Chapter One: Engagement
You're engaged! Congratulations and viva el amor! Before tacking the many details of your wedding, enjoy this time of happiness with your spouse-to-be. Because a Latino wedding is traditionally a family affair, you can count on your parents -- the main representatives of your household -- to relay the good news, so tell them first. The announcement is guaranteed to travel quickly through the family communication network. A party to celebrate may be in order. This will give the families a chance to meet if they haven't already.
Formally announce your engagement through your community newspapers. Contact the society or lifestyle editor and ask for engagement announcement forms. Some newspapers will include your engagement photograph with the announcement.
During this period, a token of the engagement is given. The groom-to-be presents an engagement ring, usually a diamond solitaire, to his future bride as a symbol of remembrance and promise.
Other engagement jewelry may be a birthstone setting or an heirloom piece customized and updated for the occasion. A reputable jeweler can work with your design preferences d budget and can assist in selecting an engagement ring to complement your wedding bands.
the use of gold or silver for the wedding bands follows in the spirit of the conquistadores, who found an abundance of these precious metals among the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan civilizations and in the mines of the southwestern United States. The bands are exchanged during the wedding ceremony to symbolize the strength and eternity of love.
Courtship and Betrothal Customs
In rural villages, when a man was interested in a woman, he would try to impress her (and hope to gain her favor) by serenading her at sundown. She would sit by her window and listen to his romantic songs. if she reciprocated the interest, she would invite him into her home to meet her family. Her father would inquire about his background to ensure that his daughter would be marrying a decent man.
Because Latinos value the family, visits between the couple's relatives were an integral part of the premarriage ritual to bond together not only the man and woman but the families as well. The man's family would visit the woman's family and present or exchange gifts of chocolate or ground cacao, food items, (tortillas or tamales among the Aztecs), household articles, handmade clothing, pottery, alcoholic beverages, or smoking tubes. The formal betrothal (el prendorio), when the groom -- or his family representative (el portador/la portadora) -- would ask for the bride's hand (la petición de mano), was considred the most respectable act in the courtship process.
Dates were chaperoned to ensure that the Christian bride was a virgin. Some Amerindians also viewed a bride's chastity as a virtue, while others viewed premarital cohabitation as a test for a compatible marriage.
With a wedding come many opportunities for parties. The most common are showers, a bridal gathering, the bachelor party, and the rehearsal dinner.
Showers. The modern-day shower has evolved from the centuries-old practices of the dowry system. A dowry was the wealth a bride brought to her marriage. if the bride's father disapproved of the groom and refused to pay a dowry, or if he could not afford a sufficient dowry, kindhearted relatives and friends would "shower" the couple with money and necessities.
In the Spanish dowry system, the bride or her father gave a dowry to the groom or to the groom and his family. In the past in the Latino community, once the father of the bride gave permission for his daughter to marry, the groom assumed financial responsibility for her and for the entire wedding. Today, members of the wedding party (padrinos) help with the wedding expenses by sponsoring such items as the invitations, cake, flowers, favors, or decorations. In addition, the bride and groom are showered with gifts from their registry at prewedding parties. Traditional showers may feature Latino food, Latino music, and decorations of minisombreros or lace falls.
Bachelorette and Bachelor Parties. The bachelorette bash or bridal gathering is a party given by either the bride or someone close to the bride, to celebrate her last days as a single woman with her attendants, closest friends, and relatives. The gathering of friends can be a dinner at a Latino restaurant, a party in the bride's home, a picnic, or a gathering at a club. Gifts are exchanged. The bride presents her attendants vitb special keepsakes of the wedding and thanks all present for their help and support in planning her upcoming wedding. The bride typically receives a gift of lingerie from her attendants at the bachelorette party.
In similar fashion, the groom, or someone close to him, hosts, a party for his close friends and attendants. Plan to hold the bachelor party at least a week before the wedding, so it will not compete with other last-minute events. The bachelor party has earned a risque reputation, but many parties are quieter affairs centered around a sports event, camping trip, or dinner out. A round of toasts is made to bid adiós to the groom's past and to wish him good luck. It is an old, but costly, custom to make a toast in the name of the bride and then smash the glasses so that no toasts of a higher order can be made. Grooms may take this opportunity to present gifts -- such as engraved pens or key rings, gift certificates, leather wallets or other leather goods, or pewter mugs -- to their attendants.
