Everything You Need to Know About Arras, the Wedding Coin Ritual

An in-depth look at the ritual often included in Filipino, Spanish and Latin American wedding ceremonies.
Hannah Nowack The Knot Weddings Editor
by Hannah Nowack
Hannah Nowack The Knot Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Editor, Real Weddings
  • Hannah writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a focus on real wedding coverage.
  • Hannah oversees engagement content on The Knot's partner brand How They Asked.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hannah was the Social Media Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Updated Jul 23, 2021

For to-be-weds looking to honor their heritage and culture on their wedding day, selecting a traditional unity ritual to include in the wedding ceremony is a great way to do just that. 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 wedding coins during the wedding ceremony is a tradition that has been passed down through many generations throughout many Hispanic cultures and other worldwide cultures.

What Are Las Arras Matrimoniales?

The word arras in Spanish means "earnest money" The tradition of exchanging these wedding tokens during a Catholic wedding ceremony comes from the idea of wishing for prosperity. Historically, the thirteen coins represented the groom's promise to provide for this family and the bride's trust in the groom's promise for provision. Angelina Cardenas of Angelina Cardenas Events in Tulum, Mexico, explains that the ritual of las arras matrimoniales "means that the groom will provide the family economy and the bride will protect and take care of it." In modern Catholic weddings, couples often make the ritual personal to them and it may take on meaning that represents their equal commitment to providing for their shared future.

The History of Las Arras Matrimoniales

Historians aren't sure of the exact time and place where the tradition of exchanging gold wedding coins began, but the custom as we know it today is generally believed to have taken root around the 11th century. Around that time Frankish marriage ceremonies generally included a ritual where thirteen pennies were exchanged while Spanish weddings at the time had similar wedding traditions of giving coins as the perfect gift. Around that time the symbolism of the thirteen coins was thought to represent providing for the twelve months of the year plus one coin that represented supporting the poor and disenfranchised. Some people also think of the wedding coins are representing Jesus and his twelve apostles.

Frequently Asked Questions About Las Arras Matrimoniales

Who Buys Las Arras?

Los padrinos y madrinas, or the couple's wedding sponsors, historically take care of procuring las arras as a wedding gift to the couple. These wedding sponsors are similar to godparents and will generally work with the couple to select a set of las arras that everyone feels is fitting for the wedding ceremony. Many retailers will sell wedding arras box sets that include an ornate gift box in addition to the thirteen wedding unity coins as part of the gift set.

Are There Different Styles of Las Arras?

Traditionally, in Spain and Latin America, las arras is made up of thirteen gold coins, sometimes twelve gold and one platinum wedding arras coins, presented in an ornate box or chest. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, las arras are generally held in an ornate basket or pouch. For sets referred to as arras para boda, the collection of unity coins is made up of thirteen silver-plated coins. While many of the coins have a standard look and feel to them (they often bear a depiction of Saint Rafael or San Rafael Arcangel), the options are truly limitless when it comes to the ornate box they're held in. From jeweled rose gold chests to heart-shaped rhinestone-covered boxes, many couples will select a keepsake container that can later be put on display in their home. Couples may choose to display their silver or gold wedding arras alongside the Bible they used during their wedding mass and other details from the day like a rosary or their wedding lasso.

What Happens During the Las Arras Ceremony?

In Filipino and Hispanic weddings, there's generally an arrhae-bearer or coin bearer that is included in the ceremony processional in addition to a ring bearer. Unlike the ring bearer, however, the arrhae-bearer's role is to bring in the pouch or chest containing the gold arras wedding coins so they can be exchanged during the wedding ceremony.

The exchange of arras coins can take place at any point during a Hispanic or Filipino wedding ceremony, but it typically occurs after the blessing and exchange of wedding rings. During the ritual, the priest blesses the coins before passing them to the couple. Historically, the groom would offer the coins to the bride. However, in more modern ceremonies couples will often exchange the gold or silver wedding arras back and forth as a symbol of their shared commitment to providing for their future. They will generally voice promises that may be some iteration of "all that I have is yours, and all that you have is mine." Some couples may opt for more personalized promises to accompany the ritual.

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