The Thing About Spanish Weddings…

I went to my first wedding when I was 20. I had never been asked to be a flower girl, and my older cousins didn’t get married until I was already living in Spain. I drove with a friend out to Waterloo, Iowa, for a study abroad friend’s nuptials. The following year, I was a bridesmaid in a high school friend’s ceremony. I was as wedding tonta as they come.

The Novio invited me to a friend’s wedding on Gran Canaria (!!!!) after we’d been dating for about six months. We took a long weekend and explored the island by car, but I was underdressed, had the wrong length dress on, and mistakenly didn’t eat lunch before we left.

Since then, I’ve tallied more enlaces in Spain than weddings in the US – three of fellow americanas who married Spaniards – and I’ve even photographed one! Just last weekend, I attended a bodorrio in the Novio’s village of San Nicolás del Puerto. He wasn’t there, but I went anyway because, who doesn’t love a good wedding?

Yeah, so the thing about Spanish weddings is…

Location

Weddings are typically held in the bride’s hometown. The Novio knows the father of the bride is the one who pays, so he’s promised we can do one back home, too. In fact, I’ve only been to three weddings in Seville proper! 

Invitations

It’s considered bad taste to send the invitations to your friends and family; instead, the happy couple are expected to hand out the envelopes to guests! There have been several weddings where I’ve not gotten the actual invitation until just days or weeks before the nuptials, and most are sent six weeks before (thanks for sharing this, Lynette!).

Attire

Ladies: if it’s a daytime wedding, stick to a short dress. If it’s at night, go long. Do not mess this up, or have the marujas in attendance forever tsk-ing you. If you’re really pija and daring, you can wear a nice pants suit.

El tocado

Those crazy fascinators are ONLY appropriate for day weddings. I know, just when you want to be bold and Spanish and wear one, you find out that you can’t because the ceremony is at 6pm. Sorry.

The wedding party

It’s not common to have bridesmaids and groomsmen; rather, Spanish weddings have a madrina and a padrino who sign the paperwork that legally makes you man and wife. When the Novio’s brother got married in a civil ceremony, I was his wife’s madrina, which also meant I got to fix her hair right before I took photos of them.

Gifts

There are virtually no gift registries – you hand the happy couple an envelope stuffed with money to start their nest egg (or pay back the lavish meal you just ate).

I was horrified when the Novio slammed 300€ into his friend’s palm at our first wedding together, but money is a lot easier to carry than an olla exprés, I suppose. Brides and grooms sometimes include their bank account number in the invitation, as well, so that you can transfer money in before the ceremony.

Food and Drink

They never seem to stop serving food or drink. Ever.

In Spain, there is usually a coctel where someone will inevitably be cutting a leg of jamón, and you’ll have beer, wine, sherry and soft drinks served, along with finger foods. Once you sit down, there will be more jamón and boiled shrimp before you get two dishes, a dessert and coffee before the champagne toast.

The bride and groom typically come around to your table at this time to give you a small gift, and this is where you hand them the envelope. Every time someone shouts, ‘Vivan los novios!’ you must shout viva.

Then it’s dance and copas time! Most weddings have a DJ or band and they always, ALWAYS play the same songs. I fooled someone into thinking I was Spanish last weekend because I knew every single song they played.

All the normal stuff we do back home?

The bride and groom have their first dance, you throw rice and the bride throws her bouquet, and someone’s drunk uncle hits on you. Like many Spanish celebrations, weddings are over-the-top and full of fun moments (usually brought on by a cocktail or two). And there is always a sevillana or two!

At Jesus and Macarena’s wedding last weekend, the father of the groom asked me how I was enjoying myself. I told him it was the exact wedding I’d envisioned for myself – right down to where the banquet was held (the father of the groom’s restaurant!).

Have you ever attended a Spanish wedding (or had one yourself)? Tell me about it…I am hopeful I’ll get my two parties someday and need some ideas!

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

Comments

  1. This is great! I’ve always wanted to go to a Spanish wedding but haven’t had the chance yet. I’ll just live vicariously through you until I get to go to one. Good to know about the fascinators, too!
    Allison @ A Foodie in Europe recently posted..Road to AlmeríaMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      They’re not terribly different from American weddings, but a lot of fun!