Rehearsal Dinner. The day before the wedding, all those who will participate in the ceremony -- attendants, parents, godparentsponsors, and sponsors -- gather to practice their roles under the direction of the officiant or wedding coordinator. The rehearsal is just what it implies. Respect the rehearsal director's authority. A full, smooth rehearsal will work wonders to reduce your anxiety about the ceremony. Take your checklist of wedding responsibilities and note any items forgotten or overlooked. Practice until all are sure of their parts. Manage your time wisely; set the rehearsal time in late afternoon, so there will be time to enjoy the dinner and still end the evening early enough for all to get plenty of rest for the full day that follows.
The rehearsal dinner is an intimate and relaxed time with those closest to you -- your family and entourage. It follows the rehearsal and is traditionally hosted by the groom's family or by godparent-sponsors for the wedding party and their dates or spouses. Whether the dinner is a formal, sit-down meal or a potluck supper in a home, take this time to enjoy the company of your wedding party, review notes for the wedding, and celebrate the unity of two families and two people in love. Purchase a special memory book and have everyone at the rehearsal dinner write their thoughts and best wishes in it. The dinner is also another opportunity for the bride and groom to present tokens of appreciation to the entourage, parents, and godparent-sponsors if thank-you gifts haven't already been given.
The Wedding Planning Calendar
Before setting the wedding date, consider the honeymoon location and dates, work vacation and dates, work vacations, seasons and weather conditions, menstrual cycle, prior family commitments on both sides, holidays, reception site availability, and the officiant's calendar.
Latino Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, must consult their priest or minister to set a wedding date. Catholic weddings may not be held during Lent, Holy Week, or Advent or on certain holy days, such as Easter and Christmas, although a very simple ceremony may be permitted on these days to accomodate unusual circumstances.
Catholics must have a church ceremony for the marriage to be recognized as valid. A formal wedding with a high nuptial mass that includes communion takes place shortly before or at noon. A semi-formal wedding is generally held in the morning. An informal wedding, or a ceremony without a celebration of mass, is held in the afternoon before the regularly scheduled evening mass.
Protestants have fewer restrictions on the date, place, and time for a wedding ceremony, but some holy days and days that conflict with scheduled church services or activities may not be available. The minister or church secretary will be able to answer your questions about available dates and times.
Jews (usually of Sephardic heritage) must consult a rabbi before setting a wedding date. Nuptial practices vary among Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews. Orthodox Jewish law permits celebration of a wededing ceremony any day except the Sabbath -- that is, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday -- holy days and festivals including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot; but exceptions can be made for Hanukkah and Purim. Although Jewish weddings are most often held in synagogues, a canopy (chuppah) may lie raised at any site that offers a sense of holiness for the couple.
Muslims, (usually of Moorish heritage) must follow the Islamic calendar for nuptial celebrations. Although the civil and religious contracts are usually signed in a secular office, such as a judge's chamber, Muslim wedding rituals are held in a mosque and the wedding date is set after consulting the imam, or clergyman.
If you and your partner are of different faiths or denominations, talk with the officiant who will conduct the ceremony about appropriate dates and times. There may be restrictions or special requirements.
Should you choose to exchange vows at the courthouse before a justice of the peace, be aware that federal and state buildings are closed on holidays. Also, the time of the ceremony is limited to normal business hours during weekdays. Of course, you may hire a judge to hear your vows wherever and whenever you choose to hold your wedding.
Once the date is set and confirmed, begin planning and organizing the numerous details.
THE WEDDING COORDINATOR
Perhaps the predecessor of a wedding coordinator was the matchmaker (el casamentero/la casamentera). The Mayans often consulted ah atanzahob to set the wedding date according to the couple's astrological signs, make arrangements for the, ceremony and reception, and negotiate the amount of the dowry.
Wedding Planning Guide
One Year to Six Months Before
Announce your engagement to your family. Write personal notes or call distant relatives.
Set and confirm the wedding date and time for ceremony and rehearsal.
Check with local newspapers for instructions on how to announce both your engagement and your wedding.
Decide on the sites for ceremony and reception, and reserve them nine months in advance.
Choose wedding rings.
Envision your wedding and decide on the degree of formality and a style. Choose the Latino traditions and customs you will incorporate, and order items needed from specialty catalogs.
Pick a dominant color and motif for the wedding. Decide on decorations and flowers that will match the wedding theme.
Make a realistic budget and discuss how wedding expenses will be shared.
