Monday 27 April 2015

A Spanish wedding....

On Saturday we went to the wedding of one of our neighbours, and I thought I'd share some of the traditions and photos here.  The bride, Mari Carmen, is the youngest daughter of our friends and neighbours, Ignacio and Carmelita, and this wedding has been a long time in the planning.  The couple were going to get married a few years ago but what with the financial crisis that hit Spain quite badly, they decided to wait as the work on their future home was going to take longer.

The wedding was very traditional and Maria, as she prefers to be known, got ready at home and her closest girlfriends and other female relatives helped her to get ready.  Usually the family will gather at the homes of the bride and groom on the morning of the wedding and enjoy traditional pastries, usually deep fried then coated in sugar, honey and cinnamon....delicious but very fattening!!!

In the meantime, the neighbours gather outside the house to wait for the bridal party to leave for the church.

Maria and her dad, Ignacio, leave their house ....

Maria's dress was lovely, very simple with just the fabric flowers decorating one shoulder and the alternate cuff.  The back had a deep V neckline and tiny buttons doing the bottom part up.  The hemline flared out into a 'fish tale'.  She's a tiny girl, just about 4'10" or so, and I noticed she was wearing very very high sandals under the dress!

Like in the UK, the bride's mum tends to have a 'lesser' role in the wedding ceremony of a daughter, but the father 'gives the bride away' just as they traditionally do in the UK.  Below is Carmelita, the bride's mum, making a quick dash to the car taking her to the church!

In the UK the guests usually leave home well before the bride so that they are all in place at the church or registry office before the bride arrives, but here in Spain, everyone tends to wait in the street for the bride to leave the house, then once they've seen her and she gets in the car, everyone else drives off at high speed (well as high speed as you can get in these steep narrow streets of ours!) to get to the church before the bride and her father arrive!  And of course everyone hangs around outside the church for her to get there, only taking their seats once she's entered on the arm of her father.

Spanish brides traditionally don't have bridesmaids and the groom doesn't have a best man, the role of 'looking after the ring(s)' is undertaken by a small child, usually a member of the happy couples family or friends.  The grooms mother accompanies him down the aisle and more often than not she will wear the mantilla, or very long veil and  comb made of ivory or bone.  Here you can see the back of Jaime and his mother as they entered the church.  The second photo was quickly taken before the reception started, I just wanted a nice clear photo of her to share on here.

The four main 'players' in the actual ceremony are the bride's father, the bride and groom and the groom's mother.  However the couple can choose to have their other parent(s) present too in front of the alter.  In this case, Jaime and Maria chose to have their other parents sitting sideways on to them. 

Here is Jesús who was responsible for carrying the couple's rings into the church.  Wedding rings in Spain are worn on the ring finger of the right hand and not on the left as we do in the UK.  They are usually presented (tied) on a small cushion.  Jesús is Maria's nephew and I think he is now 4 years old.  You will notice that he is wearing shorts made from flowered cotton pique, which matches the fabric of the ring cushion.  I think I've mentioned before here on my blog that small Spanish boys will often be dressed in fabric with small flowers on it, until they are about 4 or 5 years old, especially for 'best'.  Lots of the little boys at the wedding were wearing similar outfits of the same fabric, some of the toddlers wore pale blue woollen tights under their shorts or 'rompers' and their shoes were cream leather Mary Jane's! 

Another Spanish tradition was that the groom used to present the bride with 13 coins known as 'arras'.  These were to represent his 'commitment' to support her.  However, times have now changed and today's brides and grooms exchange the coins as a symbol of the wealth and finances they will equally share.  On this occasion a little girl, wearing a dress of the same blue flowered cotton pique, carried the coins....I think she was Jaime's niece.  Here you just get a glimpse of her in the foreground as she prepares to follow the bride into the church.

Unlike weddings in the UK, there is no 'bride' or 'groom' sides of the church, you sit where you like.  A lot of people tend to 'mill about' in the side aisles taking photos and the children wander about also.  Spain is very child orientated and no-one would complain if children were running up and down, as they often are, or making a noise during the ceremony! 

Below you'll see the guests are still entering the church although the bride and groom are already at the alter with the priest.

The couple exchanging their vows.  You can see that the parents are all seated on small benches right in front of the alter.