      • I’ve only been to 2 in America and got paid for one! All my friends have been getting married while I’ve been here. So, I’m missing out in 2 countries. haha
        Allison @ A Foodie in Europe recently posted..Road to AlmeríaMy Profile

      • Cat Gaa says:

        I feel you there! I am missing three this summer, and the year my best friend from college, my old roommate and a childhood friend got married absolutely killed me!

  2. Nancy says:

    You did not include details about the ceremony….arguably an important part of the whole marriage thing???

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Every ceremony I’ve been to is different, but most are religious and follow mass! You know I’m more into the party, anyway!

  3. Kim says:

    This is fitting for me this week as I am heading back to Blighty for two weddings, one straight after the other, this week! I really can’t believe how guests are expected to cough up at Spanish weddings, especially in the current climate!. I have been to my fair share in the UK and most friends plead for you NOT to give them anything!

    Something I love about British weddings that hasn’t caught on here are the speeches. Although they may be quite dated and macho (only men speak) I think it is a lovely way for friends and family to get an insight into the history of the couple’s relationship, with dad’s quips about about his daughter and the best man’s funny tales of his mate.
    Kim recently posted..Musical moments: SilvioMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Speeches are quite common in the US, as well! It hadn’t even dawned on me that they’re not done here. There was one wedding that I went to several years back where the father gave a eulogy-type speech before the ceremony even began. We were standing room only and it was hot and stuffy, so we went to the bar down the street. The groom even picked up the tab!

  4. Cassandra says:

    What a timely post, I just got back from my first Spanish wedding!

    The dress code at this one was more relaxed; even though it was a night wedding, the women wore both long and short dresses, and a few even opted for black pants. That isn’t to say that the wedding wasn’t fancy–IT WAS. Madre mia, the views from the Asturian palacio! And the food was incredible. The menu was designed and catered by a Michellin-star chef, need I say more?!

  5. Pedro says:

    300 euros…wow!! your Novio is truly a great man, haha!

    i have never heard of paying back the meal you eat, such a thing is new to me…perhaps it happens in Andalucia? don’t know…

    in the last years more people just give a card with their bank account so you can transfer or deposit money, although most people still prefer an envelope with money.

    • Cat Gaa says:

      That’s what the Novio told me it was for!!

      • Pedro says:

        wait! your Novio told you it was to pay back the meal? 300 euros is a very expensive meal, i imagine that you had golden octopus and prawns made of diamonds for such a money, haha :-)

        i always give 30 euros because it is enough, remember that those who get married do invite you to the banquet, so i don’t see the money as a way of paying back what you eat, i see it as gift as if i bought a picture or a set of knives, etc

      • Cat Gaa says:

        Only 30 euros?! I am overpaying…

  6. Kaley says:

    I think we gave €300 at my first wedding too! I was shocked, because I’m used to just buying a set of towels or something …

    And me? Spanish weddings? Never!
    Kaley recently posted..World Cup 2014: Can Spain Do It Again?My Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      I was hoping you’d comment! I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories from other Americanas who have gotten married here. The Novio was really close with the groom at our first wedding together, but I gave 100 this last weekend. I would have loved to buy the bride and groom something fun for their house, but money is an easier alternative!

  7. Lynnette McCurdy says:

    Another difference in pre-wedding- here (Spain) there are no bridal showers. When I married the first time round, I lived in Long Island, NY. Money is, BY FAR, THE gift at weddings there, but at your bridal shower close friends and family got you things from your registry, which was very nice because these were people you were really close to and they got gifts you really appreciated and remembered. I missed having a bridal shower here! We did receive some actual gifts, from friends who came from the States and other countries.

  8. amelie88 says:

    I’ve been to a few French weddings (probs going to one next year, the cousins keep getting married) and it does differ from American weddings in several ways. There aren’t usually bridesmaids or groomsmen but there can be a flower girl. Instead you have “witnesses” who witness you sign your marriage license at City Hall from what I remember (in France you must do a civil service at City Hall before doing a religious ceremony. Religious ceremonies are not legally binding). You can read a good description of what French weddings are like here: http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/05/french-weddings-are-more-fun.html. It’s in all weekend affair–the civil/religious ceremony, the cocktail hour, the 4-5 course meal, the dancing until the wee hours of the night, and brunch the following morning on Sunday. I also feel French wedding guests don’t care all that much about what they wear, it’s always been a more relaxed dress code than the weddings I saw when I was standing outside of churches in Spain.
    amelie88 recently posted..Spring Snapshots on the High Line Part 2My Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Very cool to have insight on French weddings! My friend was at one a few years ago where she was told she had to either wear black or hot pink, as apparently that’s a thing in France: color-coding your weddings!

