unity from diversity, and occasionally, lead to lifelong beginnings. This exactly describes the love story of Roxanne “Roxy” and Jeffrey “CJ” Strike, a couple who first met through OKCupid and whose distinct backgrounds would actually bring out their similarities and strengthen their love even further.

Roxy was born into a Filipino-Pakistani immigrant family; CJ was raised in an all-American household in Newton, Iowa.

Their relationship opened up its new chapter on September 17, 2016, as Roxy and CJ finally wed. As with many couples of mixed heritage, the ceremony incorporated various elements: of Filipino, Desi, and American culture topped with a whimsical touch of British sci-fi through Doctor Who (a show both of them are superfans of).

How were they able to seamlessly incorporate their distinct cultural influences? Roxy and CJ recall all the details that made the momentous event possible.

The Wedding At A Glance

  • Honouring her Pakistani heritage, Roxy was tattooed with a mehndi, an intricate henna pattern worn by brides.
  • A cord and veil ceremony was also incorporated, a mainstay in Filipino weddings.
  • Roxy’s father, Emmanuel, is a minister, and asked to officiate their ceremony.
  • Family friends were asked to become ninongs and ninangs (godfathers & godmothers), an important Filipino wedding tradition.
  • While Roxy wanted the Philippine flower sampaguita as decor, its unavailability in Iowa and massive shipping expenses had her choose other white flowers instead.
  • Doctor Who was loosely tied in as a theme as it incorporated into the wedding something unique the couple shared—a love for the whimsical, quirky, and fun universe of the hit sci-fi show.

A Tale of Three Cultures

Born in Dallas, Roxy is the daughter of immigrants, with her mother Tessie hailing from Cagayan in the Philippines and her father Emmanuel from Pakistan. Her parents met while they were both studying at the Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines, and after getting married, moved to the U.S to further Emmanuel’s education. The family then moved to Iowa in 1989 when he began his ministry career, moving all over the state as Roxy grew up.

CJ’s family is American, with a mother from Illinois and a dad from Newton, Iowa, where he grew up surrounded by his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Interestingly, CJ’s dad also has a connection to the Philippines, having been stationed in the country for a short while as a U.S Navy serviceman.

“After CJ and I had been dating for a while, his dad found a Filipino Nativity set he purchased while he was there and gifted it to me. I, in turn, gave it to my mom so she could have a piece of home,” Roxy says.

Roxy On Her Relationship With Her Filipino Heritage:

“I was born in Dallas, which has very strong, tight-knit Filipino and Desi communities. Iowa, on the other hand, is 90% Caucasian and 2.7% Asian. The people here are very kind, but it also made my family stick out a little. My parents were just so thankful to be in this country and all the opportunities it allowed us, they wanted my brother and I to be raised American. We had non-Asian names, we spoke English, we ate American food. I don’t blame them at all for this because I know how hard they worked for my brother and me, their American Dreams in the flesh.”

“Despite being raised ‘American’ my parents still taught us about our cultures, especially through food. Rice was served at every meal; fish, veggies, patis and curry were mealtime staples. My parents taught me to be proud of who I am and my cultural background, but like any kid, I just wanted to fit in. It wasn’t until I went to college that I truly started to embrace all my sides: American, Filipino, Pakistani.”

“CJ did not have much exposure to Filipinos or Desis growing up, but upon meeting me and my family, he has embraced everything my cultures have to offer, good and the bad. He learned to cook Filipino and Indian food, he learned ‘mano po’, he recognized how Asian parents are involved with everything their children do.”

The Wedding

On The Celebration of Their Cultures

“We wanted our wedding to celebrate our new mixed family and the many friends we’ve met throughout the years because of our different backgrounds. In making it happen, we incorporated different elements of Desi, Filipino and American cultures, and explained how significant each tradition is throughout the wedding weekend. 

Our love for sci-fi pop culture had to be in the picture too, so we had to make it a little bit whimsical, quirky, and fun just like our favorite show: Doctor Who! Plus, this made it a lot more kid-friendly, because of cool stuff like games (bags & ladders) we left outside for guests of all ages to play with.”

On The Importance of Family And Tradition

“As a child of immigrants, I am so proud of both my parents for coming here, with no family, to give my brother and me a better life. This is why I felt incorporating Filipino and Desi elements in our wedding was a way to honor everything they’ve done for us. 

