A Mexican wedding is a gala affair. Not only is it marked with fun and festivity, it also depicts an amalgamation of customs that come from other cultures including Spanish, Native American, Aztec, Anglo American, and the like. This Wedessence post discusses the uniqueness that Mexican wedding traditions bring in to this auspicious and unforgettable occasion.
Did You Know?
It is customary for a Mexican bride to wear blue, red, and yellow ribbons on the bridal lingerie to invite good luck. These colors are symbolic of abundance in money, passion, and food.
Mexicans are people who have high regards for their cultural values and customs. They are people’s people, in the sense that socializing with near and dear ones including extended families and friends, along with good food, music, fun, and frolic is what keeps them going ahead in life. Spirituality also forms an integral part of their lives and therefore, religion―mostly Roman Catholic―plays a crucial role in their lifestyle and beliefs.
The Mexican culture has been influenced by various other cultures. Being the land of the Mayans and the Aztecs, a tinge of their customs still reflects in certain rituals. However, today, in modern Mexico, a majority of population is Roman Catholic, therefore, when it comes to the wedding ceremonies and beliefs, the Catholic influence is evident. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that a Mexican wedding today is pretty much similar to the normal Catholic wedding in a church, however, there are some additions that make them truly Mexican and distinct from the rest. These are discussed in the following sections.
Mexican Wedding Customs, Traditions, and Ceremonies
Colorful and extravagant―these are the best words to describe the whole essence of this wedding! The more the merrier―be it the number of guests, amount of food, or inclination to sing and dance to the Mariachi tunes, this occasion is indeed a time for merriment for one and all, and no reluctance is shown when it comes to the number of people invited. Mexicans generally have big extended families, in fact, in smaller towns, almost the entire population becomes a part of the wedding and each and every dear one contributes in some way or the other.
Right from the dates to the number of guests to the monetary contribution for the wedding arrangements, everything is usually planned months in advance. Traditionally, the godparents of the couple are the ones who sponsor a crucial section of the wedding. Being chosen as godparents or the padrinos and madrinas is a matter of great respect for the Mexicans. They are considered to be wise people who help and advise the couple all throughout the engagement and wedding planning, and also later when they face problems in their married life. They gift the couple a Bible, kneeling pillows, and a Rosary as a symbol of their blessing. As a mark of respect, the godparents are given a special place by the couple in the wedding ceremony. But a wedding ceremony calls for a lot many other things. A brief explanation on the same is mentioned as under.
The Wedding Attire
Depending upon the area of living, the attire of the bride and groom may vary. There are a wide variety of options to consider, from the traditional options to the modern ones. In fact, it has been observed that these days, most brides are opting for fancy modern outfits and the grooms are going in for the traditional Mexican tuxedos.
Let us begin with the beautiful bride.
A traditional wedding gown could be infused with lots of laces and embroidery. The fabric used may also vary from cotton to satin to velvet. Various styles including flamenco and huipil are popular traditionally; however, wedding gowns also differ based on the area of living. For instance, from the area of Zinacantán comes a wedding dress made of cotton strings and goose feathers, the latter being a symbol of beauty, power, wealth, and fertility.
On the other hand, in the southern states, the bride’s attire is usually made of velvet with embroidery of flowers. Some brides also choose to wear bolero jackets over their gown.
The mantilla veil, that has laces at its edges, is a popular choice when it comes to the veil. So, yes, the options are varied, except for one restriction when it comes to the jewelry: Mexican brides are forbidden to wear pearl jewelry on their wedding as each pearl is considered as the tear that will be shed by her during her marriage. So, no pearls for this bride.
Speaking of the groom, other than the traditional Mexican tuxedo, he can opt for a bolero jacket which is usually paired with tight-fitted pants, or he can go for a comparatively comfortable wear such as the guayabera, which is the traditional shirt worn in Mexico and is quite ideal for a beach wedding―the Presidencial variant in particular.
The groom’s attire, be it the jackets or the shirts may have some intricate embroidery to give it a more royal wedding-like look, or can be kept plain white. Many grooms also opt for the classic black tuxedo these days.
Ceremonies and Their Significance
Before the girl leaves for the wedding, her mother says a prayer to protect and guide her daughter as she walks to take her wedding vows. Many a time, the bride and groom along with their families, walk down from their individual homes to the cathedral, more or less like a procession. This is like a public display of the pride and joy that the families experience because their son/daughter is getting married.
After the wedding rings have been blessed and exchanged, it is customary for the groom to give the bride trece monedas de oro or ‘The 13 gold coins‘ blessed by the priest. These gold coins symbolize all the wealth and material possessions that the groom commits to give his bride in their new home. The acceptance of these coins by the bride, in turn, symbolizes her consent to maintain his trust and take care of him and his belongings with utmost devotion.
This tradition is believed to be originated in Spain. The number 13 is considered to be symbolic of Jesus and the twelve disciples.
After the couple have exchanged their vows, the El Lazo, or The Lasso, which is a white ribbon or rosary, is put around the couple’s neck in the shape of an eight. It signifies the union of the two in an unbreakable bond of love and trust. Sometimes, the lasso is tied to the couple’s wrist and they wear it throughout the wedding ceremony. This ritual is usually done by someone really close to the bride and groom. It would be interesting for you to know that even in the Mayan culture, a lazo made of natural elements such as flowers was used during the wedding, this practice is still seen in some areas of Mexico.