The Readings and Bidding Prayers were read out by the children from both families.

The deed is done!!!  Below the happy couple :)

The bride's father Ignacio, the groom Jaime,Maria and her new mother in law!

The happy couple with both sets of parents!

 Carmelita checks out a photo or two of herself!  I hope they got her approval :)

Ignacio and Carmelita...oooops, he blinked!

When the newly weds leave the church, it's customary to throw rice and flower petals, sometimes there is also confetti which is printed to look like paper money and also occasionally chocolate coins.

This is my closest friend, Magdalena outside the church.

Our good friends, Magdalena and Joaquin!  

 Magdalena and I in the street outside where we live, before heading off to the reception!  Pity that we're both squinting into the sun!!!!

It looks like we've both got short hair here, but Magdalena's grandaughter Rocio, had spent the morning doing our hair for us.  She is a trainee hair stylist and did my hair in a lovely plait....of course I forgot to have a photo taken of it!!!  But I actually felt quite glamorous for a while there! ;)

Now on to the reception!  In our experience Spanish weddings seem to be big affairs with loads of guests and this one was no exception.  We estimated that there were about 400 guests in attendance, there was what we'd call the 'head' table for the bride and groom plus their immediate family, then there was another big long table in the middle with the extended family.  On top of all that there were 30 other big round tables, each seating about 12 guests.  The children had another long table of their own!   This number of people is about average these days.....but we've also heard of weddings here where there are well over a thousand attendees!!

The reception was held in one of several special venues here in our town, they are used mainly for weddings, 1st Holy Communions and Baptisms and hold well over a thousand people.  We started the afternoon outside in the street!  Waiting staff came round handing out drinks and tapas.  I tried gazpacho made with strawberries instead of tomatoes.....definitely an acquired taste and one that I don't think I'll be acquiring!!!  I am not that enamoured with what is basically strawberry juice with salt in it!!!!  Other delicacies included small spicy peppers stuffed with cheese, tuna or anchovies, prawns in batter, anchovies on toast, salmon marinaded with cheese and Spanish ham. 

Once inside and seated, our tables were laden with more Spanish ham, olives stuffed with anchovies, platters of various cheeses, octopus in olive oil, bread rolls and bread sticks and roasted almonds.  Then the waiting staff brought out big platters of cooked prawns.  As the plates were emptied, so they were refilled...and this was just for starters.  There was also a plentiful supply of wines, beers and soft drinks.

Then came the meal!!!  Yes, the rest of the food was just for starters!!!
The main meal consisted of firstly a thick soup of rice and seafood, it was delicious.  We then had lemon and mandarin sorbet and it definitely had a bit of alcohol in it!!!

Then onto the main course.  Mine was medallions of pork cooked on a griddle with the choice of a cider sauce or a gravy made from Port.  That was accompanied by 'patatas moneda' which are flat cut deep fried potatoes, and lightly cooked asparagus wrapped in bacon.  The vegetarian option was white fish, but surprisingly for veggies, the same asparagus wrapped in bacon!!  And finally, the dessert!!  There were two different desserts randomly distributed, mine was Crepe de Turron con nata de galleta, which is basically a delicious concoction of choux pastry on top of a thin biscuit and filled with nougat flavoured custard, then topped with cream and chocolate!!!  Brian's was Paris Brest de hojaldre, which is puff pastry filled with a lovely creamy mousse! 

Mine on the left, Brian's on the right!

As well as all the above mentioned food, there was also a long buffet table laden with sweets/candies for the children (or adults with a sweet tooth!!!) and another absolutely heaving under big trays of pastries like those above in the first photos!!!  

Once all the food was eaten, and let me tell you that took several hours, the music started.....and as with most weddings the 'warming up' songs were Spanish versions of the Oke Cokey and the Birdie Song!  I wonder if it's in an effort to work off all that food? :)

Another variation from UK weddings is that the guests do not buy actual 'gifts' to present to the newly weds, and neither is there a list of preferred presents.  The tradition is to give money so that the couple can buy what they need.  I guess that helps them not to receive three irons!! ;)
During the early part of the evening, after the food is finished, the couple will walk around the tables greeting their guests.  At this point they usually give out a little present to each of the attendees, it used to be that men received cigars and ladies would be given a hat pin or maybe a little mirror for their handbag.  However, this time each couple were all presented with a photograph of themselves which had been taken earlier in the day, which was a nice change.  And at the same time, the guests will hand a small envelope to the groom containing their monetary gift.  The amount given really depends on their relationship to the couple and how long or well you've known them, but would never be less than 100 euros.  No wedding cards are given but us being the only Brits there, I always like to give the newlyweds a wedding card, especially a handmade one as I think it makes a nice momento for them.

