10 of Latin America's Most Unique Wedding Customs You Should Know
While planning your wedding, you and your partner are likely looking for ways to balance creating an event that feels uniquely your own with one that honors your family and heritage. At their heart, including wedding traditions in your own ceremony and reception is a way to honor and celebrate heritage and culture. Given that millions of people live in Spain and across Latin America it's a given that no two weddings and no two traditions will be exactly the same. However, many countries across Latin America share history and therefore share some of the same wedding traditions. And there's a good chance that you may want to include these meaningful traditions in your own wedding as a way to celebrate your heritage.
We've rounded up some of the most unique traditions and customs observed by couples across Spain and Latin America to inspire your own planning journey. Pro-tip: make note of the Latin American wedding traditions that pique your interest and then connect with your partner to brainstorm how you two want to potentially honor your heritage in a meaningful way on your big day.
1. Lasso Wedding Ceremony
Within the Catholic church, the wedding lasso, also sometimes referred to as el lazo, tradition is a unity ceremony in which the couple is joined together by a lasso, or rope, rosary or cord. While the wedding lasso tradition is steeped in the ancient Catholic faith, many non-religious couples also choose to incorporate the act into their wedding ceremony because of the symbolism it's filled with. Read more about the lasso wedding ceremony here.
2. Las Arras, the Wedding Coin Ritual
Throughout much of Latin America and in Spain and the Philippines, arras, or the exchange of wedding coins, is an element traditionally included in Catholic wedding ceremonies. Sometimes referred to as las arras matrimoniales, arras de boda or arras para boda, exchanging gold coins during the wedding ceremony is a tradition that has been passed down through many generations throughout many Latino and Hispanic cultures and other worldwide cultures. Learn more about including the las arras wedding coin ritual in your own wedding here.
3. Madrinas y Padrinos, the Wedding Sponsors
Los Padrinos y Madrinas are wedding sponsors or people chosen by the to-be-weds to handle some of the wedding-day details. Generally, a married couple, sometimes godparents to the to-be-weds or other family members, will take on this role and shepherd the engaged couples through their wedding-planning journey toward becoming newlyweds.
4. La Callejoneada, the Wedding Parade
In certain parts of Mexico, mainly San Miguel de Allende, it's common for a wedding parade to take place in the streets following the wedding ceremony. Similar in concept to a Second Line parade in New Orleans, it's a way for the couple and their loved ones to publically celebrate the brand-new union. Notably, another custom that is uniquely Mexican is the inclusion of a Mariachi band for entertainment. Read more about customs traditionally seen in Mexican weddings here.
5. Wedding Doll
At traditional weddings in Puerto Rico, a doll dressed in a bridal gown is often placed at the head table. Typically, the doll will be dressed to match the bride's wedding dress. However, historically the doll was sometimes dressed in all-black as a way to represent the couple's decision to wed "until death do us part." The black attire is reminiscent of historic Spanish wedding gowns that were sometimes black and paired with a black Mantilla veil as a nod to the couple's union until death.
6. Capias, Wedding Favors
At Puerto Rican weddings it's also common for capias to be handed out to each guest during a receiving line. Capias are small charms, or sometimes shells or feathers. By having a capias for each guest it's the couple's way of connecting with each person in attendance.
7. El Baile Del Billete, the Money Dance
Seen often in Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico and El Salvador, El Baile Del Billete is a money dance that takes place during the wedding reception. As part of this festive custom, money is "pinned" on the couple in order to get a chance to dance with them. Depending on how many guests want to dance with the couple, the money dance can actually last for more than one song.
8. Los Anillos, Wedding Rings
Not everyone waits until their big day to get their wedding bands. In Chile, both members of an engaged couple wear rings on their right hand until they are married and switch to the left hand after the wedding. Similarly, in Argentina, couples often exchange silver rings when they get engaged and then once they tie the knot they upgrade those rings to gold ones.
9. Early Exit
Can't wait for the honeymoon to begin? Well, in Venezuela, it isn't uncommon for a couple to sneak away from their own reception. But no one gets upset once they discover the newlyweds are missing, it's actually considered good luck.
10. La Hora Loca, Crazy Hour
La hora loca, which is Spanish for 'Crazy Hour,' is kind of like a party-within-a-party. This period of noise-maker-filled dancing will often take place after many of the other formal elements of the wedding reception have taken place. The lights will dim before suddenly a riot of color, noise-makers and light-up props, confetti, lights, and performers and dancers fill the room to festively reignite the party and keep attendees on an energy high.
Nurys Marcel, a member of The Knot Wedding Crew for 2021, included la hora loca when she wed her partner Zack. "It was important for me to share with Zack's family and with Zack something at our wedding that represented my Latino culture," explains Marcel "Every culture has something, but the Latinos know how to party! I think la hora loca was the part of the night that brought everyone together and that made it even more special."