Wedding Traditions in Spain and the History Behind Them Uncovered
As with all other cultures, in modern Spain, there are many different kinds of weddings; from traditional religious ceremonies to trendy humanitarian services. In the 21st century, people from all around the world and, of course, from Spain, still enjoy adding some Spanish wedding traditions to whatever kind of ceremony is chosen as well as little touches denoting their proud heritage.
Traditional Spanish Engagement: Put a Ring on It
As it is across the world, when a man asks a woman to marry him, he will usually present her with an engagement ring as a sign of his commitment. Unlike in many cultures, where both the engagement and wedding rings are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand after they are married, Spanish women keep their engagement ring on their left hand but wear their wedding ring on the third finger of the right hand.
A Wedding Party in Spain
Unlike the usual format of Best Man, Maid Of Honor, and Bridesmaids, the Spanish bride is accompanied down the aisle by Padrinos or witnesses to the marriage, who are usually the bride’s father and the groom’s mother. As with other cultures, the head table of the reception is comprised of the bride and groom, their parents, and siblings. Although she won’t have traditional bridesmaids, the bride will often still choose a couple of close friends to help her to get ready on the morning of her special day.
After the service is the reception or ‘banquete de bodas’ which includes lots of food and wine. During the banquete de bodas, guests will visit the head table to offer gifts as thanks for the invitation to the wedding.
Often the groom’s friends and family will demand the groom’s tie at the reception and will cut it into small pieces to be sold to guests in order to raise money for the couple’s new life together.
The Reception: Wedding Cake and the National Cuisine
The Spanish are passionate about many things — not just food — and the wedding meal is sumptuous, plentiful, and accompanied by some flowing wine. Guests are aware that according to Spanish wedding traditions they should be their appetite with them. During the wedding reception, four or five courses will be served to guests which include:
- Tapas: On arrival at the venue for the reception, guests will be served drinks with small dishes called tapas. These dishes will, traditionally, be items such as small seafood dishes, bread and oil, and chorizo sausage bites.
- Paella: Before sitting down to the main meal, guests will be invited to help themselves to a huge pan of paella which is a traditional Spanish dish made of rice, meat, and seafood.
Once the guests are sitting in the formal dining room, the next wedding tradition in Spain is the sharing of the fish. Whole fish are brought to each table — usually bass or grouper — and guests will serve each other from the platter. The fish will be accompanied by roasted vegetables.
After the fish course, guests will be served fillets of veal or beef with simple salads — this is considered to be the main part of the meal.
For those who still have room, dessert will consist of wedding cake, which in Spain is more like a tart or flan. The happy couple will feed a piece of cake to each other before the guests are served.
Finally, the meal ends with wedding cookies — shortbread biscuits dusted with sugar, which are served with coffee and brandy.
Wedding Attire for Spanish Brides and Grooms
Although wedding outfits vary throughout Spain, traditionally, the Spanish bride will wear a white gown and, instead of a veil, will wear a mantila, which is a short lace veil which covers the head and shoulders and will often be secured by a hair comb.
The groom will generally wear a suit although this will tend to be more flamboyant than in other cultures and may include a bow tie or quirky features such as suspenders.
Wishing the Couple Luck and Wealth
After the Spanish wedding ceremony and, before the reception, guests will throw confetti made of rice or rose petals as the newlyweds leave the church or venue.
Before the reception, the bride and groom will be presented with 13 gold coins that are blessed by the appropriate person, which signify their commitment and their future wealth as a couple.
Spanish Wedding Favors
In place of modern day wedding favors such as bubbles, personalized chocolates, and other keepsakes, traditionally, at the Spanish wedding reception, men would be given cigars and women would be given a small gift such as a bottle of wine.
Even on the modern avenues of Barcelona, Spanish people are very family-oriented and, at the wedding reception, the bride and groom’s parents are treated as royalty with gifts and flowers and praise during the many speeches.
Marriage Registration in Spain
In some cultures, the marriage is legalized before the ceremony, however, in the case of Spanish marriages, the couple will present their marriage certificate to the registry office on their return from honeymoon. They will then receive a Libro de Familia, which is basically a record of their new family and, as time goes by, will include their children’s births.
Although according to Spanish wedding traditions the ceremony should be extremely religious and somber, the reception will often go on until the following morning as guests eat, drink and dance the night away.