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What to Expect as an American at a Spanish Wedding

Updated: Jun 6

We are coming into wedding season again, and I'm sitting here remembering the time a few years back that I attended a Spanish wedding. It was the wedding of my then-boyfriend, now-husband's cousin, and it. was. crazy.


Here's a few tips on what to expect as an American at a Spanish Wedding, so you'll be fully armed for the epic day that awaits you.


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1. Fascinators are not as "IN" as I thought


I was the only one at this wedding wearing some kind of headpiece. I thought for sure that it was en vogue, but perhaps not.


Apparently you can wear something called a tocado de novia, which is more for the bride, but in essence, fancy hairpieces are cool to don at a Spanish wedding.


You do you, because I think I stood out fashionably!

couple in grey and maroon

Meanwhile, DO dress to the nines. Everyone else does.



2. Expect a full Catholic Mass


Listen, I'm not claiming to be a good Catholic, but I've sat in churches and I got baptized, but I was still not ready for this full Catholic mass wedding. I guess I should have expected it, but it went on for what felt like forever, and of course it was all in Spanish.


I kind of popped in and out of coherence, when all of a sudden my boyfriend's cousin stood up, gave me hugs and kisses and everyone else was also hugging and kissing. I was caught totally off guard.


This is normal, Catholic stuff. Just go with it. Hug and kiss!


Then, sit back down and wonder, what on earth just happened?



3. There WILL be appetizers


Come mid afternoon in Spain it is typical to get the rumblies in your belly for a snack. I whispered to my boyfriend, "I hope there will be appetizers". Psha, why couldn't anyone warn me?


So, the whole wedding party dispersed for an hour or two before the reception began, and the father of the bride hosted a few of us family members for drinks and tapas across the street from the reception. Sweet, we'd get to eat finally!


If only I had known what was coming.


We entered the reception, and there were tuxedoed waiters passing around sushi, canapes, cheese, etc. Then, there was the jamon station. I took a plate to see the jamon man, and he starts to carve. And he's carving, and he's carving. Next thing I know, I've got an entire 12" plate full of jamon for a family. I'm thinking, I can't eat all this!


Well, the custom is for someone to get the plate, then you find a group and start noshing together. How convivial!




Next up was the fideua. I had never seen fideua before and asked my boyfriend, "what's that Chinese noodle they are serving in the paella pan?" Again, how little I know compared to what I know now. That "Chinese noodle" was actually the regional paella dupe made with saffron, protein, and yes, thin fideo noodles. It's now one of my favorites!


So yea, with all that...I was pretty much tapped out. But dinner hadn't yet started.



4. Expect a 4-7 course meal


Another newbie mistake is to think Spaniards have a limit when it comes to food. They do not.


A typical pre-fixe meal consists of a full sized appetizer (one so big an American family would typically share it as a starter), followed by a mammoth entree, finishing with a full sized dessert (again, one that at least 4 forks would enter as an American).


Well, here at the Spanish wedding they amp that up by a couple entrees, one coming after the other, including intermezzo's like a sorbet!


The boys next to me ate so many plates, and kept asking for seconds. I couldn't believe my eyes. I told them they must have a hollow leg. Try explaining that to a Spaniard in broken phrases. We ended with their understanding of, "oh I get it, you put it in your shoe!".


Close enough.



5. "Viva Los Novios"


Throughout the meal and the rest of the event you will often hear random cries out loud, "Viva Los Novios!", with a boisterous echo from everyone, "VIVA!"


This is a toast to the bride and groom for long life and happy tidings. Anyone can start the cheer, and you'll hear it more and more as the evening goes on (and the drinks get stronger).



6. The bride and groom give YOU gifts


This one shocked me, as we witnessed the newlywed pair sauntering around the room giving out tokens of appreciation. There were cheers and laughter (and lots of red faces) as they were handing out placards to go around the necks of friends they hoped would soon wed.


Similar to a bouquet toss, these neck signs read, "Tu La Llevas", essentially indicating - "you're next" to be married.


wedding people wearing signs around their neck

They handed these around to maybe half a dozen couples then made their way to us. And guess what, they weren't wrong! We were married a year later.



7. The first dance at midnight


Aside from the food, I was holding my own pretty well as a non-Spanish speaker from America (my Spanish is superb now if I do say so myself). That is, until midnight rolled around.


Literally this 3pm wedding was still going on at midnight and the DJ says ok time for the first dance! I'm thinking ok, cool let's get this dancing part started how much more can there be?


Well, the first dance happens, but that's it. No invitations to the dance floor.



Instead, the DJ says well it's time to go to the basement disco!


Yes! I'm thinking, time to weed out the party people from the old people and kids. I'm happy to go up to my hotel room (in the same venue) and call it a night. The kids and grandpas would too!



8. Party in the disco


Wrong. The party in the basement disco is rowdy. The family is wearing props and munching on snacks again. Que!?!


I cower on a chair on the sidelines with a six year old and tell her in Spanish that I'm tired. She basically calls me a sissy.


party people wearing props


9. Meal number 3 in the disco!?


At this point, I've left for the night. It's 3am and the only person who left other than me was apparently my boyfriend's 90 year old grandfather. Great.


But we had a train in the morning! We needed our sleep!



10. Early morning finish


Well, around 6am my boyfriend rolls into the bedroom with enough time for maybe an hour or so of shut eye before we have to make our train.


Lesson learned: never book something important for the day after a Spanish wedding!



And if you are wise, wear your stretchy pants and get ready for a feast. What a wedding!

1 comment

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05 juin

Wow! That's quite a good way to celebrate a marriage! I hope I can attend a wedding like this someday!

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