Mexican wedding traditions are an integral part of the cultural heritage of Mexicans. They love socializing along with food, music, and fun, that’s the nature of all their events.
Mexican weddings are not an exception. “Boda a la Mexicana” is a vivid and impressive show with a lot of guests (the list can count more than 150 persons). It will amaze you with colorful Latino decors, expressive sounds of Mariachi music, the wonderful tastes and smells of traditional Mexican meals and for sure with dynamic and showy Mexican rituals.
Adding some of Mexican traditions to your wedding you can create a warm welcoming family atmosphere or perform a grandiose and eye-catching celebration full of joy and fun.
Table of Contents
Mexican Pre-Wedding Traditions
Proposal & Wedding preparations
In the traditional Mexican community, the father is the head of the household. He alone (or together with the grandfather) plays a crucial role in the whole marriage process.
The groom’s family visits the bride’s family to ask for the bride’s hand in marriage. During this visit, the father of the bride has to officially “approve” the union. The name of this procedure is “Pedir”, which means “to request”. La Pedida is Spanish for “father’s approval”. Traditionally, it is he who pays most wedding costs. If his consent is obtained, the families arrange dates for the wedding.
Traditionally, the couple expects that relatives and the inner circle of the Mexican community will help them financially to go through the marriage process. Wedding sponsors are usually elder close relatives and married couples.
Other members of the family also play a very important role in wedding preparations. The godfathers “Padrinos” and godmothers “Madrinas” have several duties. They will:
- advise the couple through the whole wedding planning process,
- be partial sponsors of the wedding,
- be responsible for specific items such as “las arras” (gift wedding coins), el lazo (the wedding lasso), or rings.
- witness the marriage in the state office.
The Mexican wedding tradition of sponsoring has its roots in a centuries-old Catholic idea when a godfather was a spiritual mentor of young people. Being chosen as a godfather is still a great honor in the Catholic Latino society. The godfathers and godmothers are often examples of faith, love, and devotion that the couple would like to emulate in their marriage.
More about the duties of the Padrinos and Madrinas and the importance of wedding sponsors at a Mexican wedding you can find here.
In the modern Mexican wedding tradition, wedding festivities are not possible without bachelorette or bachelor parties, so-called «Despedida de soltera/ solteros». The bride and groom make it separate from each other.
The Bachelorette party usually begins in the evening at about 6 p.m. Bridesmaids can gather at the bride’s home. Sometimes the primary godmother “los primeros madrina” hosts the bridal shower.
Bridesmaids bring small presents to the bride. She also gives them gifts in response. This exchange of presents is important not only as an expression of gratitude but also as a “financial support”. A bride gives all her girl’s clothes to bridesmaids implying that she as a married woman will not wear them. Bridesmaids present things that are useful for the household: interior decorations, tableware, sewing accessories.
Traditional Mexican Wedding dress
Traditional Mexican bridal dress
In the past, Mexican wedding attire depended on the part of the country the couple was from. “Vestido de novia” (a wedding dress) could differ from region to region. In the state of Oaxaca located in the south of the country, wedding dresses had a lot of lace and other decorations. A dress in the region of Zinacantan in the state of Chiapas even included goose feathers. They symbolized economic power and beauty. As you see, traditional Mexican attires are a rich inheritance of the local design.
After the arrival of Spaniards to Mexico, Spain fashion and culture influenced wedding dresses. For example, the mantilla style veil instead of the regular veil is a Spanish heritage. The bride and her family members usually sewed a wedding dress at the expense of the groom’s party.
Nowadays, “la Novia Mexicana” (a Mexican bride):
- wears a white wedding dress,
- puts on lingerie with garters,
- does not put pearls on,
- uses three different flower bouquets for different moments during the wedding.
There are some rules for the bridal dress in the case of the church ceremony. At the church, a Mexican bride wears a bolero jacket or bridal shawl to cover her bare shoulders. She also has to wear a veil covering her head.
In the past, a Mexican groom wore a traditional shirt called “guayabera” with linen or black pants. This shirt had four small patch pockets and two rows of vertical, fine pleats. It was first designed about two centuries ago. Today it appears in many variations. Latin American leaders and Mexican Presidents adorn guayaberas to formal events internationally. The Mexican groom can also choose a guayabera instead of a usual wedding tuxedo.
Wedding Party Attire
In a traditional Mexican wedding, the bridesmaids and groomsmen can wear matching colors. The bridesmaids’ dresses are to match the tie or the cummerbund worn by the groomsmen. The ring bearers’ and flower girls’ dresses usually match the groom or bride or the bridesmaids and groomsmen ones.
Mexican Wedding Ceremony
Wedding Day Preparations
On the wedding day in the morning, the bride will get her makeup and her hair done in the salon or at her home with the help of bridesmaids. At this point, a photographer can make several Getting Ready Shots.
Before the bride leaves her home her mother says a prayer to guide and protect the girl.
