Hispanic Wedding Traditions

Latin American Roots

Hispanic wedding traditions combine the dignity of the Catholic Mass (during the ceremony) with the Latin passion for music, dance and celebration (in the reception that follows).

Early in the engagement a married couple is elected to "sponsor" the bride and groom throughout the wedding and during their first years as newlyweds. In addition to providing monetary support the sponsors or godparents will guide the bride and groom in the spiritual and emotional aspects of marriage. Similar to today's best man and maid of honor it is considered a great honor to be appointed the role of madrina (godmother) and padrino (godfather). The padrino walks the bride down the aisle and the madrina provides the cushion on which the couple kneels during the wedding Mass.

The Hispanic bride wears a slim dress over which she may wear a bolero jacket. She wears a mantilla veil, a legacy of Mexico and Latin America's Spanish roots. Ideally, the bride will wear a wedding dress that has been passed down by her mother and grandmother as a sign of respect and family pride. To promote the abundance of food, money and passion in her marriage the bride sews yellow, blue and red ribbons onto her bridal lingerie (which she wears under her dress). She does not wear pearls as they're considered bad luck; they represent future tears and grief in marriage.

During the wedding ceremony the groom gives the bride thirteen coins as a pledge to always support her and as a sign of his trust in her. By accepting the coins the bride indicates her faith in her husband's ability to provide for his family and that she will use his provisions wisely. The number thirteen is used to symbolize Christ and his twelve apostles. Another Hispanic wedding tradition involves a rosary or ribbon being wrapped in a figure eight around the couple's necks or waists as a symbol of their unity.

A Hispanic wedding reception is a lively event that lasts long into the night. For the children a piñata (a paper mach animal filled with candy, coins and small toys) is hung and the children are blindfolded and use sticks to break open the piñata to spill out its goodies. Then the dancing begins! The couple's first dance is held inside a heart formed by guests joining hands. A money dance follows, during which the guests pin money to the outfits of the bride and groom. These are the only slow dances; the rest of the night is devoted to energetic salsa, merengue and flamenco dancing common at all Hispanic weddings.

Learn more about traditional Hispanic wedding attire.

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