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Graduate Jacob Lauder and fiancée work through cultural and religious differences as they prepare to get married

Jacob and his fiancee ride a tandem bike.

Jacob Lauder, a marketing graduate from Ohio, and his fiancée, Bichtram Nguyen, an alumna of the University of Toledo, said they believe they can build a happy marriage, despite their cultural and religious differences, because they are committed to making their relationship successful.

Different religions, shared beliefs

Lauder said, “We share almost all of our beliefs about why we do the things we do, what motivates us and what we want to see in the world. As a result, [we share] things that are important, what burdens we want to take and how we want our kids to be.

“I feel even though she’s Catholic, we don’t see these lines.”

Lauder, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he looks past religious differences, despite his culture stressing the importance of marrying a fellow church member.

“It’s almost like we kind of come together and make a whole new thing. Maybe we don’t have the label of we’re both Catholic or both Mormon, but we both care about our faiths.”

Lauder emphasized the importance of caring about the person he was marrying rather than factors such as their religion and culture.

“I think it’s more we care about what type of person we are, rather than looking at religion,” Lauder added. He emphasized how there were good and bad people in every religion, including The Church of Jesus Christ and how being a part of a specific religion is not a guarantee someone will be a good person.

Jacob Lauder and his fiancee, who its wearing a bright red beanie, pose for a photo.

Nguyen and Lauder were in the same group of friends in Ohio. According to Lauder, he found Nguyen attractive and asked her to go watch a movie with him.

“Our first date was actually hilarious because the two of us went to see a silent movie,” Lauder shared.

“Everyone says, ‘Don’t go see a movie on your first date.’ But we saw a silent movie where we could hear each other breathing and moving the entire time. At first it was awkward, but we made it work.”

Time apart

According to the couple, when Lauder was leaving Ohio to attend school in Hawaii, they both agreed to see each other again. They adapted to the nature of their different paths and tried their best to stay in touch.

Lauder said, “We were just trying to make the summer last and have a good summer. I told her we should hang out when I get back, and then we were apart for a couple of weeks. We just really missed each other. So, we were FaceTiming, and started FaceTiming more and more. It all kind of snowballed from there.”

Because Lauder was attending school at BYUH, Nguyen introduced herself to his parents without Lauder being physically present.

Nguyen said, “I have a very big family ... To me, family isn’t just my immediate family, but also my extended family as well. So, when he met my family, it was like 30-plus people or so.”

When communicating with Nguyen’s family, who are Vietnamese, Lauder said, “There’s just a little lag sometimes [with] the translation, but it's good, and it’s getting better. I'm starting to see, ‘Oh, that’s what they’re saying.’”

Jacob Lauder's fiancee climbs on his back on the beach as they pose for a photo.

Lauder said even though he was not fluent in Vietnamese, he still connected with Nguyen’s family through body language.“I think going to school with a lot of people speaking different languages and going on a mission made it easier to communicate with people from different places. It was easy for me to see that. It’s not an exclusion, but I was able to read their body language and interpret what they were saying.”

Nguyen added, “I think at first it was very overwhelming for him because they were all speaking in Vietnamese. I think what helped us was his mission in Bolivia. He is used to being spoken to in a foreign language.”

Lauder's close friend, AJ Halling, a junior majoring in information systems from Utah, said, “Jake is one of those guys who is friends with everyone. He and Tram are just going with the flow, fun to be around and you know they’ve got your back. He and I also cook some mean barbecue chicken."

Working as a team

Lauder spoke of merging the two families together and respecting the cultures within them. “As we’re getting ready for the wedding, we’re asking ourselves a lot of questions.”

Nguyen said they are not sure if they will have a combined-culture wedding or just an American wedding.

Lauder said while others may be turned off by people with a different religion or culture, he believes in keeping an open mind and being motivated to love and make the world a more positive place.

Nguyen added, “I think it's important to find common ground rather than mind the differences between two individuals.

“If you can see how their common values are just like yours, I don’t think there should be any boundaries of who you can or cannot pursue. So, if you want it hard enough, just work at it.”