Hispanic Wedding Traditions: Exploring Weddings in Latin America
Although the majority of Mexican American couples now choose to have a modern celebration, many like to include one or more of the traditional Hispanic wedding traditions in their big day. In Mexico, Puerto Rico, and other Latin American countries, a wedding ceremony is a flamboyant affair. The Mexican culture is steeped in religious tradition and is very much focused on family and so are their customs.
The Wedding Party
Whilst most Western wedding parties feature bridesmaids, best man, and maid of honor, many Hispanic and Mexican couples will have los padrinos y madrinas or, wedding sponsors. Similar to Godparents chosen for a child’s baptism or christening, wedding sponsors are picked due to a special relationship with the bride, the groom or both. As well as being an integral part of the wedding ceremony, with assigned tasks, the wedding sponsors will also share the cost of the wedding. Often the wedding sponsors will be granted the honor of walking down the aisle behind the parents of the couple who are to be married.
Like many cultures, money and religion play a big part in Hispanic wedding traditions. During Mexican weddings, the groom displays his intent (and trust) to share his wealth with his bride by presenting her with 13 gold coins known as las arras matrimoniales. The coins, which have been blessed by a priest, are significant as is the number 13, which represents Jesus and the 12 apostles.
Mexican Wedding Money Dance
Sticking with the financial theme, a Spanish derived tradition at Mexican weddings is the money dance. Guests at a Mexican wedding reception will ‘buy’ a dance from the couple by pinning notes onto their clothing. Those who prefer not to dance will help to paper the dancefloor with bank notes as a symbol of good luck and financial wealth for the couple’s future. Some couples prefer not to have money pinned to their clothing for fear of damaging the fabric, in which case members of the family are assigned to collect the cash. The money dance is also a popular part of American weddings, for which reason this is an enduring part of Mexican American wedding ceremonies.
One of the fairly unique Hispanic marriage traditions is the wedding lasso or, el lazo. Don’t be alarmed though — the lasso itself is usually just constructed from flowers and rosary beads. The lasso forms a figure eight as it is placed first around the bride’s shoulders and then the groom’s, effectively joining them together. The lasso signifies eternal and unity and is worn throughout the mass, to be removed by the priest at the end of the service.
As with weddings all over the world, a marriage is sanctified (and legalized) by the words spoken on the day by the bride and groom and by the priest or celebrant. The priest or celebrant will state 11 obligations that the couple vows to undertake and, the couple will respond to each statement by saying, ‘Si accepto’, which is translated as ‘I accept this.’
These obligations will include both parties agreeing to love and respect one another plus:
- The groom will vow to protect his wife;
- The bride will vow to show her husband support and understanding;
- Both parties will take a vow of responsibility toward any children that the marriage produces;
- Both parties will promise to be faithful to one another (similar to the Western vow of ‘forsaking all others’.
After making these vows to one another, the couple will, in turn, present one another with a wedding band, which will be worn on the third finger of the left hand for the duration of the marriage. The wedding band, which traditionally is a plain ring of gold, signifies the eternal sanctity of the union.
After the ceremony, it is, of course, time for the couple to celebrate with their loved ones.
According to Hispanic wedding traditions, the reception will include lots of food, drink, and dancing. During the meal, guests are presented with wedding favors such as sugared almonds or a trinket as a thank you for attending the wedding and for gifts given. Traditionally, Mexican families would invite their entire community to attend and would provide food and drink for all. These days, of course, this would be an extremely expensive affair and so the guest list tends to be restricted to a limited number of friends and family. From the more formal reception meal, the guests will usually stay to party through the evening — often drinking and dancing until the early hours of the morning.
Due to the numbers of wedding guests being limited, many Mexican and Hispanic couples will hold a la tornaboda, or an after-party for close friends and family. This tends to be a more intimate gathering where food and drink are provided to the guests in a less formal setting.