Visit and interview prospective vendors, among them caterers, bakers, florists, photographers, and musicians. Ask for a copy of each company's typical wedding service contract. Ask about the various wedding services or packages available and prices.
Select members of your entourage.
Choose your wedding godparent-sponsors (padrinos).
Six Months Before
Consider hiring a professional wedding coordinator who is familiar with Latino traditions and customs.
Negotiate contracts with florist, caterer, baker, musicians photographer, videographer, and other vendors.
Begin searching for wedding clothing for the bride and groom, the entourage, and the godparent-sponsors. Allow six months for ordering and custom tailoring or for rental reservation.
Compile a tentative guest list.
Establish gift registries in stores.
Make honeymoon decisions. Book reservations six months in advance. Apply for passports and visas, and get inoculations as needed for foreign travel.
Reserve accommodations for the wedding night if the honeymoon won't begin immediately.
If live musicians are not booked for the reception, engage the services of a disc jockey.
Arrange for limousine rental.
Four Months Before
Prepare the final guest list.
Order all wedding stationery, including invitations, announcements, programs, napkins, and imprinted favors.
Attend premarital counseling sessions.
Have a physical examination. Fulfill any requirements for blood tests or other legally required health examinations.
Select readings for the ceremony.
Prepare a rehearsal schedule.
Set reception menu with caterer.
Keep in contact with the caterer, baker, musicians, photographer, and florist. Check on their progress.
Order your wedding cake.
Make final musical selections with soloists and other musicians for the ceremony and the reception.
Have an engagement photograph made.
Work with the photographer to develop a list of wedding and reception photographs.
Set the final order with the florist.
Pay deposits to vendors according to contract terms.
Two Months Before
Address and mail invitations. Hire a calligrapher if desired.
Arrange for transportation and accommodations for out-of-town guests.
Choose and reserve the groom's and the groomsmen's tuxedos.
Buy accessories for the entourage, including jewelry, shoes, gloves, and purses.
Assign responsibilities and roles to the members of the entourage. Ask for help with Spanish/English interpretation and with logistics such as parking and traffic, decorations, transportation for out-of-town guests, pickup and delivery of items to the wedding site, cleanup, and delivery of gifts to the newlyweds' home after the reception.
Prepare a schedule for reception activities.
Ask someone to serve as emcee at your reception, someone to attend to the guest book and gift table, and someone to give out the wedding programs.
Open new bank accounts.
Draw up a prenuptial agreement if you feel it is important.
Confirm all arrangements with vendors.
Make appointments with the hair stylist, makeup consultant, and manicurist for personal grooming.
One Month Before
Decide whether Anglo-American practice or Latino practice will be followed if the bride will assume her groom's family name (see "Name Changes" in chapter 2). After the wedding, register name changes with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, the Social Security office, and your employer. Bring a copy of your marriage license for proof.
Complete the proper forms by the deadline given for newspaper announcements of your wedding.
Update your gift registries. Write thank-you notes as gifts are received.
Make sure all is in order for the move to your new residence.
Buy gifts for your spouse-to-be, the entourage members, and your godparent-sponsors.
Make a seating plan for the reception.
Apply for your marriage license.
Give the caterer the final guest count.
Two Weeks Before
Address wedding announcements and have them ready to mail the day of the wedding.
Confirm wedding night accommodations and pick up tickets for honeymoon travel.
Schedule final fittings and pick tip all wedding clothes ,and accessories.
One Week Before
Pack for the wedding trip.
Move belongings into your new home.
Check with stores at which you have registered and pick up gifts.
Contact all vendors to confirm last-minute details.
Continue writing thank-you notes for gifts received.
Attend prewedding parties.
Greet your out-of-town guests.
Write checks for ceremony officiant, musicians, and others to be paid at the wedding. Place the checks in labeled envelopes.
The Wedding Day
Allow plenty of time to dress and get to the ceremony site.
Have your wedding coordinator or a friend ascertain that all members of the wedding party have all items needed for their parts in the ceremony, and that all flowers and decorations are in place, the cake is delivered, and the musicians are set up.
Ask the best man to see that all vendors receive payment and gratuities
Mail wedding announcements to those unable to attend or who were not invited to the wedding.
Pack a just-in-case emergency kit; include a needle and thread, nail file, extra hosiery, aspirin, and tissues.
Eat a light snack two hours before the ceremony. You'll need the energy.
Be aware of the time and stay on schedule, even if Latino time is usually late!
Copyright © 2000 by Edna R. Bautista