12 Colombian Wedding Traditions for Your Special Day

Colombian wedding traditions include memorable events for the couple and their guests.
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Elizabeth Ayoola
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Elizabeth Ayoola
The Knot Contributor
  • Elizabeth contributes a range of lifestyle content to The Knot.
  • She also works as a full-time writer at NerdWallet and contributing writer at ESSENCE and POPSUGAR.
  • Elizabeth has a degree in Environment, Politics, and Globalization from King's College London.
Updated Jan 19, 2023

Colombia, which happens to be one of the most populous Latin American countries, is home to many celebrations. Like in many other countries around the world, weddings are one of those celebrations. Finding someone you want to love for the rest of your life isn't something that happens every day and something most cultures can connect to.

Colombian wedding traditions share some similarities with other wedding traditions in South America, but of course have their own unique attributes. For the most part, vivacious and colorful weddings that incorporate religious values are things you can expect if you are throwing a Colombian wedding or attending one.

A History of Colombian Weddings

The Roman Catholic Church is a significant aspect of Colombian culture and the values spill into their wedding traditions. Although there are Jewish, Mormon communities as well as those who practice traditional religions in Colombia, most tend to be Catholic.

Aside from cultural influences by the Roman Catholic Church, the once colonized country also has traces of Spanish, African and indigenous influences. You'll notice their wedding traditions contain elements of each cultural influence. Colombia is also home to two of the world's largest festivals—Feria de Cali, a salsa festival, and the annual flower festival, which you'll see heavily influence their wedding aesthetics and receptions.

Colombian Prewedding Traditions

In Colombian culture, the celebrations begin before the wedding day. The groom often has special surprises waiting for his bride and likewise, his family welcomes her into the fold with meaningful gifts.

Serenata

One romantic wedding tradition Colombian grooms engage in before the wedding is serenata. This is where the groom serenades his bride-to-be with a surprise romantic song before the wedding. The serenata is no small event as this class act is performed in front of family and friends and sometimes involves a live band. As Latin American culture would have it, after the serenade comes the after party.

Bridal Showers

Bridal showers honor the bride-to-be across all cultures. There are idiosyncrasies in how the bride is honored, however. Colombian brides focus on the gifts from the mother-in-law or mother-in-love as some people say. She may give her soon to be daughter-in-law heirlooms as well as other sentimental gifts. Of course, gifts from guests and loved ones are welcome too.

No Best Man or Maid of Honor

In Colombian wedding traditions, they don't have a best man or maid of honor. Instead, the couple chooses a godmother and godfather and it can be anyone they want. The godparents behave as guides, offering advice and emotional support whenever the couple needs it. This is a contrast to bridesmaids and groomsmen who focus more on throwing bachelor and bachelorette parties and helping make the big day less stressful.

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Colombian Wedding Attire

Guests who attend Colombian weddings are expected to look their best and dress moderately. This is an unspoken rule for most weddings around the world. That said, there are special traditions around what men who attend the wedding wear as well as the bride's veil.

Guayabera

Most weddings have traditions that center around women, but this is one for the men. Guayabera is a type of traditional wedding attire for men who attend Colombian weddings. More specifically, it's a style and design of men's shirts and it can also be a full on guayabera suit. In terms of how they look, a guayabera is typically a white shirt with khaki pants. They're made of relatively light fabrics like cotton or linen, making them breathable in hot weather. Note that this type of attire isn't only exclusive to Colombian men. It's also common in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Cuba.

Mantilla

Veils are a staple in most white weddings, and have been for some time. The tradition of veils is said to have roots in Rome, as brides would veil themselves as they walked down the aisle to shield themselves from evil spirits. Colombian brides also wear veils but they are slightly different and called mantilla. This is a special veil that Spanish, Latin American and Italian brides often wear. The veil is characterized by lace that has a flower-like pattern and covers the bride's shoulders.

This type of veil became so popular due to the Roman Catholic church's rules around keeping your shoulders covered with a shawl or throw.

Colombian Wedding Ceremony Traditions

Colombian wedding ceremonies embed a mix of Catholic and native traditions ranging from the lighting of candles as a new couple to including a coin in the bride's shoe.

Candle Tradition

After the new couple exchange their wedding bands, they usually do what's called a candle ceremony. During this tradition, both the bride and groom take a candle and light it. They then take a third candle and light it together and dispose of their individual candles. The candle ceremony symbolizes two people coming together to become one. This is a tradition that you may also see at a Cuban wedding ceremony. The couple can keep the candle they lit as a couple for sentimental purposes if they wish to.

Las Arras

One of the most popular wedding traditions Colombian people have is the las arras or gold coins. In this tradition, a priest takes thirteen gold coins, which symbolize Jesus and the 12 disciples and then blesses those coins.

During the ceremony, the priest hands the coins he blessed to the groom, who then gives them to his new bride. By handing the coins to his new wife, the groom is communicating that he will always provide for her. Some brides will take the tradition a step further and hand the coins back to the groom to express that she'll always take care of him too.

Coin in the Shoe

Colombian brides sometimes practice the coin in shoe tradition, where a gold coin is placed in her shoe. The coin isn't there to make the bride uncomfortable—it symbolizes financial security for the bride throughout the duration of her marriage.

Flowers Galore

Colombia is known for its abundance of flowers and is home to roses, carnations and orchids. For this reason, it's only right that their weddings are filled with flowers. This can create a garden-like feel and make Colombian weddings picturesque.

Colombian Wedding Reception Traditions

Most weddings have receptions to celebrate the new couple and Colombian weddings are no different. Expect to work the dance floor, eat popular local dishes, and engage in light-hearted games, which is the theme for many weddings in Latin America.

La Hora Loca

Make sure you get enough rest before heading to a Colombian wedding reception because they can last all night. La Hora Loca, which means "the crazy hour," can be akin to a carnival celebration. The couple can choose the theme of their reception, and examples include Mardi Gras or Brazilian carnival.

Depending on the theme, you can expect entertainment such as carnival dancers, live music, DJs and live drum beats. Some dances you should be prepared to do are the merengue, vallenato and salsa.

Shoe Under Bride's Dress

The bride's dress is something most guests look forward to seeing, and in Colombia, it's also a symbol of good luck. They have a tradition where the male guests put their shoes under the bride's dress—the equivalent of throwing the bouquet for single men. The bride closes her eyes and chooses one pair of shoes and the lucky person is next on the list to tie the knot.

Colombian Traditional Wedding Food, Drinks and Desserts

Feeding guests at a wedding is usually a top priority. At a Colombian wedding, expect to taste a range of local dishes and desserts. For instance, you may bite into lechona, a dish with roast pig, yellow peas, green onions and yellow rice. Chorizo sausage is also popular in Colombia, so you may see that make a feature on the food table, too. Usually, it will be part of asado, which is an open fire grill with chicken, beef, pork and morcilla.

In terms of desserts, traditionally, Colombian wedding cakes are often black cake–a fruit cake immersed in rum and wine. Speaking of alcohol, aguardiente is a national alcoholic drink, so you may see it served on the wedding day. The beverage is made with anise, sugar cane, lime juice, orange juice and egg white.

Colombian Postwedding Traditions

If you thought the wedding was over when the reception ended, think again. The next day, it is common for guests to gather and continue the festivities. The newlyweds may throw together a national Colombian dish called bandeja paisa. It consists of chorizo, white rice, plantains, ground beef, avocado, pork belly, fried egg and stewed beans.

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