How to Plan a Wedding in Spain

… or not.

If you came here looking for advice, I have none. I just wanted to tell you that planning a wedding is hard. Planning a wedding in another country/language is even harder. But, for me, planning a wedding in another country, in another language, and without my mother is the hardest. Sometimes a girl just needs her mom, ya know what I mean?

Mom and me

Mario’s mother has, of course, been there for me: taking me to find “the one” (I really hate using that phrase, as I don’t equate dresses with people), arranging manicure appointments, offering to go with me everywhere, even though she’s still working. So I’m, again, quite lucky.

I know of some American girls who have had their weddings in Spain, and they always assure me I can go to them with questions. The problem is, I don’t have any. I mean, to have questions about something, you have to have at least an intermediate-level understanding of it. And I’m not sure I get Spanish weddings yet. For example:

  • The rehearsal. In the US, there’s a rehearsal. As a bridesmaid in my friend Hilary’s wedding, I was so grateful. In Spain, where I most need it, there’s no rehearsal. How will I know where to stand and when to kneel and where to look if I don’t remember the other weddings? I didn’t exactly take notes.

  • Colors. In the US, we have wedding colors. Smirk all you want, but I love it. In Spain, there aren’t colors, and you most likely won’t be doing any decorating at the reception (here, the reception = el banquete). So relax, that’s one less thing to worry about. I guess.
  • Wedding rings. Here, wedding rings tend to look alike, whereas (from what I know), in the US, the woman’s ring is a bit more, um, feminine? Also, the band goes on the right hand, which is weird to me, no matter how much I see it. What if we move to the States sometime? Will we switch our bands to the left hand? Only time will tell.
  • Dancing. We have to dance a waltz. I am not a dancer. It is not something I’m looking forward to, to be quite honest. In the US, you can usually pick a sentimental song, a song that means something to you. Here, we’ll be dancing to a waltz, which is fine, but not exactly a song that causes me any emotional response. Also, I hope it’s okay if I count to myself the whole time (1, 2, 3 … 1, 2, 3.)

It’s true, you can do what you want. And I’m getting used to being somewhat weird. I don’t understand why every woman needs to get a new dress and go to the hairdresser, even if they’re not part of the wedding. I don’t understand why people will spend so much money, money that could be better spent elsewhere (this happens in the US too, just not as much with my friends/family/the people that I know).

So did you want advice? Here’s mine: take advantage of Spain, its food and wine and lifestyle. Don’t worry; hakuna matata. Because if anyone gives great life advice, it’s Disney.

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27 comments

  1. Oh guapa. Based on the Spanish wedding I just experienced, I should write a post just for you! The ceremony was very different – no bridal party, no rehearsal, no kiss, no pronouncement of man & wife, no walk down the aisle. For reception – nearly 4 hr sit down dinner, no waltz (just first dance), no dance w dad / mom, cake cut w a sword.. I could go on. Remember to ENJOY .. this is Spain and you’re the American. You’re allowed to make mistakes :) No pasa nada, eh?

    1. Cake cut with a sword? Now that’s a new one!

      I really do love Spanish weddings, it’s just hard to figure out what’s “proper” and what’s not when you’re foreign. I mean, I don’t want to come off as a cheapskate or something just because I don’t know the customs.

      But thank you! How was the wedding, did you dance until dawn?

      1. For real .. wait til you see the photos. Also: dry ice, tacky slideshow, you name it. The wedding itself was an event. I got what I wanted out of it (family time, the experience) and then some. Additional lesson learned: I will not return to another boda hispanola sola, that’s for damn sure.

  2. Call me a traitor, but after going to a half dozen Spanish weddings (and hosting one!), American weddings seem extremely lame in comparison. Rehearsal dinner? What for? I have to get dressed up twice? Colors? Well…if you want to buy a new dress/suit for every wedding (which is pretty common in Spain, actually)…

    The only thing Spain gets really wrong is the hand for the wedding ring. If you’re in the right handed majority, your right hand, and accessories on it, are going to take a lot more wear and tear. Plus handshakes can be painful with a ring on the right hand. Wearing your wedding band on the non-dominant hand makes the most sense.

    I wear mine on my right, and I can’t switch because my left ring finger is slightly smaller than my right, so it falls off.

    1. I don’t necessarily like them more; I just don’t know what I’m doing … I’m going to say that the women generally have to do more, plan more, etc., and in Spain it’s no different. Did your wife take care of a lot of that stuff? Mario has no clue about weddings, whereas most of the women do.

      I definitely, definitely enjoy attending Spanish weddings more. Great food, great wine, and la barra libre! What more could I want?