The wedding is incomplete without the blessings of the Virgin Mary. Before marching out of the church, the bride kneels before the Virgin of Guadalupe and an ofrenda or offering is made by the bride to convey her gratitude. A beautiful flower bouquet is offered at the altar. As the couple leaves for the wedding reception, the guests throw red beads at the bride and groom.
This act is believed to bring good luck to the newlywed. Guests may also shout, or, interestingly, shoot guns in the open air as the couple leaves the church premises. This is done in order to ward off the evil spirits as they may intent to create problems in the life of the newly-married couple.
The Wedding Reception
The reception of a Mexican wedding is full of music, dance, and celebration, which begins even before the bride and groom reach the venue of the reception. In the small conservative towns of Mexico, a sort of wedding parade takes place where the bride and groom, with their family members, walk towards the reception venue.
They are also accompanied by the wedding band and guests. As the crowd walks down,
people get out of their homes and join the procession to celebrate along with the newlyweds. Many a time, a donkey is also seen in the procession carrying drinks―tequila and wine bottles―to ensure that each guest gets enough of drinks, music, and dance.
The reception consists of more music, dance, drinks, foods, and of course, wedding games! The music definitely consists of the traditional Mariachi band that plays tunes varying from romantic to peppy to lively. Instruments such as violin, guitar, trumpets, and of course, the marimba, add a festive air to the entire occasion.
In fact, every town has their own local bands and singers that are approached during celebrations; music is an integral part of any Mexican celebration and therefore, musicians are highly valued in this culture.
Dances and Games
Music and dance go hand in hand when it comes to a celebration―there is no party without the two! Dancing usually starts with the newlyweds taking the stage for their First Dance as man and wife. During this ceremony, the guests hold hands and gather around them forming a heart-shaped boundary. This is done to bless them so that their love may grow all the more in their married life.
After the first dance, another important tradition is the Money Dance. Here, the guests are required to pay in order to dance with the bride and groom. However, they need to be generous enough as the money collected is used towards setting up a new household. Traditionally, in this dance, the guests are required to pin the dollar bill to the bride’s and groom’s dress. Salsa, meringue, and flamenco styles of dance add vigor and life to the festivities.
Another popular game seen in most Mexican weddings is called La víbora de la mar, or the Sea Snake dance. Here, the guests form separate groups consisting of single men and women, while the bride and the groom stand on chairs facing each other and form an arch through which the participants would pass. The arch can be formed by either holding hands, or by holding the bride’s veil. The band plays a rhythm that gets faster as the game proceeds. The goal is to not break the snake formation. At the end of the game, the bride throws the wedding bouquet from the chair on single girls, while the groom throws his bride’s blue garter on the group of single men. The girl who catches the bouquet and the man who gets hold of the garter are believed to be the next ones to get married, in some cases, with each other.
In some weddings, guests ridicule the groom, strip off his clothes, and give him an apron and a broom. At times, he is taken by the men to the restroom where he is stripped completely, and his clothes are given to his bride. The bride then goes to the groom to give his clothes back so that he can dress up again.
Food and Drinks
Let’s begin with the wedding cake! A traditional Mexican wedding is likely to have a traditional favorite when it comes to the cake, one of the most popular being the Pastel de Almendra, or almond cake. Some sources also state that most wedding cakes in Mexico are rum-soaked fruitcakes with nuts. However, these days, wedding cakes are as fancy and creamy as any other wedding cake would ideally be.
Traditionally, the food served at the reception includes tortillas, beef, chicken, and pork dishes, beans, and spicy rice. Potato, salad, and a variety of spicy sauces are also served. Because Mexicans love spices, even their desserts have sweet and savory combinations. The menu may also vary depending upon the area of living, and of course, the budget! An interesting item on the menu is the zacahuil, which is a dish from the Huasteca area.
Here, a huge tamale is cooked over an elaborate time duration in a ground hole, and depending upon the size of the tamale, up to 500 people can feast on it.
When it comes to the drinks, who can forget the sangria, a traditional drink made with wine, fruits, additional sweet, and brandy! Other traditional drinks that are likely to be served include Jamaica, horchata, and tamarindo. And yes, tequila, rum, beer, vodka, Whiskey, and other local spirits are definitely on the menu!
One thing that literally adds sweetness to the wedding is a Piñata. It is filled with candies and hung for the children who swat at it. Once the piñata breaks, the sweets are distributed among all the guests.
Considering their passion for merriment and partying, and the bond that they share with not only their family members but the entire neighborhood, in some areas, it is normal for the wedding celebration to get extended till the wee hours of the next day. If this is typical of the wedding celebration in that region, additional arrangements are made in terms of food.
For example, in Yucatán, there is a tradition to serve a dish called cochinita pibil, which is nothing but annatto-marinated pork in tacos. The drink that is served with it is chilled beer.
Right from the engagement to the wedding reception to the after-wedding party, aka, tornaboda, a Mexican wedding is a grand affair! If one wants to witness the strong familial bonds and the joyful willingness of everyone to be a part of each other’s happiness, then attending a Mexican wedding is an opportunity that one should never miss. In fact, many couples from other cultures are intrigued by this wedding style and willingly decide to have a grand Mexican wedding themselves―We can totally understand why!