Traditionally, a Mexican bride and her whole family go in a procession from the home to the cathedral (or the state office in case of a civil ceremony). The groom and groom’s party from his home makes the same. This is a public show of the family’s pride in getting their daughter/son married.
Nowadays, the groom may pick the fully dressed bride up and go to the locations to make a photo session. During that time, the groomsmen and bridesmaids may join the couple, along with the couple’s parents, to take some pictures together. First Look shots and Group photos are convenient to take before the afternoon church ceremony. The couple just may not find another possibility to make it because of their intense wedding timeline.
Mexican Church Ceremony
The majority of Mexicans identify themselves as being Catholic. That’s why Mexican wedding ceremonies are usually held at the Catholic church and are full of church rituals. However, some couples organize only a civil ceremony at the state office.
The Mexican “Novia y el Novio” (bride & groom) go during the Catholic church ceremony through the following steps:
Catholic Wedding Mass
Both parents walk the bride and groom down the aisle. In Mexican culture, both parents are equally important for the child. Padrinos de honor may walk in the procession after the parents. They may also stand next to the maid of honor and best man during the ceremony. After all the guests will take their seats, the priest performs the wedding ceremony implemented into a Catholic mass. At some point of the mass, the bride and groom kneel on a special pillow at the church’ to pray. The kneeling pillow is the present of godparents and newlyweds will keep it as mementos of their special day.
Exchange of Consent & Rings
After the mass, the bride and groom exchange consents (or vows) and the pastor reads from the Bible. At the same moment, the bride and groom exchange rings.
“Las Arras Matrimoniales” tradition
The groom gives the bride the 13 gold coins “las Arras Matrimoniales”. This ritual originated in Spain, and the number represents Jesus & the twelve apostles. This groom’s gift symbolizes his commitment to supporting the bride.
Ritual of Holy Communion
After the vows have been received, the couple may take the Holy Communion (or Eucharist). The couple kneels at their place or approaches the altar where the priest faces them. He prays for the couple then extends his hands over the bride and groom and offers the blessing. After he distributes wine and bread, beginning with the newly married couple.
Wedding Lasso “El Lazo” ritual
After the exchange of vows, it’s time for one of the most interesting Mexican wedding traditions. Godparents or best friends place around the necks of the couple an oversized rosary or a silk cord — a so-called “unity lasso” that represents the bride and groom’s future together, the joining of two lives. Tradition requires the couple to wear the lasso for the remainder of the service.
Presentation of the Bridal Bouquet “Ofrenda”
After the last blessings of the priest, the bride takes one of the prepared bouquets and presents it at the feet of an image of the Virgin Mary asking her to bless the future life. Other bouquets are prepared for the bride to carry in photos and at the reception.
After the wedding ceremony, it’s time for La Callejoneada, a parade in the streets that gets everybody in in the mood to celebrate. The new married couple with all the family and friends accompanied by live musicians (often mariachis or the municipal band) begins a journey to the location where the wedding reception will take place. A large part of the city usually joins this processional. This is an amazing tradition where the whole town comes out of their homes to greet the newlyweds.
Mexican Wedding Reception or “La fiesta en una boda mexicana”
For most Mexican families, marriage is a good reason to celebrate on a grand scale. Relatives and friends will help with the organization of the big event and a big “pachanga” (party) will take place.
Mexican wedding traditions suggest that a wedding reception can last up to 2 days. It’s not surprising because a Mexican wedding reception can include numerous rituals (not to mention a hearty dinner and lots of drinks). Down there are some of the rituals.
First Dance or “Primer baile”
This performance is one of the most famous Mexican American wedding traditions. Guests surround the newlyweds while they enjoy their first dance that is sometimes also called the waltz of the bride and groom (or “el vals de los novios”). Although the music can be not a waltz at all. After that, the couple dances with their parents and padrinos as a sign of respect. Then the dance floor is open to all the other guests. Some suitable songs for the First Dance at a Mexican wedding reception you can find here.
Money Dance or “Baile del Billete”
Money dance that is sometimes called a “dollar dance” in the United States arrived from Spain. This tradition exists also in other (even non-Latino) countries.
The money dance is a small performance to give money to the couple. It can happen immediately after the First Dance. Male guests “pay” for a dance with the bride, and female guests “pay” for a dance with the groom by pinning dollars on their attire. Sometimes guests can simply throw the cash on the dance floor and someone from the family will collect the cash so as not to ruin the wedding attire.
Mexican Wedding Music
At a Mexican reception, the most common music options are to hire a DJ in the Western format, or Mariachi, or a Latin band, so-called “conjunto norteño”.
Mariachi is a kind of traditional Mexican folk music, performed by a small group of musicians. They are very popular at Latino weddings and can be invited at the cocktail hour or ceremony even before the reception starts. They can stay all night or just one hour giving the whole wedding an unforgettable folk touch.
