Weddings are one of the most important types of celebrations in Spain. Traditional Spanish bodas or weddings usually follow the Catholic tradition and may have at least 200 guests. However, like everything else, the number of guests really depends on the couple getting married. Today, more and more people are opting for a civil ceremony and a small convite or reception with family and close friends.
A typical custom is to throw rice or rose petals as the couple exits the place where the ceremony has taken place, but many traditions have changed over time.
In the past, most weddings began in the afternoon and lasted all night and into the next morning. Today, it’s common for weddings to be held either in the morning or in the afternoon. No matter what time they start, Spanish weddings always end very, very late (or early, depending on how you look at it).
In Spain, women wear their engagement ring on the ring finger of their left hand, while the wedding ring is worn on the ring finger of the right hand.
One of the traditional customs in Spanish Catholic weddings is for the bride and groom to share 13 coins known as arras or unity coins, which represent their commitment to sharing the goods they have and will have in their future together.
Typically, Spanish weddings don’t have bridesmaids or groomsmen; there’s no Best Man or Maid of Honor. What they do have are padrinos, usually the father of the bride and the mother of the groom. The sole function of these traditional figures is to accompany the bride and groom and (usually) sign as witnesses to the marriage. At the reception, the head table is traditionally set for six: the bride, the groom, and their parents. Today, as more and more couples already have children when they marry, these special family members also sit with the bridge and room.
During the banquete de bodas or convite (wedding feast/reception), it’s very common for the guests to go up to the head table to give the couple a gift as a thank you for being invited to their wedding. During the meal, the bride and groom or a person they’ve designated will often go from table to table, giving the guests detalles or wedding favors to remember the day by.
Until recent years, and even today you still see it at some weddings, men were handed a cigar and women were given a little gift such as a pin to wear, but that custom has changed over the years. Nowadays, the bride and groom tend to give more personal gifts they’ve picked out themselves, far from the typical cigar or bottle of wine.
A common Spanish wedding tradition used to be that the groom’s close friends would take his tie, cut it up, and sell the pieces to the guests to raise some extra money for the couple. The friends of the bride would do the same with her wedding garter. But, as with most of the traditions, this one is also changing and becoming less common at Spanish weddings.
After all the nervousness and excitement leading up to the fiesta and the couple’s return from the luna de miel or honeymoon — if they left town — the newlyweds present their marriage certificate to the local register office to receive their Libro de Familia, where their children's birth will be recorded (hence the name "Family Book"). This document certifies that the couple has married.