Puerto Rican weddings represent a magical blend of Spanish, African, and Taino influences. And if you’ve ever attended such a wedding, you should know how joyful they can get.
This little island state in the Caribbean is famous for wedding ceremonies that combine colonial and indigenous cultures.
From timeless Puerto Rican wedding dresses to wedding traditions – each facet of this event tells a story of unique cultural mending.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about Puerto Rican wedding traditions, how they came to be, and how you can include these vibrant and captivating customs into your own wedding celebration.
- Puerto Rican weddings blend Spanish, African, and Taino cultural influences into joyful celebrations. The island’s history shaped its vibrant wedding customs.
- Traditional Puerto Rican weddings often take place in Catholic churches with elaborate floral decor. Beach venues are also popular.
- Unique wedding traditions include Las Arras, the wedding lasso, and playing coqui frog sounds during the ceremony.
- Lively receptions feature Puerto Rican cuisine, salsa dancing, and traditions like La Hora Loca.
- Family plays a big role, with parents, grandparents, godparents, and children participating. Families split wedding expenses.
- Distinctive traditions include the wedding doll, bride’s bouquet, and capias (gifts for guests).
- While some fade over time, traditions honor Puerto Rico’s diverse history and culture.
Exploring The Rich Culture Of Puerto Rico
The culture of Puerto Rico is one of the most colorful blends of cultures from all corners of the world. All this cultural mixing resulted in quite a few traditions unique to this island state.
An Abridged History Of Puerto Rico
Broadly speaking, this country’s culture, history, and traditions were shaped by Spanish, African, and Taino cultures.
Long before Christopher Columbus landed on the island, it was populated by the Taino – people indigenous to the Caribbean. They’re still relatively numerous on this island because they tend to marry within their community to fulfill their goal of populating the country.
Soon after Columbus’ visit, the island was colonized by the Spanish Empire. And they brought with them their culture and, most importantly, Christian religion. Almost 70% of Puerto Ricans are Roman Catholic, and this religion had the most influence on the culture – including wedding traditions.
Of course, this is not where the story ends. Spanish soon imported West African slaves, followed by Italian, French, and even Chinese and Lebanese immigrants.
At the tail end of the 19th century, Puerto Rico became a colony of the US.
Exploring Puerto Rican Music And Dances
With a strong Caribbean influence, Puerto Rican music involves a pretty diverse set of instruments.
Some instruments date from ancient times, such as the Mayohuaacan (a type of wooden drum) and Guiro (a hollowed-up gourd filled with rice). Of course, the Spanish also left their influence on the music with the Cuatro – a 10-string guitar.
So, with a perfect mix of strings and percussion, it’s not a surprise that Salsa is one of the most popular music genres in the country.
When it comes to dance, no wedding ceremony can go without Danza Criolla – or Puerto Rican Waltz. The dancing moves are pretty similar to your classic waltz but with a couple of added twists and turns for extra fun. The dance is pretty romantic if accompanied by live Puerto Rican orchestra pieces.
How Does A Traditional Puerto Rican Wedding Ceremony Look Like?
Let’s peek into the typical setup if you’re curious about Puerto Rican wedding ceremonies.
Given Puerto Rico’s strong Catholic influence, weddings often happen in Catholic churches adorned with vibrant decorations, including flowers, candles, and sometimes fabrics in the colors of the Puerto Rican flag – red, white, and blue.
While churches are the traditional choice, beach weddings, historical sites, or haciendas are gaining popularity. These locations blend elegance with the rich history and vibrant culture of Puerto Rico.
Venue and Setup: In Puerto Rican churches, the intricate decorations feature flowers, candles, and fabrics that amplify the venue’s importance. The entrance is also embellished, contributing to the sacred ambiance. Notably, small palm trees or palm branches are sometimes included in the decor, symbolizing victory, peace, and resilience.
Wedding Ceremony: The ceremony usually begins with a processional featuring the bridal party, groom, and bride. Readings, hymns, and prayers are common because of the Catholic influence. The exchange of vows and rings, overseen by the priest, may include the Eucharist if it’s a full Mass.
