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The ultimate guide to Spanish wedding etiquette

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Shwetali Sapte - [email protected]
The ultimate guide to Spanish wedding etiquette
Spanish weddings have their own set of rules and traditions that are different from those in the UK or Spain. Photo: Alagich Katya/Flickr.

Wedding season in Spain is upon us again. If you've been invited to one and have never been to a Spanish wedding before, here's what to expect.

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If you’re new to the country and have never attended a Spanish wedding, The Local brings you a few nuggets of wisdom to help you prepare for the spectacle.

Dress code

Always remember the golden rule: white is for the bride only. A more informal rule is that short dresses work best for day weddings, while longer ones are preferred at night. Other than that, feel free to dress up as much as you like; casual weddings are almost unheard of in Spain and ladies usually don their best cocktail dresses. The same goes for men – dark suits and ties are expected.


White is only for the bride. Photo: Wu Jianxiong / Unsplash
 

Accessories

Spanish weddings are littered with quirky accessories. You’ll see a lot of brightly coloured clutch purses, and more unusually tocados, known as fascinators in the UK. These are feathery, floral little headpieces common at day weddings. You can buy one for as little as €10, or spend a bit more to customise your own. As for shoes, always wear heels, and carry a pair of roll-up flats to change into if you’d like – receptions involve dancing and can carry on into the wee hours of the morning. 

You'll also find that a fan - colour-coordinated with your outfit, of course - is the perfect way to keep your cool during the ceremony. 

Accessories such as fascinators and hats are popular. Photo: Brett Jordan / Unsplash
 

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Hair and Makeup

It’s fine to do your own hair and makeup, but most Spanish women have their hair professionally styled for the occasion. Remember that you'll probably never attend a casual Spanish wedding - if such a thing exists - and guests are ALWAYS expected to look their best. 

Prepare yourself for some quirky traditions 

From throwing rice at the newly married couple as they leave the church, to cutting up the groom's tie, sharing 13 gold coins or having the bride arrive in a carriage dragged along by oxen (if it's in Castilla y León), there are plenty of unique regional wedding traditions across Spain which can cause jaws to drop among foreign guests.

Wedding gifts

These days, bank deposits or straight-up cash are much more common than the outdated norm of wedding registries and presents. A couple will usually provide you with their bank information on the wedding invitation; you can simply transfer the money from your account or deposit a cheque with your name and a short congratulatory message. Unfortunately, the hardest part is deciding how much money to gift. At the very least, you are expected to cover the cost of your banquet meal at the wedding. A minimum of €75-100 per person is customary.

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Accommodation

Towns and villages along Spain’s coastline are enormously popular wedding destinations, and you’ll most likely have to travel to get there. These weddings are usually longer than one day and often include a welcoming dinner the evening before the big day. In that case, the couple will provide a number of suggestions to help their guests decide where to stay.


Many weddings take place away from large cities such as on the beach or remote villas. Photo: Arshad Pooloo / Unsplash

Seating

Keep in mind that most Spanish weddings are much larger than their British or American equivalents. You’re likely to meet extended family, friends, more friends, and even acquaintances. During the church service, the front rows are reserved for close family. At large weddings, it’s not unusual to stand through the service. You’ll receive an assigned seat number for dinner.

Banquet

The pre-dinner apéritif and finger foods are abundant and delicious. Be prepared for a lot of beer, wine, seafood, and jamón. Afterward, the banquet follows tradition; much like an average Spanish family dinner, the meal is served late (around 10pm) and is an opportunity to socialise. It’s an enjoyable affair that could last two or three hours.

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Sobremesa

This delightful Spanish term lacks an English equivalent. Sobremesa is the post-dinner period of relaxation that gives guests a chance to enjoy coffee and a slice of wedding cake before the dancing begins.

Wedding banquets are huge over-the-top affairs in Spain. Photo: CHUTTERSNAP / Unsplash

Dancing

Once the bride and groom have had their first dance, close family members have their turn on the dance floor. After that, it’s acceptable for all the other guests to join in. At this point, it’s probably a good idea to exchange those heels for a comfortable pair of flats; don’t be surprised if the dancing goes on until it’s nearly time for sunrise.

Pace yourself!

It's likely the night won't end until you've had a 6am breakfast of fresh churros dipped in hot chocolate. That's why it's important to pace yourself - enjoy the flowing drink, but don't go overboard as you will be expected to drink cocktails long into the night.

Wedding traditions vary from region to region, so you'll learn not only about Spanish culture but also regional cultures wherever you go. And most importantly, remember to have fun! 

 

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