You’re getting married—Felicidades! You and your tias and basically everyone except for possibly your father and mother, has been dreaming of this moment. There are so many rich and vibrant Latin traditions to think about, as well as your intersectional and blended culture in the United States. Latin Americans come in all forms. Some of us are first-generation Spanish speakers, some second or third generation, and so on and so forth. Latin traditions are not one-size-fits-all. While there are some shared traditions, Latin America is full of diverse communities, languages, accents, histories, and cultural practices. From traditional food and dance, every country has its own signature wedding must-haves. But one thing that all Latin Americans have in common is the love for lively celebrations and the importance of family and friends. Read on for 11 Latin wedding traditions from all over Latin America that will inspire your big day!
Communicating Your Vision
First things first, each couple has a different relationship and connection to their roots and traditions. Don’t ever feel guilty or bad for not having a wedding that's “Latin enough.” You get to decide how you want to incorporate your culture and decide what is important to you and what you want to honor. You may want a full traditional Latin wedding with every element of your country’s traditions, or you may only want some traditional Latin wedding staples with a mixture of other modern or cultural traditions.
Sit down with your partner and think about what cultural elements you want, as well as what your overall wedding vision is. Once you’ve decided, it’s time to talk to your family. Navigating these conversations with family is no easy feat, this we know. As a very communal culture, having family involved can be so important and many of our family members can have very strong opinions about what traditions should define the wedding. Being open with parents, grandparents, and extended family about what traditions you plan to include will make the big day surprise-free.
Now let’s jump into traditions!
1. Wedding Ceremony Location
Latin America is predominantly Catholic. Because of this, for many families, it's an essential tradition to get married in a Catholic church. If you want to stray away from religious tradition or aren’t religious, many modern couples choose other venues that are significant to them, such as haciendas, ranchos, missions, historical sites, museums, gardens, etc. If you still want to incorporate religious elements into the wedding, like having a Catholic priest officiate, keep in mind that not many priests are willing to marry someone outside of the church because it’s not considered valid in the eyes of the Catholic church.
2. The Procession
In some Latinx cultures, the bride is escorted down the aisle by both parents, while in others, like Argentinian and Chilean cultures, the father walks the bride down the aisle and only the couple’s parents and godparents stand at the altar with them.
3. Los Padrinos (The Godparents)
Traditionally, most Latinx weddings don’t have a wedding party with bridesmaids and groomsmen. The wedding party consists of the padrinos (the godparents of the couple) and the flower girl and ring bearer. The padrinos are usually married themselves and chosen by the couple as special mentors in their married life. The padrinos also sponsor the lazo and arras.
You can still have padrinos and a wedding party, but most churches will have the wedding party sit in the pews during the ceremony.
(Countries: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, El Salvador, Argentina)
4. Las Arras (Marriage Coins)
Las arras are 13 gold coins that are a gift from los padrinos. Traditionally, the priest blesses the coins and the groom presents them to the bride as a symbol to provide for her (this can be done in other variations depending on what the church allows). This tradition often stands for Jesus and his 12 apostles and the importance of God in the success of a marriage.
(Countries: Mexico, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela)
5. El Lazo (Wedding Lasso)
This generational tradition takes place after the vows. The couple is joined in matrimony using the lasso, which is typically a rosary, silk cord, or silver rope. The padrinos or other people important to the couple, wrap the lasso around the couple to signify unity.
(Countries: Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico)
6. Décor & Theme
You have so many options for your wedding theme and décor! If you want full cultural immersion, choose colors, pieces, attire, and accents that are popular in your family’s country. If not, you can choose whatever theme you want! Boho, modern, minimalistic, fairytale, earthy, urban, etc. Your Latin traditions and touches are what celebrate your heritage not necessarily your theme or décor.
7. The Wedding Gown
The bridal gown, or vestido de bodas, can have subtle hints of Latin details. Ruffles at the hem add a flamenco style, while a slim-fit dress with a gorgeous bolero jacket is edgier. If you’re Catholic, a lovely nod to your faith would be a cathedral-length mantilla veil with a scalloped lace trim. Watching the long veil drape behind the bride is one of the most breathtaking moments.
A fun way to incorporate some Latin flavor is with favors! Think of something that's unique to your culture and give it out as a favor. Favors tend to be a favorite memento for Latin families. Some Latin families will have a whole section of their home dedicated to displaying favors from the weddings and parties they’ve attended. Some examples include:
- Small succulents with your names written in papel picado.
- In Puerto Rico, guests are given Capias—small gifts made of feathers, tied with ribbon, with the couple's name and wedding date.
- Biscochos or Mexican wedding cookies wrapped in tulle.
9. Latin Food & Drinks
When it comes to food, the flavors of Latin America are exquisite and abundant. This is an area that can really be played up to give the guests a Latin American experience.
Serving alcohol unique to the culture and region is an absolute must. Refreshing sangria and Tequila, Brazilian Caipirinha, Cuban rum and Coke, Argentinian wine, or Mexican sodas, aguas frescas, and cafe con leche.
For appetizers empanadas, tapas, ceviche, and croquetas are all favorites of many. Consider a candy bar, with candies that are local to your area. Like Mazapan and Tamarindo.
Main dishes can consist of rice and beans made in the style of the region. Tacos, ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, chiles rellenos, and pescado empanizado are all fantastic mouth watering options. Flan, churros, buñuelos, pastelitos de guayaba, and arroz con leche for dessert make for excellent bites. Check out 26 of The Best Desserts From Latin American Countries. Cater from local authentic restaurants or caterers that you love. If it tastes like home or abuela’s house, then it’s the perfect fit.
One of the best ways to include your culture is through music! Music is an integral part of Latin culture and it has a special way of transporting us to our ancestors' homes.
Receptions tend to take place at night so the couple and guests can dance the night away. The majority of the reception will be dedicated to dancing and can last until two to three in the morning! Music choices can vary from english party classics, latin pop, bachata, reggaeton, cumbia, salsa, mariachi, merengue, samba, flamenco, etc. You can go from Banda El Recodo to Bad Bunny.
- Father-Daughter Dance: This dance tends to be a special moment between the bride and her father but can be done with any loved one. Check out these Spanish Father-Daughter Songs. (All countries)
- El Baile Del Billete (The Money Dance): During the money dance, guests pin money onto the bride and groom before they share a dance with them. (Countries: Costa Rica, Cuba, México, El Salvador)
- La Hora Loca (The Crazy Hour): This typically comes later in the reception. To keep energies high, couples can hire entertainers like dancers, performers, singers or you will bring out fun props to get people moving. This is a time to laugh and let loose. (Countries: Colombia, Paraguay, México, Perú, Venezuela)
11. Couples Leave Early
It’s good luck for couples to sneak away before the reception is over without being seen by any of the guests. This is of course only traditional to some regions.
Oftentimes, couples will have a smaller gathering, called a tornaboda, with family and friends the day after the wedding to keep the celebration going in a more intimate way.
(Countries: México, Venezuela)
Hero photo courtesy of Tali Photography