I’m proud of who I am and wanted to show and teach our friends and family how beautiful and rich my cultures are.”

On Their Selection of Theme

“We loosely based it on Doctor Who, mixing up navy [blue], gunmetal, silver, and space-related elements in the wedding. So why the theme? That’s because when CJ and I first started hanging, he was already into the show and wanted to rewatch the series before the 50th Anniversary special. While I didn’t know much about the show at first, I started watching it just so I could understand what he was talking about. I became a fan and the rest is history!”

On How They Incorporated Filipino Culture At The Wedding

“Right from the rehearsal, we made sure to serve Filipino food. There was pancit, lechon, adobo, lumpia, lots of rice, turon (a fried banana roll), and of course, food from our dad’s side.”

“In every Filipino wedding, it’s a must to have ninongs and ninangs, the figures the couple seeks guidance from in their relationship. For our ceremony, it only made sense to ask our family friends to be part of this group.”

“The key rituals had to be there too, which is why we also used the all-important cord and veil ceremonies, and received arrhae (wedding coins).”

On The Top 3 Moments of Their Wedding Day

1. Walking down the aisle with both my mom and dad. Not only because I am grateful everyday for their sacrifices, but my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer just a few months after CJ and I got engaged. She caught the cancer early and has been cancer-free for five years, but in hindsight, having her healthy and happy next to me meant so much.

    2. My dad really wanted bhangra music during the reception. My cousin from my dad’s side, helped our DJ find bhangra music and play it. Suddenly my dad, uncle, cousin, mom, titos, titas, friends and CJ flooded the dance floor and started to bhangra. It was so symbolic of what my parents’ partnership, mine and CJ’s partnership and my brother and sister-in-law’s partnership is. It brought together all these different people from different backgrounds and surrounded them with love.

    3. Our friends and family are scattered all across the US and Canada. Having all these people come together for the weekend meant a lot of us. CJ particularly loves a photo we have of us with his friends from college, some of whom he hadn’t seen for a year or more, gathered together to celebrate.

      On Their Favorite Wedding Details And What Made Them So Meaningful

      1. The bridal and bridesmaid mehndi. Henna is used to stain hands during times of celebration in Desi culture. It’s a meaningful way to incorporate my dad’s culture into our ceremony.
        2. The rehearsal dinner! Asians show their love through food, so it felt right to share our love through the Filipino and Indian food we served. Our friends who have never tried any of the food before, loved it and still rave about it.

          3. The “space” elements we incorporated. Sticking to our loose Doctor Who theme, our cake was very simple but was reminiscent of a starry sky, our favors were lollipops that looked like planets, the table cards and seating chart was based on constellations, while our cake topper was Doctor Who-themed. CJ even wore a T.A.R.D.I.S. lapel pin!

            On Their Choice Of Wedding Song

            I really love Beyonce, so “XO” just had to be the song!

            Their Advice To Couples Who Want To Incorporate Their Filipino Traditions/Heritage At Their Wedding

            Be proud of your heritage! Thanks to the internet, whether it’s on Etsy or social media, it’s so much easier to find the traditional Filipino items you need!

            What details from Roxy and CJ’s wedding called out to you most? 

            Have a uniquely Filipino wedding you can share with us? Submit your love story here and it just might get featured here at the Sinta & Co. blog!

            Wedding Vendors (Not All Inclusive)

            Florals: Boesen the Florist
            Cake: Mel’s Sweet Occasions
            Stationery: Favours: Suckers, Etsy, LIQNYC
            Wedding Party Attire: We let the wedding party purchase their attire wherever fit their budget and wherever was most convenient for them.
            Hair: Libby Heinz at Serenity Couture
            Makeup: Libby Heinz at Serenity Couture
            Caterer: Gateway Market
            Music: Dan Kelley
            Ceremony Venue: Iowa State University Alumni Center
            Others (ex. Calligraphers, Wedding Party Gifts, etc.) 
            Mehndi - Rayna Art + Co

            Lawrence Garcia

            Gelaine Santiago

            Lawrence is a writer and digital creative from Manila, who's passionate about advertising, books, and fashion history. While working on getting certified as a digital marketer, he's usually binge-watching Heartland and RuPaul's Drag Race on Netflix. You can get in touch with him via email at

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