It's that time of the year again - sunny days and warm spring temperatures are ushering in the wedding season in Spain. 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.
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.
A bride in her wedding dress. Photo: Mikel Agirregabiria/Flickr.
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 customize 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.
A peacock feather tocado. Photo: tiffany terry/Flickr.
Hair and Makeup
It’s fine to do your own hair and makeup, but most 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.
These days, bank deposits or straight-up cash are much more common than the outdated norm of wedding registries and presents.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.
The beautiful beaches and warm weather draws couples to Costa del Sol all year round. Towns and cities 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.
A wedding in Barcelona. Photo: Joan Nova/Flickr.
Keep in mind that most Spanish weddings are much larger than their British or American counterparts. 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.
The pre-dinner apéritif and finger foods are abundant and delicious. Be prepared for a lot of beer, wine, seafood, and jamón. Afterwards, 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.
A refreshing glass of sangria. Photo: Varitatio Delectat/Flickr.
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.
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.
Photo: Ally Mauro/Flickr.
It's likely the night won't end until you've had a 6 a.m. 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!
Playa de Bolonia in Cádiz, a popular beach wedding destination. Photo: Cayetano/Flickr.