Finally a random photo of the chandelier above the dance floor, very prettily adorned with flowers.

One final tradition that unfortunately I didn't photograph is the custom of cutting the groom's tie into pieces and then auctioning it off for good luck and is usually carried out by the groom's closest friends.

The newlyweds are now off on their honeymoon, a cruise around the Mediterranean.  I hope they have a wonderful time and a very long happy life together!

I hope you've enjoyed reading about Maria and Jaime's wedding and perhaps a little insight into how weddings are 'done' here in Spain!


  1. Thank you for sharing this with us, I loved reading it and seeing the accompanying photos. The pastries alone looked to die for, as for the rest of the food yum! Love the fact they're child orientated, children aren't built to sit still and be quiet so what a refreshing change that is for us Brits, also fantastic idea that money is given, it's my chosen gift to people at weddings! Lovely Sharon, enjoyable read.
    You looked really lovely as did the bride her dress was simple and stunning x

    1. Aww thanks Louise, I'm glad you enjoyed reading about the wedding and seeing the photos.
      Yes, those pastries are my downfall, particularly as Brendan makes them for a living!!! He often brings things home for us .... not good ;)

  2. Fascinating Sharon. Loved seeing and hearing about all the traditions of marrying in Spain and the bride looked lovely and such a beautiful dress. Her mothers dusky pink outfit was lovely too!.
    I remember arriving at my wedding to find everyone waiting outside the Church to see me before the ushers could gather them up to go in ahead of me! I cannot imagine what it would be like to have them all strolling in while the service was taking place! lol

    You and Magdalena look lovely in your wedding finery and looks like you all had a lovely time.
    hugs Dee xx

    1. I'm really glad that you enjoyed it Dee, as I'm the same, I love hearing about other traditions whether they be for weddings or other events .... it's interesting that there are some things that are so different and yet others almost the same!

  3. What a beautiful wedding! And those pastries look delicious! Thanks for sharing this - it was great fun to read/see.

    The traditions you mentioned reminded me of my brother-in-law's wedding; they're not Spanish, but his wife is Ecuadoran and they married in Quito - the Spanish influence there must still be strong since it seems so similar.

    1. Thanks so much jSarie, I'm glad you enjoyed it!
      I would imagine that these traditions go with the people as they spread throughout the world, which is really intersting!

  4. Nice photos! I love seeing how different countries celebrate certain events. From your details, Spain sounds like a wonderful place to get married. You look lovely in your photo-that color really suits you quite well. How fun to feel glamours!! My brother's wedding is in 2 weeks and I can't wait to dress up :) I was curious how you found yourself living in Spain? Did you guys move for work or just for fun? :)

    1. Thank you Farrah, glad to hear that you enjoyed the photos. I laugh because I rarely feel glamorous and to be honest, my heels weren't high so not much glam there but it made a change from my usual very casual look !!!!
      I hope you have a great time at your brothers wedding and will be adding photos to your blog.
      We moved here in 2004 because we were fed up with the high cost of living in the UK as well as the bad regrets whatsoever I have to say! I would n't go back to living in the UK if they paid me! LOL

  5. Thanks, Sharon, for inviting me to view these beautiful Spanish wedding pictures. I especially loved hearing about the traditions surrounding children and their outfits. I enjoyed the pastries vicariously eaten. So sweet of you to share.

  6. Thanks a ton for sharing these reviews from the Spanish wedding. I am glad to see these brilliant photos. Love Spanish traditions! Recently attended a Spanish themed wedding at an event space and loved everything over there.

    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog post!

  7. Thanks for visiting and your comment.
    Please visit again in September when there will be another wedding, this time an Anglo/Hispanic wedding, with traditions from both countries and cultures, as my son will be marrying his Spanish girlfriend here in Spain!


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