Hispanic Wedding Traditions
04 Apr, 2013
Steeped in cultural tradition, contemporary Spanish and Latin weddings reflect a myriad of customs traced to Spanish settlers who first came to Latin America hundreds of years ago.
Historically, the night before the wedding, hand-held lanterns lit the path to the bride’s house from the groom’s; the groom’s family carried a wedding chest filled with gifts for her family.
Believing it to be bad luck, the groom wasn’t permitted to see his bride before the wedding, and it was her father who kept her hidden before the ceremony. The groom escorted his mother down the aisle, a tradition still followed in most Latin American countries.
Read on to learn more about Mexican, Spanish, and Cuban wedding customs!
In Mexico, an engaged couple is financially supported by both sets of godparents who act as padrinos, or wedding sponsors. They serve as mentors to the bride and groom throughout their engagement, and even after they’re married. The padrinos are honored by the bride and groom with a place in the wedding program, and often present the couple with a rosary and bible during the ceremony.
Instead of a bouquet, the bride might carry a rosary and bible. Symbolizing happiness and fulfillment, orange blossoms are the flowers of choice and can be seen in the bouquet, decorations, and even in the bride’s hair.
The bride might don a brightly colored, Flamenco-style dress with a ruffled hem. While some brides choose a traditional wedding dress, they may change a few times during the reception.
Reception guests are typically served spicy rice, beans, and carne asada accompanied by a spicy tomatillo sauce. The wedding cake is usually a fruit cake soaked in rum, and pastelitos de boda—delicious cookies made of sugar and nuts—are another popular dessert. It’s also common to serve almond cookies in addition to the cake.
In Spain, a bride traditionally wears a black gown to symbolize till-death devotion—though in recent years white has become another color of choice. Also popular is the mantilla, a triangular veil with beautiful lace edging. The groom may wear a guayabera, a light, short-sleeved shirt perfect for tropical temperatures. The flower girl and the ring bearer traditionally dress as miniature versions of the bride and groom.
One important part of the ceremony is the arras—thirteen gold coins representing Jesus and his 12 apostles, which are blessed by the priest and are given to the bride with the groom’s promise to care for and support his wife.
A festive mariachi band, salsa music, or a Spanish guitarist brings an abundance of fun to the reception. During the first dance, guests form a heart around the newlyweds to cheer them on.
They also dance a “seguidillas manchegas,” or money dance, to symbolize prosperity and financial security for the newlyweds. The meal most often served is paella and sangria.
During Cuban wedding receptions, wedding guests partake in the traditional money dance, where each man who dances with the bride pins money to her dress to help with honeymoon expenses.
Aside from the bouquet toss, single ladies at the party are expected to wear special pins upside down. If the pin is lost, that woman will be next in line to marry. Wedding favors for the men are typically cigars, and other favors include wedding cookies, Spanish hand fans, or local art such as pottery.
Photos by Nick Nguyen, Ines Garcia, and Prospect Park.