Spanish and Latin-American Wedding Traditions and Customs
Spanish culture is filled with rich traditions. Historically, the night before the wedding, hand lanterns were used to light the way from the groom's home to the bride's home. The groom's family would then carry a wedding chest filled with gifts for the bride's family.
The groom is not allowed to see his bride before the wedding and it was the bride's father's job to keep her hidden before the wedding and of course give away his daughter. As in France, the groom escorts his mother down the aisle.
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 (gold coins). These are 13 gold coins that represent 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.
The wedding is paid for by different "sponsors" or god-parents who are all recognized in different parts of the ceremony. They are the ones who will carry the arras or the rope into the church. The rope or rosary is another tradition where it is placed over the bride and groom to insure protection of the union.
During the ceremony, the bride has someone hold her bouquet while she carries a rosary and a bible. Orange blossoms are the flowers of choice for Spanish brides because they symbolize happiness and fulfillment and can be seen in the bouquet, decorations, and even in the bride's hair.
The mantilla veil is common and in Spain brides wear black silk dresses to symbolize their devotion until death; however in recent years Spanish brides have worn white dresses as well. In Spanish and Latin American culture the bride and groom wear their rings on their right hand.
After the ceremony, a festive mariachi band, salsa music, or a Spanish guitarist would bring an abundance of fun to the reception. During the first dance, the guests form a heart shape around the newlyweds to cheer them on.
The meal of choice for Spanish ceremonies is paella or some other seafood and of course sangria, while in Mexico it would probably include spicy rice, beans, and steak (carne asada) accompanied by a spicy tomatillo sauce. It is also common to see almond cookies in addition to the cake.
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, other favors include wedding cookies, Spanish hand fans, or some other local good such as pottery.