We enjoyed this delicious wedding feast at an Ibero-Mexican-Polish wedding last July.
Although I’ve attended weddings in Spain before, it wasn’t until I started planning my own boda multicultural that I realised while many of the essentials of weddings in our two cultures remain the same, there are plenty of rituals which differ. So in ours, do we go for the Spanish way, or the British way? Or a little of both? Our wedding will be held in the Scottish highlands so we’ve got a British setting. But then, half of the guests are Spanish and we want to celebrate the multicultural nature of the event and of our families. So while we’re making some decisions about which traditions to include, here are a few of the key differences I’ve noticed:
Engagement rings – in Spain, engagement rings are only sometimes used, and they aren’t usually worn once you’re actually married. Carlos’ aunt wanted to show me hers because it was similar to mine, and I was mildly surprised that she had to root around in her house to find it. My grandmother, for example, wore her engagement ring every day, and so does my mother.
Wearing your ring on the “other” hand – in Spain, the wedding ring or la alianza is worn on the right, not the left, hand. Which one to choose?
Bridesmaids – in Britain, it’s usual to have perhaps two, three, or even four bridesmaids. Some have more – and American women seem to ask every female friend they’ve ever had! Damas de honor don’t form part of a traditional Spanish wedding, although with the influence of Anglo Saxon culture they’re becoming more common.
Madrina/padrino – I’m still not sure I fully understand this. The translation of these titles are “godmother” and “godfather”, but in the context of a Spanish wedding, it’s more symbolic: these roles are more like sponsors of the wedding than literal godparents. The “godparents” have an important role because they also act as witnesses and sign the legal paperwork. Usually the groom’s mother is the madrina and the bride’s father is the padrino, and they accompany the couple down the aisle.
Best man – this crucial role in a British wedding doesn’t really exist in a Spanish one. It’s partly covered by the padrino.
I took this photo at my first ever Spanish wedding.
Coins – this religious ritual in Spanish weddings involves the exchange of 13 coins, representing Jesus and his 12 apostles. As we’re having a civil wedding, this part won’t apply to us (it’s a relief to have clarity on something).
Speeches – does anyone really like the speeches in a British wedding? Maybe when you’re one of the wedding party – but as a guest (especially when I’ve attended as a +1 and don’t really know the couple) these are a snore-fest. The Spanish skip this part completely.
¡Que vivan los novios! (and other yelling) – Spanish people shout this at weddings – it means “long live the bride and groom”. They also yell ¡que se besen! (kiss each other!) and other related things. I’ve heard some say it’s not classy, but I’m all for it. You can be quiet in a library or a museum. Or when you’re asleep. But some of the best weddings are noisy and joyful, right?
Wedding favours – in Britain, it’s common to leave a small gift at each place setting and everyone gets the same thing. At British weddings I’ve been given homemade jam, alcohol miniatures, and other keepsakes. In Spanish weddings, the bride and groom hand out gifts halfway through the meal, with men usually getting a cigar or alcohol and the women getting something else (I was given loose-leaf herbal tea before).
Gifts – what to get the happy couple? In Spain it’s easy – money! The idea is you’re meant to cover at least the cost of your meal and your drinks. Because it’s usual to have around five courses, the amount given is usually quite high – I was pretty surprised when I heard what Carlos was planning to give when we attended his friends’ wedding. In Britain, it’s more common to give gifts off a wedding list, but some couples ask for money instead (but usually wouldn’t expect each guest to contribute such an amount).
Libro de Familia – this is a book you’re entitled to receive as a couple when at least one of you is a Spanish citizen. There are some necessary bureaucratic hurdles to clear before you can get this, but I’ve been told having this document makes it easier to get Spanish citizenship for your future child(ren) when one of you is foreign like me, or when you both live overseas. Essentially, this legal document means your marriage to a Spanish citizen is recognised in Spain and it confers benefits accordingly.
There are other things I know I’ve missed! Have you ever been to a Spanish wedding? What differences did you notice?