Spanish Wedding Traditions

As a wedding officiant my busy time is spring, summer and fall, so I take a vacation in winter. As you read this, I’m in Spain, and naturally I wanted to do some research on Spanish weddings.

The region I’m visiting is Andalucía and some call it’s the ‘real’ Spain because the traditions are so deep. They are known, among other things, for bullfighting (which I will skip) and flamenco music and dance. And the tradition for marriage it is most often Catholic.  Naturally there are many customs besides the church service itself, and a civil ceremony is available. It’s good to know that same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain since July 2005.

One of the most popular rituals is the 13 Coins, or Arras, which I’ve written about, and performed many times. Basically, it is simply the exchange of the coins, symbolizing commitment to one another. I can give it many interpretations and it is also done in church.

The 13 Coins from a wedding I officiated.

Here are a few other customs and traditions I’ve discovered so far:

In modern Spain brides usually wear white dresses, but in earlier times a black lace or silk dress was popular. But not matter what color her dress, a bride will wear a lace mantilla – a beautiful veil, secured with combs, to complete her look. In Andalusia, some brides wear flamenco style dresses!

There’s an old tradition in which the bride embroiders the groom’s wedding shirt. I’m thinking modern women have lost the art of embroidering, and it does feel very old school, but it’s still a lovely idea.

Ceremonies take place later in in day in Spain, because the evening meal is served later. Also in consideration that it is a cooler part of the day, so expect a 6pm ceremony time.

Photo from 1922 of traditional Spanish Bride

Speaking of weather – spring is the most popular time for wedding in Spain. Orange blossoms are in bloom and they are chosen – like so many deep-rooted traditions – because they symbolize fertility. The wonderful fragrance of orange blossoms reminds everyone of joy and happiness. I know there is an abundance of orange blossom perfume, and I hope to pick some up as a souvenir.

Family is important and it is not uncommon for a Spanish wedding to have 200 to 300 or more guests. There are no bridesmaids or groomsmen however, but a tradition of corsages for the bride’s girlfriends says that a girl who loses her corsage during the ceremony will be the next to marry. How she losses it is anyone’s guess, but no questions asked.

As the father of the bride escorts her, so too, does the groom’s mother escort him. I love this and highly recommend it. The groom and his mom enter first, and he will wait at the altar, as is typical here as well.

If you’re attending a wedding in Spain, a gift of money is always appreciated. Be sure to dress to impress. A Spanish wedding is full out fancy.The traditional dance named ‘seguidillas manchegas’ is danced by the couple and the guests. It is also common practice to have a live band perform at the wedding. Expect firecrackers, flower petals and rice to be tossed but no wedding speeches.

Interesting fact: wedding rings are worn on the right hand.

Every country and culture have their own ‘take’ on weddings, and even several variations within any tradition. But in the end they share more similarities.

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