The most beautiful thing about planning weddings is getting to celebrate a couple’s vibrant culture. Couples from different religions, customs, and places of the world come to us to seek our expertise to bring their vision and romance to life. Becoming acquainted with cultural wedding traditions is a great way to be a well-rounded professional that understands and celebrates every couple’s heritage.
Today we’ve rounded up 10 Latin wedding traditions from all over Latin America. While there are some shared traditions, Latin America is full of diverse communities, 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.
First things first, couples have different relationships and connections to their roots and traditions. Don’t ever assume what the couple wants, start by asking them what they value and what cultural elements they would like to incorporate. Some couples may want a full traditional Cuban wedding, while others may only want some traditional Mexican wedding staples with a mixture of other modern traditions.
Another big aspect of your work with Latinx couples is helping them navigate what speaks to them and communicating those things with family members. As a communal culture, being open with parents, grandparents, and extended family about what traditions the couple is and isn’t including will make the big day surprise-free.
Pro Tip: We recommend establishing relationships with a diverse variety of vendors so you can easily connect and provide your couple with what they’re looking for.
Now let’s jump into traditions!
1. Wedding Ceremony Location
Latin America is predominantly Catholic, so for many families, it is an essential part of the tradition to get married in a Catholic church. Modern couples sometimes stray away and choose other venues that are significant to them, such as haciendas, historical sites, museums, gardens, etc. Couples may still want to incorporate religious elements into the wedding, like having a Catholic priest officiate, but not all priests are willing to marry someone outside of the church.
2. The Procession
In some Latinx cultures, the bride is escorted down the aisle by both parents, while in others, like in Mexican, 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 members of the wedding party are 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.
(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 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. The Wedding Gown & Veil
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 the couple is Catholic, a lovely nod to their religion is a cathedral-length mantilla veil with scalloped lace trim.
A fun way to incorporate some Latin flavor is with favors! Ask the couple what is unique to their 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 the couple's name 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.
8. Latin Food and 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 and cafe con leche. For appetizers empanadas, tapas, ceviche, and croquetas are all favorites of many.
Main dishes can consist of rice and beans made in the style of the region. Tacos, ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, and flan for dessert make for excellent bites. Cater from local authentic restaurants or caterers that the couple loves. If it tastes like home or grandma’s house, then it’s the perfect fit.
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 2-3 am. Music choices will vary from english party classics, latin pop, bachata, reggaeton, cumbia, salsa, mariachi, merengue, samba, flamenco etc.
- Father-Daughter Dance: This dance tends to be a special moment between the bride and her father but can be done with any loved ones. Check out these Spanish Father-Daughter Songs. (All countries)
- El Baile Del Billete (The Money Dance): During the money dance, guests pin money on to 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 comes later in the reception. To keep energies high, couples will hire entertainers like dancers, performers, singers or they will bring out fun props to get people moving. (Countries: Colombia, Paraguay, México, Perú, Venezuela)
10. 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.
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 Angie Peralta