By Alejandra Baca-Rodriguez
No matter your heritage and origins, traditions are a very important factor for most couples planning their wedding day. But, we would argue that they are especially important for Latinx couples. Why? Well, becasue family is at the heart of our culture and honoring our heritage is just the perfect way to bond with our loved ones and connect with our origins through some meaningful rituals.
As trendsetters keep on encouraging soonlywed couples to make their big day a reflection of themselves and their personalities, heritage is at the center of the discussion, as it is a big part of who we are. Incorporating some Latinx wedding traditions into your big day, not only allows you to make your family proud and showcase who you are, but it also creates a commonality and a sense of unity among your guests.
To inspire your own planning journey, we have rounded up some of the most unique traditions and customs observed by couples across Latin America with a twist on how modern Hispanic couples are incorporating the traditions inside and outside of the United States.
Please note: Latinx is a multicultural, dynamic and diverse group. We come from different countries with different accents and different histories. And yet we all share a vibrant and rich culture, our appreciation for family and our flavorful way of life. While we share some commonalities in our traditions, our country of origin may determine other ones.
LAS ARRAS (MARRIAGE COINS): The arras are 13 gold coins, and they’re often a gift from los padrinos y madrinas. The groom presents these coins to his bride as a gift during the ceremony after the priest or pastor blessed them. This tradition signifies the groom's commitment to supporting the bride and serves as a representation of Jesus and his 12 apostles to show that their relationship to God is crucial to the success of their marriage. Celebrated in: Mexico, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
EL LAZO (WEDDING LASSO): El lazo is a unity ceremony performed after the exchange of vows using a lasso to join the couple. The lasso could be anything, but it’s typically an oversized rosary or a silk cord. Two people, usually a padrino and a madrina, members of the family or important people to the couple will wrap the 'lasso' around the couple in a figure eight symbolizing the unity between them. Celebrated in: Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Puerto Rico.
CIVIL CEREMONY: A civil ceremony will take place prior to the wedding day making the marriage legally binding. The civil service is usually attended by only the couple's closest friends and family and it is often a requirement in some Latin American countries, as some governments don’t accept the religious ceremony as a legal marriage. In the US, Latinx couples had adopted this as a tradition, having a civil ceremony before the big day followed by a small dinner or get-together. Then they have the religious ceremony which is usually the big occasion that is followed by the reception. Celebrated in: Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela
RECEPTION: The reception is known to be a big dance party that includes traditional music like cumbia, merengue, salsa and a mariachi band (Mexico only) with nonstop dancing. The food and drinks served at the reception play an important role for many couples who usually choose to include at least one traditional dish, beverage or dessert from their country of origin. Celebrated in: All countries
LA HORA LOCA/THE CRAZY HOUR: Generally comes later in the night at the reception. It's a party within a party! Some couples hire professional entertainers, stilt walkers, samba dancers, drummers and more. Other couples bring out all the fun props to share with their guests and continue the party. Celebrated in: Colombia, Paraguay, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.
WEDDING PARTY: Traditionally in Latin America couples didn’t have a wedding party; however, they did have a ring bearer and/or flower girl as part of the wedding. This tradition has changed drastically in the last few years, both inside and outside of the US. Nowadays for Latinx couples having bridesmaids and groomsmen is a must.
GODPARENTS/PADRINOS (SPONSORS): As I mentioned above, traditionally couples didn't have a maid of honor or best man. These roles were sort of played by Padrinos and Madrinas who are sponsors of different meaningful elements of the wedding day. Padrinos of lazo and arras are usually a must, but some couples include other types of padrinos as well. Modern couples nowadays have the best man, the maid of honor, bridesmaids and groomsmen play the role of padrinos in their wedding ceremony (with or without sponsorship), while others keep the padrinos and the wedding party separated. Celebrated in: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, El Salvador and Argentina
EL BAILE DEL BILLETE/THE MONEY DANCE: During the reception, money is 'pinned' on the bride and/or groom in order to get the chance to dance with them. Depending on the number of guests wanting to dance with the bride or groom, the money dance can last four to five songs! Celebrated in: Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, El Salvador
RICE: RICE/BIRD SEEDS: Rice or bird seeds may be tossed as the couple exits the church or civil ceremony, symbolizing fertility and good fortune. Modern Latinx couples had substituted the rice and the bird seeds for confetti, rose petals and other fun options. Celebrated in: Nicaragua, Mexico and Argentina
This might come as no surprise, but Latinos love to celebrate in a big way. We have a passion for life and community that brings our weddings to a new level of fun and celebration that is reflected on our diverse traditions. So if you are attending a Latinx wedding be prepared to party, but go with an open mind without preconceived notions and ready to learn about the bride and groom’s colorful culture.
Alejandra (Alex) Baca-Rodriguez is the founder and Editor in Chief of the award-winning wedding blog, Belle The Magazine. Alejandra is a multi-passionate creative professional with a love for and focus on the wedding industry where she has more than 15 years of experience. She’s a proud Latina and a champion of the LatinX Event Industry. She is the go-to wedding expert for bridal fashion, social media and digital marketing, as well as Hispanic wedding topics. She's a committee member at the National Bridal Council and The National Events Council.