Unique to Puerto Rican weddings are traditions like Las Arras, where the groom gives the bride 13 gold coins, symbolizing Jesus and the apostles. Another tradition is the wedding lasso, where a decorative cord or rosary symbolizes the couple’s union.
If you’re looking for something to up the romantic mood, there’s Conqui – the sound of a tiny tree frog native to this Caribbean island. Conqui’s bits are usually played in the background as the couple exchanges their vows.
Wedding Reception: The lively wedding reception reflects the island’s joyful spirit, featuring music, dancing, and delicious food. Venues vary from banquet halls to beaches or gardens. The decor includes flowers, candles, and fabrics, often incorporating the Puerto Rican flag’s colors.
Guests receive simple ribbon wedding favors with the couple’s names and the wedding date. The newlyweds’ entrance is a significant moment, with applause and cheering. The music spans Latin genres, including salsa, merengue, and modern tunes.
Traditional Puerto Rican dishes like Arroz con Gandules, a flavorful rice dish, and wedding cakes with flavors like pineapple, coconut, or rum are staples. The money dance, El Baile de Dinero, is a unique tradition where guests pay to dance with the couple, pinning money onto their outfits.
Puerto Rican weddings are known for their lasting celebrations, often spanning a couple of days.
Puerto Rican Wedding Traditions And Family Members
As with most Latin cultures, family plays a big role in the newlyweds’ lives.
Parents and grandparents play a vital role in the wedding. They often provide blessings or advice to the young couple.
They may also have specific roles in the wedding ceremony, like the placement of the lazo.
Let’s not forget about the madrinas and padrinos, or godparents. Much like in other Hispanic cultures, godparents are not just for baptisms.
They play a special role in the wedding by offering blessings, participating in rituals, and sometimes helping with wedding preparations or expenses.
Speaking of expenses, it’s expected from the groom’s family to pay for the honeymoon, while the bride’s family is expected to pay for the wedding celebration.
And as is the case with almost all weddings, kids also play a vital role in the wedding ceremony. They often have roles as ring bearers or flower girls. Their involvement symbolizes purity, innocence, and the future of the family lineage.
Wedding Traditions Unique To Puerto Rico
We’ve mentioned quite a few Puerto Rican wedding traditions, but we haven’t gone much into them. So, here’s a rundown of every wedding tradition unique to Puerto Rico.
Capias (Wedding Favors)
Capias are small gifts or tokens given to the guests as a thank-you gesture. Typically, they are ornamental pieces with the bride and groom’s names and the wedding date. They serve as keepsakes for the guests.
Las Arras (Coins Ceremony)
While the tradition of the groom giving the bride 13 coins is also seen in other Hispanic cultures, the way it’s celebrated and emphasized can vary.
In Puerto Rican weddings, these coins represent Jesus and the twelve apostles. The exchange signifies the groom’s promise to provide for the household and the bride’s trust in his ability.
The Doll tradition in Puerto Rican weddings is a longstanding practice fading away.
It includes placing a doll resembling the bride on the main reception table or as a cake topper.
The purpose is somewhat unclear, but it’s believed to bring good luck. Charms are often placed around the doll, and guests receive them as tokens of appreciation for attending.
Another associated tradition involves dressing the Doll in a long skirt and putting it on the guest gifts’ table.
Later in the evening, the newlyweds attach capias to the doll’s skirt and give them to the guests.
Instead of tossing a bouquet to determine the next one to be wed, in some Puerto Rican weddings, the bride may offer her bouquet at a church altar as a gesture of thanks.
La Hora Loca
Originating in Venezuela and rooted in Spain, “la hora loca” is Spanish for “the crazy hour.”
This is a tradition that adds a lively twist to events like wedding receptions.
This festive segment typically occurs after the formal proceedings, injecting a burst of energy into the celebration as the initial excitement starts to wane.
Although Puerto Rican wedding traditions closely follow the Catholic religion, quite a few rites are unique to this Caribbean island.
From the coins ceremony to la hora loca – Puerto Rican weddings offer a unique glimpse into this country’s unique blend of cultural influences.
While some wedding traditions fall out of favor, we must not let them go. They honor those who came before us and give us a sense of unity.