      1. We did most of the planning together, but she tried on about twenty dresses in four different cities, and I, when told I couldn’t use a perfectly good suit I already owned, bought the first suit in the first store we went to. So there’s that…but that happens with everyday purchases of sandals, too. :-)

  3. 1. I would insist on doing a rehearsal regardless. It’s your wedding: you want a rehearsal, you get a rehearsal.

    2. I would also insist on dancing to whatever song I wanted. The way you do this is simply dance to it in addition to the waltz, that way no one gets irritated because they didn’t get what they wanted, no one has anything “taken away”, instead it’s just one additional thing that’s done that normally wouldn’t be.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    1. We’re doing a go-over with the priest on the Thursday before. It’s not like an American rehearsal, but I get to go over things so that I won’t feel as nervous.

      The waltz is fine. I’m going to play “our” song too, though.

  4. If you don’t have a problem with it on the right, I say keep it on the right no matter which country. Your wedding was in spain so the ring should follow that custom. If someone asks, what a great conversation to have about who you are and where you have been in life.(unless you really hate it on the right then you have a good excuse to move it if you move to the states or other left handed ring wearing country)

    1. I just think of all the guys who look at your hand to know whether to flirt with you or not. It’s a great “Please go away; I’m taken” sign. But you’re right. However, Mario says we’ll move them to our left hands. The only problem is, like Erik said below, maybe our fingers are slightly different sizes?

      1. I recently had a ring made from my late mother’s engagement ring, to wear on my right hand, and the jeweler told me that virtually everyone has bigger fingers on their right hand than on their left, because of usage (and thus muscular development). I prefer the left hand for my wedding rings because it is less used (and therefore the rings get less wear and tear), but it seems to me that whatever you and Mario prefer is what you should do.

        Spaniards do not do engagement rings, correct?

        Wishing you a lifetime of happiness!

  5. I know that Spain is very different from England – the Catholicism and the language, for starters – but, when I marry my English boyfriend in England next summer, we’re incorporating some American traditions and rituals, too. We think it’ll make make the wedding more “us” and interesting to both the English and the American guests! Can you merge some customs?

  6. I think I’d see if you could do a rehearsal too! Seems like there’s a LOT to remember. I also like Andrew’s idea about doing both songs! You and Mario could take a dance lesson if they have some there to help you get more comfortable with the Waltz. Here’s my advice – do what you need to but also do what you want to make it fun! You don’t want to be too stressed out…remember my folded up paper I kept looking at all day long? LOL Oh boy. I agree..Hakuna matata (did I tell you that was Swahili..I think I did haha).

  7. Just wanted to point out that you left out “for” after “looking”. Those Spanish skills must really be kicking in! Buena suerte buscando for un vestido!

  8. Kaley! gahhh! so soon! Um, did I ever tell you I haven’t been to a Spanish wedding! It’s like my biggest thing I’m missing on my Spanish resume! I’ve been invited to loads, but since I move so much, I’ve always missed them. But I want to go to one just so I can wear those palmeras o tocados in my hair with matching shoes and a dress, ridiculous I know. In short, good luck haha! Disney is always right :)

  9. From what I can understand, your wedding is going to be a classical one. It’s true here in Spain you usually have this kind of all-white weddings and baroque reception locations…. not at all my style. But lately you can also find lots of original weddings or colorful details.
    I cannot imagine organising a wedding without your mother, it’s like you have half the team, specially since here we don’t have the bridesmaids tradition either. There are a lot of differences actually!

  10. Oh that sounds a little overwhelming. I wouldn’t know what to ask either! And I really can’t imagine planning a wedding without my mom. Good luck!

  11. This is kind of interesting but I’m frustrated reading it! For me the “theme” of the wedding and the decorations are the most important thing, without them I’d rather just have a courthouse wedding with few guests. Even in France there are some North American traditions that I will refuse to change (like the first dance being to “our” song or having a bridal shower)! After all, it only happens once! (hopefully)

  12. I totally understand planning without your mom– I was super depressed the first time I went to try on a wedding dress in Spain, all alone! Luckily my MIL went with me the next time (a bit annoying, but at least some company!). As for the rings, first dance etc. I say do what you want! We broke so many “rules” at our Spanish wedding, but the guests actually loved it. Some things I did follow tradition on are passing out the little favors after dessert. (They would have been much easier to have set on the table!) I do wear my ring on the right hand in Spain and rarely switch it to the left in the states because it is a little loose on the left hand. Ale does switch, however– he’s funny and likes to do that. Sometimes we joke about buying another nice ring for the other hand– maybe someday! It sounds like Mario’s family is very traditional which is lovely, just don’t let anyone make decisions for you if you want to do something your way. Besos and suerte!!! -Lauren

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