Photo: Juanjo Vega Photography
This post is for all of you out there planning your destination weddings in Spain. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to the cultural differences. Most likely, you are not aware of these things, so in order for your destination wedding to go on smoothly, and for you to have a better understanding of the local traditions, I highly recommend you to read through the entire post.
If you are hiring a local wedding planner, which I totally recommend, we already know these differences and will inform the venue, catering and other vendors about it. But if you are organizing a wedding by yourself, these are some things that might be useful for you to know about.
It will depend on the time of the year that you are getting married. Spring weddings can be celebrated either in the morning or in the afternoon. Summer weddings are almost always celebrated in the late afternoon (earliest 17:00) or evenings to avoid the worst heat. So please, if you’re planning a summer wedding in Spain, don’t make your guests suffer in the mid day heat! Winter weddings are celebrated during day time due to the light. Keep this in mind when you speak about the starting time of the wedding with your venue. They should know when it’s the ideal time to start the wedding on your date.
SITTING DOWN DURING CEREMONY
Spanish wedding ceremonies always includes two chairs or a love seat for the couple at the ceremony. The norm is that the couple will sit down together facing away from the guests looking at the priest or officiant. A more modern way of doing this which is very popular here now is to have the couple seated in a love seat so they can face both the officiant and the guests. The couple will stand up just before the changing of the rings or when reading their vows. So if your venue ask you about the chairs for the ceremony, now you know why.
NO WEDDING PARTY
In Spain the practice of having various bridesmaids and groomsmen is not a tradition. Inform your venue of how many people will be in your bridal party. Also the DJ (if you have one taking care of the music) or the musician should know this so they can adapt. The procession order is also slightly different from British wedding ceremonies. The groom will walk the aisle with his mother, who will stand with him at the altar util the bride arrives. The bride will traditionally walk the aisle with her father, even though some brides will walk the aisle with both parents because they can’t imagine walking down the aisle without their mother. After all we’re in Spain, where family is very highly valued. You will notice that this is a red thread through the entire wedding.
NO BOUQUET THROWING
It’s not something they do here. The bride will either keep the bouquet, or give it away to somebody special close to her heart. Either her mother, grandmother, sister, or a very close friend.. This is the most honorable gift you can get as a guest. It’s also quite common to bring the bouquet to the cemetery if she has a special person who is no longer alive, for example a mother, grandmother or sister. If you are planning to throw the bouquet, you might want to inform the venue and photographer about it so they know that it will happen and when.
Spanish weddings will always keep families and friends seated together as far as it’s possible. On the main table together with the couple, the bride will sit to the left and the groom to the right just like in other countries. However, the traditional seating at the main table at Spanish weddings are the bride, groom, parents of both of them, and the grandparents. However, it’s more common now to just have the bride and groom with both their parents.
Sweetheart tables are not very common even though some trendy couples might go for that option. The main table can either be a long table facing the other guests or a round or oval table. The guests will be seated at round tables of 6-10 persons each.
I’m not talking about the favors, but about other gifts such as flowers, or other presents. These are usually given during the dinner or reception. It’s a way to say thank you and “honor” guests such as the grand parents, or other people who might have been involved in planning the wedding or who have helped out financially.
Traditionally the bride and groom will circulate between the tables during the dinner to give the favors personally to each guest, in that way they also get the opportunity to thank each guest personally for coming and have a little chit chat. Inform your venue or catering how you wish to go about it.
In Spanish weddings there are no speeches during the meal, there will be no slide shows, or “roasts”.. During the dinner people will be focusing on enjoying the food and company, as well as yell things to the bride and groom (“kiss!” kiss!” is common), the guest will not stop yelling until the couple stand up on their chairs and kiss each other, followed by applause. Waving in the air with napkins to the music is also common practice. There will be background music.
Also remember that the gifts and favors will be handed out during the dinner. In other words, there will be very little time for speeches. It’s very common to select a specific, meaningful song for each individual who will receive a special gift and play that song when the couple is approaching that person with the gift. If the couple wishes siblings or friends to say a few words, this will be done during the actual ceremony. It’s very common that 2 or more friends/family members will read something or say a few words. However, it’s not common to have many speeches during the dinner and if you are planning to have that, you have to sit down with them and decide when and where it will be done in order for the catering to run on smoothly.
Almost all Spanish weddings have some sort of free bar. It can be free bar of only beer, wine and cava, and if guests wishes to order spirits they need to pay for it. If you are planning to have a partial free bar or a cash bar at your wedding, you need to ask the venue in advance because it’s not sure that they offer this. Many venues also include 1 or 2 hours of free bar in the menu price. Sometimes you are obliged to add the free bar service, since they don’t allow cash bars.
And that’s it! There are of course many more things, but these are the ones that came to my mind. I hope you find it helpful!