Latin America comprises a colossal area of the American continent, which expands from Mexico all the way to Argentina. In a way, it is a cultural version of the EU, with countries united by a shared history, language (or very similar language, as in the case of Brazil), general values and beliefs. Latino weddings tend to be full of meaning and symbolism which highlight love, commitment, family and spiritual values – and fun. Small or grand, Latino weddings are usually lively, full of colour, music, food and traditions, both for the reception and the wedding ceremony. Some of these traditions are shared with Europe and the United States, such as wearing something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue; and the throwing of the bouquet and the garter to see who will marry next. Others are exclusively Latin American, and in some cases, limited to one or two countries. Here are a few customs that can help you create a beautiful, Latin America-themed wedding.
The asking for the blessing. In the old days (and still done today in some places) the groom would ask the parents of the bride for her hand in marriage. This would be a solemn occasion, with the man and the parents talking behind closed doors while the woman waited for the decision. Nowadays, both bride and groom come together to ask for the blessing from both sets of parents. The affair is much more light-hearted and it may include a lunch or small family gathering to celebrate. This is usually the start of the whole wedding preparations and, in some Latin American countries, takes the place of an official engagement.
The one ring. In Chile and Argentina, the use of an engagement ring is rare. What most couples do is to use the wedding ring when they get engaged, but they place it on their right hand. During the wedding ceremony, they exchange it to the left, to mark the transition from engagement to marriage.
The walk to church. Although going to the ceremony venue in a decorated car (sometimes vintage) is the most common way for the bride to get to the wedding, in some parts of Mexico and other small Latin American villages, the custom is to walk to church or registry office (particularly if the distance is short). The bride is accompanied by her bridesmaids, family and friends – and on occasions by a small band or a few musicians. Some people prefer an alternative: having the newlyweds walk with the wedding party and guests to the reception. The idea is to share the joy with the community and receive its blessings and well-wishes.
The coins. The “arras” are thirteen golden coins originally given to the bride by the groom to indicate that he would share his material wealth with her. Nowadays both bring a share of the coins and exchange them from hand to hand until there is only one pile, which they both hold as the priest blesses the coins. For some, the number thirteen signifies Jesus and the apostles, hence the church’s blessing and support to the couple; for others they signify being together during the good and bad economic times (as 13 is taken as an unlucky number in this context.) In general the symbolism has to do with the sharing of prosperity and working together for the well-being of the family. The coins are usually kept in a beautiful small chest, as a token of this commitment. Some families give one or two coins to their children when they get married, to spread the luck, express co-operation towards the newlyweds and keep the family ties strong.