Mexican Wedding Traditions
Mexican weddings are usually big family events, full of love, laughter, reunions and joy. They’re filled with dancing long hours into the night and an endless procession of sharply dressed gentlemen and women in elegant gowns and jewelry. Mexican weddings are also often filled with many traditions that stem from the Catholic religion. In addition, for Mexican-Americans about the tie the knot for the first time, paying homage to their elders, families, and heritage is a rite of passage that they take seriously. With Orgullo en la Corazon – pride in the heart – an authentic Mexican wedding isn’t possible without these traditions.
Note: The following information is based on our experience photographing weddings in the United States. Traditions may vary across the globe.
Ofrendas to La Virgen de Guadalupe
Since Mexico is a staunchly Roman Catholic nation, wedding traditions have a deep ritualistic sense, with most ceremonies beginning with a total mass. But there’s a particular affinity, an undeniable affection, for La Virgin de Guadalupe – the Virgin Mary. The adoration goes back to the 16th century when tradition states that the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant named Juan Diego in the town of Guadalupe.
As no one in Guadalupe believed the man had, indeed, been visited by La Virgen, the apparition instructed him to gather up flowers and show them to the local Bishop, also a skeptic that the Virgin Mary actually appeared to this peasant. But when Juan Diego took the flowers to the Bishop and unfurled his coat, there was an image of the Virgin Mary stained onto the cloth, the legend goes. Whether or not the tale is historically accurate, that’s why Mexican weddings have alters to La Virgen bustling with roses and other flowers.
The inclusion of Los Padrinos – the weddings’ sponsors – is one way that Mexican weddings differ sharply from American weddings. In America, the tradition is usually that the bride’s father will pay for the wedding, but it’s different in the Mexican culture. Padrinos contribute to the wedding planning and hold a special place of honor throughout the entire ceremony. Padrinos are the first to sit, the first to eat, and the first to leave before the music starts to get loud.
El lazo ceremony
Another distinction is the el Lazo ceremony. Also known as a unity lace, a long-married couple, usually the oldest couple in the family, places a braided rope, rosary, or other long necklaces around the newlyweds. The older married couple lays the unity lace in a figure-8 pattern around the bride and groom, lassoing them together as another symbol of their inseparable bond from this moment forward.
Las arras ceremony
This ceremony is similar to the el lazo ritual, so a Mexican wedding may not include both. La arras – the coins – is a gift that a groom gives the bride, 13 gold coins in an ornate box that also symbolizes their covenant and bond.
El Mariachi and other performances
Mariachi bands are one and the same with the perception of the Mexican culture in America. If a bride and groom are young, it’s courtesy to provide music early on in the festivities to show respect for elders. There will be a time for the thumping rhythms of modern Mexican pop songs but not quite yet. Today, it’s becoming more common to have mariachi perform as guests arrive at the church or the start of the reception dinner after the wedding ceremony itself is completed.
El primer baile
A traditional Mexican wedding reception needs no introduction. It’s a magnificent, sprawling pageant with more food than anyone can possible eat and more drink than anyone can possible consume in one evening. But when the food and laughing and chatting are over, it’s time to dance! The first dance – el primer baile – is a unique tradition that American weddings may or may not include. In the Mexican culture, el primer baile isn’t negotiable because it’s another nod to the culture and respect to the elders.
The bride first dances with her father and then any special padrinos, especially those who contributed to the bride’s upbringing into womanhood. The dance between bride and groom comes next, but after one song, they don’t leave the dancefloor; everyone else in the hall joins them – and the party goes on and on. Undoubtedly, there are noteworthy traditions in Mexican weddings, but these are the most recognizable differences.