En conjunto norteño is also a type of Mexican folk ensemble. It includes different musical instruments such as an accordion, a bass, drums, and sometimes saxophone. Norteño, also musìca norteña, is a genre of Northern Mexican music that this ensemble plays. It’s very popular, especially among the Mexican and Mexican-American community. Some popular norteño artists are Ramón Ayala, Intocable, Los Cadetes de Linares, Los Alegres de Terán, etc.
Traditional Mexican wedding dances & activities
Mexicans dance a lot at weddings and catch any opportunity to move and take part in group activities.
One of the famous traditional Mexican wedding dances is a sea snake “la vibora de la mar”. It gives a possibility for the guests to have breaks between meals 🙂 and fun together including the newly married couple.
One more traditional Mexican dance is very popular at weddings. It’s a Hispanic line dance to the song No Rompas más mi Probre Carazón.
One of the most hilarious and showy Mexican wedding traditions is a so-called “el muertito”. During the reception, male guests lift the groom over the shoulders of all and then toss him several times into the air. Sometimes, the guests take off his shoes and put money and gifts into them.
Creating more fun at the reception, the couple can perform the “El Baile del mandilon”. The groom wearing a woman’s apron, having a broom, or even carrying a baby acts as a good husband while the bride “hits” him with a belt. This funny ritual symbolizes the end of the groom’s single life and demonstrates his willingness to obey the future wife.
Throwing of the Bouquet & Garter Toss or “Lanzar el Ramo & Tirar la Liga”
Similar to Western variants of throwing the bouquet, single ladies gather around the bride. She throws a flower bouquet towards the group. The woman who catches flowers is going to get married next.
The Hispanic weddings tradition “Tirar la Liga” is what is known as the Garter Toss in the U.S. The groom removes his bride’s garter, surrounded by his single male family and friends. While the bride remains sitting, the friends grab the groom and mess around with him on the dance floor. The groom may be lifted by all the male guests until at some point the music will stop and the groom has to throw the garter without looking towards the gathered group of men. The man who catches the garter is believed to be the one to marry next.
Traditionally, the lady who caught the bouquet dances in front of the entire party with the man who caught the garter.
Sometimes Mexican wedding receptions have a piñata. Inside this colorful container made of papier-mâché, there are candies, fruits, and small gifts. Usually, children break it and share candies among guests.
As you can see, Mexican wedding traditions include fun in all formats. You will find a very colorful cheerful and funny party rather than an officious and ceremonious banquet. Mexicans look forward to having fun and enjoy a wedding celebration in full.
Traditional Mexican Wedding Meals & Drinks
Traditional Mexican delicacies are an important part of a wedding banquet. The main point here is the variety: multiple types of meat, vegetables of any kind, sauces, and salsas. Here are some traditional meals:
- tacos or tortillas (folded or rolled tortilla filled with various mixtures),
- tamales (seasoned meat and maize flour steamed or baked in maize husks),
- pork carnitas (braised or roasted pork served shredded in small pieces),
- chiles rellenos (stuffed poblano peppers),
- enchiladas (tortillas served with chili sauce and a filling of meat or cheese).
Most Mexican-style weddings will have an open bar, serving everything from traditional Mexican beers and tequila to margaritas. Some Mexican banquets will serve sweet, flavored water beverages so-called “aguas frescas” for the kids and non-drinkers. Traditional flavors for these non-alcoholic drinks are horchata (rice and cinnamon), tamarind, limon (lime), and sandia (watermelon).
Traditional Mexican Wedding Cake & Dessert Table
At modern Mexican receptions, it’s easy to find a whole table stacked with displays of various desserts. Traditional Mexican desserts include:
- three milks “tres leches” cakes (a sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream),
- flan Mexicano or creme caramel,
- polvorones (Mexican wedding cookies),
- Pastel de almendra (an almond sponge cake)
- buñuelos (fried fritters)
- pan dulce (a kind of sweet bread).
There are lots of different desserts in the Mexican cuisine, but a wedding cake “el Pastel de Boda” is such an integral part of a Mexican wedding reception as in the Western tradition. It can be decorated very colorfully and elaborated. The bride and groom will cut it together and share it among guests.
It’s also traditionally for Mexican wedding receptions to present guests small gifts as mementos for the celebration.
Wedding after-party celebrations or La Torna Boda
The end of the wedding reception does not mean the end of the party. “La Torna Boda” is a small party after the reception, or sometimes the next day. Usually, it’s only for the family and very close friends. Close relatives and intimate friends can help to open gifts and celebrate in an informal circle.
Mexican wedding traditions combine ancestral Mayan and Aztec rituals, Spanish customs, and modern wedding trends. Many are common throughout Mexico, others are regional and there may be also very local traditions. If you wish to incorporate some of them into your wedding time plan I recommend consulting your Mexican partner or closest relatives to be sure that all the rituals are appropriate in your local Mexican community. And after, just enjoy your colorful and spectacular Mexican wedding :).