Spanish wedding receptions tend not to be small affairs – expect a couple of hundred guests at a traditional Spanish wedding (bodas). Invitations are sent to the whole extended family and the local village, making the wedding a vibrant and joyful celebration. A Spanish wedding reception goes on late into the night and has many of its own traditions and customs.
A vision in black!
Traditionally, the bride wears a black silk wedding dress with a black lace veil, but today most brides wear white. The groom wears an embroidered shirt, handmade by his future wife. The veil is part of the wedding dress and symbolizes God’s protection. The church and reception venue are often decorated with Orange Blossom flowers, which represent happiness and fulfilment.
Traditionally, Spanish weddings do not include bridesmaids, groom’s men, a Best Man or Maid of Honour. At the reception, the top table is traditionally set for 6 – the bride, the groom and their parents. Traditionally, there are also no speeches although the bride and groom may expect to be heckled by the guests for a kiss or two.
Music and dancing
A “Mariachis” band traditionally plays traditional folk music from Spain and Latin America. Guests traditionally dance a “seguidillas manchegas”, or money dance which is also a tradition in Germany and other countries. Guests who dance with the bride or groom traditionally give them money. The dance is said to symbolise prosperity and financial security for the newlyweds.
A traditional Spanish wedding meal (banquete de bodas) may begin with cold cuts and snacks while guests gather and photos are taken. The meal itself consists of a starter, a fish dish (for example Paella, a delicious seafood and rice stew), a refreshing champagne sorbet, a meat dish and a dessert. Food is often sourced locally.
During the wedding meal, the bride and groom circulate among the tables during the meal handing out gifts and favours (detalles). Men will be offered a cigar or a mini-bottle of wine, often with the date of the wedding on the label, and women are usually offered something beautifully fragranced.
As well as throwing her bouquet to whoever will be next to marry, a bride also hands out pins with a flower motif to unmarried ladies. These are attached upside down to their clothes, in the hope that the pins will be lost during the dancing which indicates that the lady will soon marry.
Trick or treat?
A traditional Spanish wedding will start late in the day, meaning that the reception will end in the early hours of the morning. The happy couple, however, may find that when they eventually get to go home, close friends have got there first and prepared a selection of practical jokes! For example, they may hide things in the bed sheets, fill the bed with balloons and hang banners announcing the marriage off the balcony.