So, we’ve heard about the actual wedding ceremony. What about the reception?
A wedding party in Spain is, without a doubt, way more fun than in the US. Now, I love the US, but … seriously, just go to Spanish wedding and try not to have fun. Once you go Spanish, you can’t go back.
I’m in it for life. With the godmother and godfather (L-R): María Jose (godmother), Mario, Alberto (godfather), me.
Photo by Mario’s talented cousin, José Antonio Fernández Sánchez.
- Who’s invited? That depends on how much you want to spend, of course. In our case, we only had about 85 people, because most of my family wasn’t able to make it.
- Who pays? As Erik explained on my Facebook page, “Typically the guests pay for it themselves. When you attend a Spanish wedding, you’re expected to bring an envelope with, at a bare minimum, 100€ per member of your party. We had just over a hundred guests for my Spanish wedding, and the bill (mainly for the exquisite meal) was about 10,000€. We broke even with the cash donations.” I remember my first Spanish wedding, and I was (naturally) surprised by our gift to the couple. I soon realized, however, that it’s the norm, and you’re paying for a great party, great food, dancing, and an all-you-can-drink bar. So, you’re getting a pretty good deal in the end.
- What do you eat? Everything. No, but there’s always a lot of food. In my experience, the eating has been as follows:
- El cóctel (Hors d’oeuvre): After the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom generally go and take pictures. Thus, the guests are left waiting. Said guests are usually hungry. Thus, the Spanish people, great eaters that they are, invented what they refer to as the cóctel, the cocktail party before the reception. There are waiters carrying trays of drinks (beer, wine, soda, water) and all sorts of appetizers. I’ve been to weddings where they served freshly-sliced jamón ibérico.
- Entrante (Appetizer): After the bride and groom arrive, the guest are ushered into the dining room, after which the bride and groom will enter, with or without music. The drinks are served (white wine, red wine, and water), and the appetizer comes out. This dish can vary greatly. At one wedding I attended, the appetizer was merged with the fish dish, because no one really needs the appetizer anyway. But that’s besides the point.
- El pescado (Fish): Next comes the fish, which can be any sort, from merluza (hake) to rodaballo (turbot), which we had at our wedding.
- El sorbete (Sorbet): Time to cleanse your palate. Next comes the big dish, the meat! We had a mango-flavored sorbet at ours.
- La carne (Meat): It all depends on where you are, but usually the restaurant has a specialty. In our case, the specialty was lechazo, basically lamb. In Castilla y León, they are known for their lechazo.
- El postre (Dessert): Not many Spaniards have what we would think of as a wedding cake. In our case, it was a type of chocolate mousse (delicious, by the way). Nonetheless, we did have the pleasure of cutting a cake, though we did not eat it. And yes, we used a sword, which I found hilarious because Mario said such a thing was only done in the 1990s. He was surprised!
The unification of two great countries. Juan is enjoying his mango sorbet in the corner.
Photo credit: José Antonio Fernández Sánchez
- Are there toasts? Not officially. I suppose if someone wished to do a toast, he or she could do so. My father-in-law read a very special essay he wrote for us during the ceremony, which I felt was similar to a toast. (He made us all suspiciously teary-eyed.) We also had a wonderful wedding video made by someone who claimed to be anonymous, although information quickly leaked out, and we learned it had been Mario’s cousin and godmother, María José.
- Can your clink your glass to get the couple to kiss? Well, no, but they have something better, shouting, “¡Que se besen! ¡Que se besen!”, meaning basically the same thing. Another fun thing they shout is, “¡Vivan los novios!”, which the others respond to with a hearty, “¡Vivan!”, meaning “Long live the bride and groom!” basically.
Photo credit: José Antonio Fernández Sánchez
- Is there a bouquet toss? Sometimes. Other times, like in my case, the bride can pick the person to whom she wants to give the bouquet, usually the next to marry. In my case, it was easy. My future sister(-in-law), Colleen, was there, and she’s getting married on September 15, so I presented her with it.
- What about the garter? Um, sometimes (like at the wedding I attended last June), but I chose not to do so. Not my thing.
- What about the dancing? Oh, there’s dancing. Mario’s family is notorious for their dancing. They love it, and I’ve learned to love it nearly as much as they do. Usually the first dance is a waltz (much to my chagrin; I have two left feet), and we stuck with tradition. Almost all of the songs are very danceable, and meant for all ages. Thank God, there’s no such thing as the “Dollar Dance” or the “Cha Cha Slide.”
My brother and Mario’s dad getting down on the dance floor. Mario’s dad is basically the best dancer ever. He gets the party started.
- Open bar? Yes, always. There’s no such thing as a dry wedding, because “no one would go,” as Mario so delicately puts it.
Tell me your experiences with Spanish weddings. I’m sure they vary. Also, why are Spaniards so good at throwing parties?