      Though I could get behind and all-weekend affair!

  9. Katie says:

    So, what are the songs you hear again and again? I’ll be going to my first Spanish wedding in a little over a week, so I want to be prepared. :)

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Haha, almost anything that’s easy to sing – Antes que ver el sol, la chica de ayer, Devuelveme la Vida, Camisa Negra, A Quien le Importa… Have a great time!!

  10. Alice says:

    This is really interesting to me as I just got back from my 4th Spanish wedding in 4 months – in fact I just wrote quite a similar post – a survival guide for Spanish Weddings! Give it a read and see how it compares with your experiences.

    I forgot to mention the gifts – at first the amount of money shocked me but when you think about it, it makes sense… as a couple we gave 200 euros a wedding, making the gift and paying our way. And I suppose you’re not just covering the meal, but drinks, venue, etc.

    The next challenge will be my novio and I having our English/Spanish wedding in England, pitching it so the Spanish half will have fun as well as the English, without alienating either culture, and without it costing all the money ever. A challenge!
    Alice recently posted..Surviving a Spanish weddingMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Congratulations, Alice!! My Novio and I are also planning for next August in the US, and the only thing we can agree on is where we’ll have it. He says he’s leaving it all up to me, but I can’t make up my mind about anything!! Will be looking forward to reading about it!

      • Alice says:

        I’ll look forward to reading about your wedding preparations too! My novio isn’t too hot on organisation either so I think it’ll pretty much all be left to me… and maybe la suegra too.. eek!
        Alice recently posted..Surviving a Spanish weddingMy Profile

  11. I love the tradition of actually handing out the wedding invitations, very special! It all sounds like such a neat experience. I am dying to go to a German wedding (although they’ll have nothing on the southern weddings I’m used to) but Germans don’t freaking get married anymore, only for tax reasons, or the few religious people left.
    Alex, Speaking Denglish recently posted..THREE YEARS IN GERMANYMy Profile

  12. Nicole says:

    Googled “attending a Spanish wedding” and was SO happy this was one of the first links to pop up! My boyfriend asked if I will be attending his uncles wedding with him and have been panicking about what to wear, what the rundown is, etc. You’re a life saver Cat!

    • Cat Gaa says:

      My pleasure, lady! I’m planning my own wedding, and I referred to it myself when talking with the priest. Spanish weddings are a lot of fun, so enjoy yourself!

  13. Allison says:

    Spa(ress and no engagement ring or even honeymoon completely planned. We celebrated in Chicago as well and that was a party my mom mostly planned and was way more stressful for me. I can’t imagine dealing with a real American wedding! We haven’t dealt with authenticating our Spanish marriage certificate, (which is really a libreta de familia), for the purposes of US bureaucracy or getting married a 2nd time in the US yet, mostly because we plan to live indefinitely in Spain. But, I agree it’s a good idea to legalize/ validate all those doc just in case.

    De todos modos, I’m sure you will look gorgeous on the day of your wedding and it will be a great, fun day. Make it all about you and Kike amd forget what evwryone else says you should do. Suerte y enhorabuena mujer!
    Allison recently posted..My Love-Hate Relationship with SevillaMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Thanks, chiki! We were told it’s easier to get married in the US, present everything to the consulate and then have them worry about getting it to Spain! I have my NIE value until February of 2015, so I’m n no rush whatsoever. Now that the big stuff is planned (church, venue, dress, photo/video), I’m looking forward to the decorating/arranging part of the planning, and the party we’re expected to have!

  14. Allison says:

    That’s awesome you already have so much planned and figured out! That’s got to be a big load off your shoulders. I know it’ll be a fabulous event. I hope your summer can be more relaxing now :) Stay cool in the Sevilla heat. :-*
    Allison recently posted..Summer Update from the Real Housewife of BarcelonaMy Profile

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