Wedding traditions of Latin America
Like most weddings in other parts of the world, Latino weddings are happy, family-filled times literally stuffed with traditions, some dating back thousands of years. From something as important as what the bride wears on her wedding day down to the most trivial detail, a Latino wedding oozes Tradition and is filled with reminders that, as humans, we have been going through these rituals for eons and will continue to do so far into the future. Below, in no particular order, are some of the more interesting traditions from some of the wonderful countries of Latin America and Spain.
In Spain one of the oldest traditions known is that the bride wears a black dress. This symbolizes her devotion to her husband-to-be until death. Before the Spanish wedding the groom sometimes will give his bride-to-be thirteen gold coins (known as ‘arras’) that symbolize Jesus Christ and his 12 disciples. The coins are blessed by the priest and passed through the hands of the newlyweds several times, ending up with the bride. She then carries them in a small bag during the ceremony as a sign that the groom has pledged his support to take care of her all of her life.
At the wedding reception in Ecuador the bride and groom give their parents special presents which are usually objects that they had or used when they were children. During a Colombian wedding ceremony both the bride and the groom each light one candle. They together then light a third before putting out the first two. This signifies the end of their former, separate lives and the start of their new life together.
In Bolivia and Ecuador, “compadres” or “compadrazgo” (companions) are chosen either at birth or marriage. The chosen compadres play a large role in the wedding ceremony and continue to support the couple throughout their lives, playing an important role in their family.
At Argentinean weddings, the bride is escorted down the aisle by her father. There are no bridesmaids or groomsmen, and only the couple’s parents and godparents stand with them at the altar. Argentinean couples also exchange rings when they get engaged. In Argentina parents or grandparents sometimes give the couple gold from something that they own like a chain or a pendant that is then used to make the couple’s wedding rings.
In Chile only the parents stand at the altar with the couple. Engaged couples wear rings on their right hand until they are married and then switch to the left hand after the wedding. A Chilean wedding is also a two-step process with a civil wedding first and then a religious wedding in the church. A marriage in Chile is not official until the church ceremony takes place.
In Mexico, similar to Ecuador, “madrinas” (godmothers) and “padrinos” (godfathers) serve as wedding sponsors, supporting the couple both financially and spiritually throughout the ceremony and their lives. Mexican couples perform a symbolic ritual where a rosary (religious necklace) or white rope is wound around their shoulders in a figure eight to symbolize their union. In Mexico, Panama, and throughout the Caribbean, traditional wedding cakes are made with nuts and dried fruit and then soaked in lots of rum. This is one reason why wedding receptions in the countries is so much fun.
In Puerto Rico, small wedding favors called (capias) are presented to the guests while they pass in the receiving line. Made of feathers tied with ribbon and printed with the couple’s names and wedding date, they are a reminder to the people who came to the wedding that a wonderful ceremony and union has taken place.
Also in Puerto Rico a beautiful doll, dressed like the bride, is displayed on the newlyweds’ table at the wedding reception. This doll is then used by the guests to give money to the newlywed couple as they pin bills to the doll’s clothing. In a Brazilian wedding tradition, the inside of the groom’s wedding band is engraved with the bride’s name, hers with his name. This tradition is now becoming very popular in many other cultures.
Venezuelan newlyweds have a very interesting tradition; they sneak away from the wedding reception while no one is watching. Instead of being seen as rude this is actually taken to be a sign of good luck that the couple will have during their marriage. In Peru a very interesting tradition is where they place ribbons in the wedding cake with a small amount of ribbon still peeking out of the cake and a ring attached only to one ribbon. During the reception all of the single ladies are asked to pull out a single ribbon. It is believed that the lucky lady who pulls out the ribbon with the ring attached will be married within the year.
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