The Ultimate Guide to Puerto Rican Wedding Traditions and Customs
If you've ever attended a Latin American wedding, you know they are quite the celebration. Puerto Rican weddings, in particular, have various wedding customs and traditions that make a wedding date even more special—not to mention the Caribbean island, with its glimmering beaches and towering palm trees, serves as a beautiful backdrop for saying "I do". Still, whether you're hosting a destination wedding in Puerto Rico or simply want to incorporate Puerto Rican wedding traditions into your big day, there are many to choose from. To learn more about them, we chatted with Tatiana Ramos, a Puerto Rico wedding planner and founder of Mia Eventos Wedding & Event Planning.
Puerto Rican Prewedding Traditions
Before the big day, one Puerto Rican wedding tradition that is customary is having a marriage announcement published in the local newspaper or at the church newsstand. Once the wedding planning commences, Ramos says the expenses are typically managed by the bride's parents as they are the ones inviting and hosting the celebration. She adds that rehearsal dinners are also common in Puerto Rican weddings and expenses are typically covered by the groom's parents. Also, Ramos notes that another Puerto Rican wedding tradition is for the soon-to-be newlyweds to meet with the church or priest who will marry them to finalize the ceremony protocol.
Puerto Rican Wedding Attire
In addition to wearing a beautiful wedding dress, Ramos says it's traditional in Puerto Rican weddings for the bride to have a hand fan designed to match her dress. Or, the hand fan can also be an heirloom passed down from a previous generation. She adds that many brides also opt to wear wedding dresses and veils made of mundillo, which is a handmade lace fabric made by seamstresses.
For the groom, Ramos says a classic dark-colored jacket and pantsuit is traditional, paired with a dark-colored tie and shoes. For more casual weddings (like ones held on one of Puerto Rico's beautiful beaches), she says the groom may opt to wear light-colored pants with a white guayabera shirt.
As for the overall wedding style, Ramos says the most prominent is definitely tropical, which is very fitting for the location. This encompasses enchanting green colors mixed with bright rainbow-hued tropical flowers such as orchids, anturios, or a local flower called amapola for the bride's bouquet or centerpieces at the reception. Some couples may also choose the ocean and beach to be the focal point of the wedding's theme with stunning shades of blue, sand touches, white flowers and seashells as accents.
Puerto Rican Wedding Ceremony
"Since we originally were a Catholic church-based country, getting married through the church is most common," Ramos says. She adds that the most traditional and significant Puerto Rican wedding traditions you often see in weddings include the exchange and blessings of rings, gold coins (referred to as arras), a rosary prayer, a blessing and a Virgin Mary offering.
But before those take place, first comes the processional. Ramos says the groom usually arrives at the church or ceremony location first to greet guests and is escorted by the groomsmen and his parents. Then the bridesmaids make their way down the aisle followed by the bride escorted by her father who is giving his daughter's hand to the groom to wed.
As for music, Ramos says you may hear Spanish guitar play classic songs like "Ave Maria" and "Panis Angelicus".
Ramos adds that it's also traditional for the family on the bride to sit on the left side of the ceremony and the groom's family to sit on the right side.
And finally, during the ceremony exit, Ramos says rice is traditionally thrown at the couple representing fertility and prosperity blessings.
Puerto Rican Reception Traditions
For the reception, there are also a few Puerto Rican wedding traditions that are celebrated. Ramos says the couple typically uses handcrafted cups made from polished coconut (aka coconut cups) for toasting. During the reception, she says it's also customary for the bride to throw her bouquet to the single women at the wedding to share the good luck with them to wed in the near future.
Puerto Rican Traditional Wedding Food, Drinks and Desserts
You can, of course, expect lots of delicious Puerto Rican food to be served. Ramos says some of the most popular wedding menu items include beef-fried alcapurrias (fritters made of green plantains) as appetizers and roasted pork with rice and beans as the main dish accompanied by plantain sides cooked in different ways. For a late night snack, expect chicken soup for some comfort after long hours of drinking and dancing.
For drinks, Ramos says rum is the specialty so drinks like mojitos (in passionfruit, coconut and watermelon flavors), rum Piña Coladas and schnapps drinks with tropical fruits are common at Puerto Rican weddings. During the wintertime, you may also see coquitos on the drink menu, which is a drink made with rum, milk and egg. And during the hotter months, the couple may also have ice cones with rum called piraguas. And lastly, a common drink served at a Puerto Rican wedding is cafe con leche (coffee with milk) served with a slice of wedding cake during the wedding reception.
Puerto Rico Wedding Tradition Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a Puerto Rican wedding celebration last?
The short answer: Puerto Rican weddings are long. "We love to party, so the least is six or seven hours of wedding celebration," Ramos says. "But depending on contracts, services and location, partying until the sunrise is very epic."
What should a guest wear to a Puerto Rican wedding?
According to Ramos, the proper attire for a Puerto Rican wedding depends on the location and time of day the wedding takes place. "Night weddings are mostly formal attire which involves suits and long dresses," she says. "Morning weddings are mostly casual or cocktail [attire] where light colors and fabrics are better to wear. Afternoon events call for a cocktail or semi-formal attire, such as long-sleeved shirts for men and short but elegant dresses for women."
What is the typical cost of a Puerto Rican wedding?
For a traditional Puerto Rican wedding, Ramos says the most common guest list number is between 100 and 200 guests. The cost for that, she says, which includes all the wedding party vendors and special entertainment with unique experiences for guests comes with a starting price between $40,000 and $50,000.
What are traditional Puerto Rican wedding gifts?
The couple gives wedding favors to their guests as gifts. Traditionally, Ramos says they gift them capias, which are pins with ribbons placed inside a basket or small dolls dressed similar to the bride as a memento of the celebration. In modern Puerto Rican weddings, however, Ramos says common wedding favors include sugar almonds, coquito bottles and guava cookies.
As for gifts for the happy couple, Ramos says the rehearsal dinner and/or the honeymoon trip is usually a gift from the groom's parents.