Weddings are a special moment where two people begin a new chapter together in life. These events are unique in that they bring families, friends, histories, and traditions into one place for the sole purpose of celebration. I recently attended a wedding for my two friends Maria and David in Gijón, Spain. The setting for the ceremony was beautiful and the people who attended were full of life. This was the first Spanish wedding I had ever attended, let alone the first outside of the United States. I was honored to be included in their special day but also completely clueless about what a Spanish wedding was all about. It took actually going to the wedding to get a better picture of what takes place in such events.
Here is a quick guide to getting a better understanding of Spanish weddings.
Typical wedding gifts in Spain
Unlike in the United States, where the bride and groom-to-be share a registry of potential gifts for their guests to choose from, the system in Spain is straightforward. Either a bank deposit or a card with a check will suffice. It’s not as personal as a registry gift, but it saves attendees time in thinking about the perfect gift. How much should you give? I read that between a minimum of 70-100 euros per person is the average.
Who is involved in a Spanish wedding?
In Spain, the bridal party involves fewer people. There aren’t groomsmen, bridesmaids, a maid of honor, or a best man. David’s best friend, Fernando, created a special tribute video and gave a heartfelt speech during the ceremony. I later asked David, “So was Fer (Fernando) your best man?” David hadn’t heard of that term before. Fernando was just showing love for his pal. There are however padrinos, meaning the father of the bride and mother and groom.
Religious or secular?
Similar to the United States, weddings in Spain are moving away from ceremonies being held in a church. The officiant isn’t always a priest, but rather a relative or friend. Maria’s sister, Silvia, was the officiant in their wedding and the setting for the ceremony was the rooftop of the Abba Hotel which overlooked the expansive San Lorenzo beach in downtown Gijón.
Spanish wedding traditions
A good way to understand the rituals a bride and groom may have at their wedding is to know the couple’s region of origin. Each autonomous community in Spain is rich in culture and strikingly distinct. David is from Asturias while Maria is from Murcia.
The reception would abruptly pause at unexpected moments as crowds of people would begin singing “La Pelusa,” which was an invitation for a specific member of the newlywed’s family to stand up and do a dance called “La Pelusa.” The selected person would dance a series of moves in unison with the singing audience and at the end, everyone cheered and continued eating. This is a song that I learned is typical in most Murcian weddings. On the other hand, many guests opted to drink cider (sidra) during the celebration because this apple-based fermented beverage is a source of local tradition and pride. Asturias produces the majority of Spain’s cider and pouring this drink is a learned art. To properly pour cider in Asturias, one must lift the bottle above their head, lower the glass as far as the arm can reach, then attempt to serve. It can be messy but makes taking a sip well-earned.
At other moments, the wedding party would shout “Vivan los novios!” (Cheers to the newlyweds!). Another interesting detail I learned was that in Spain wedding rings are worn on the right hand rather than the left like in the United States. Engagement rings, however, are worn on the left hand.
Dance dance dance
David and Maria’s wedding featured lots of dancing. Apart from “La Pelusa,” the most important dance of the evening was their first as a couple, or “primer baile de los novios.” After the first dance, all the couples in the room stepped onto the dance floor and the party got going. The DJ eventually stopped the music early in the morning, but not until after the Asturian members of the wedding party emotionally sang the anthem for Real Sporting de Gijón, the city’s local football (soccer) club and favorite of many at the party including David. Even though the DJ didn’t play my song request for 2Pac, he still brought out the jams and the crowd seemed really pleased.
Have a coffee beforehand
Most weddings that I’d been to previously would either end at a decent hour or migrate to a different location. On average I would get home by 11pm or 2am at the very latest. Maria and David’s wedding reception ended at 5am and the dance floor stayed busy until the very last song. If you ever get invited to a Spanish wedding, be prepared to stay late and have a fun time.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Also, thank you Maria and David for being my friends and for inviting me to your special day. Before going I’d like to hear from you! Have you been to a wedding in a different culture? What were the traditions that stuck out for you? Comment below!