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Wedding traditions in Central America

Our world tour of traditional marriages takes you to Central America, where you will discover how the traditions are struggling to resist modernity. Nevertheless, very old rituals are still very present in the ceremonies thanks to the wishes of many couples to maintain their traditions.

Even though weddings in Central America follow the rites of Maya culture, these marriages are also celebrated according to Christian customs, in particular Catholic marriage. In some countries, we can find to find a good balance between the two traditions.

Central America and weddings: family first

The family is undoubtedly at the heart of marriage traditions in all countries in Central America. Moreover, traditionally in Central America, if parents formulate any objection to the marriage, it simply will not happen. The decision of parents in marriages in these countries has always played a major role, and although things are changing, parents still have their say regarding a marriage. This is often the case because the couple is usually very young.

The importance of family in Central America is evident in the marriage in two ways. First, the whole family can participate actively in organizing the wedding and provide advice if they are good at cooking, decorating, sewing or music, for example. And above all, the main purpose of marriage in Central America is clearly displayed and highlighted: the purpose of getting married is to start a family.

For example, in Guatemala marriages traditionally take place between spouses aged 15 to 20 years old, an age that is considered to be already too late to get married! The belief is that if we get married fairly young, it will be easier to have many children. This is the main purpose of marriage in Guatemala and even today the couple is younger than in other countries even though the age of getting married has increased significantly from decade to decade in all the countries of Central America.

Thus, at a typical wedding in Guatemala, one can see several generations together, with up to four and sometimes five generations as people become parents at a very young age.

In Guatemala, a wedding is an excuse for a party full of joy and dancing. The traditional costumes are of great importance, and it is a great opportunity for the bride and groom but also for many guests to wear the traditional dress of the Guatemalan culture, especially if they do not often get to wear them in their daily lives. In general, the bridesmaids need to coordinate their dresses, which are always extremely colorful.

 

Mayan culture in Guatemala is therefore an important part of weddings and even though some lament its gradual disappearance, weddings are an opportunity to revive and celebrate this culture. This is why weddings in Guatemala are often still celebrated according to the rites and customs of the Mayan culture while the Christian ceremonies gradually take precedence over them.

 

In all cases, weddings in Guatemala are always very colorful, not just because of the colorful outfits but also because of the flowers that are present at every stage in a Guatemalan wedding as a key decorative element.

Celebration at weddings in Central America

Weddings in Central America are an opportunity to organize large feasts where family and friends are invited but often neighbors and friends of friends. In some countries, marriages are a chance to celebrate but they are more sober and calmer. This is not the case with weddings in countries in Central America where weddings are generally joyous spectacles.

 

To illustrate this, we could speak of traditional weddings in Belize although this small Central American country is not Spanish-speaking but instead English, which makes it different from others in many ways.

Belize is a tropical paradise that is also a popular destination for American couples. As in many Caribbean islands, the inhabitants of villages in Belize always watch the procession of the couple, either from the windows of their houses or even coming out onto the street. A wedding procession in Belize, as in other Central American countries, is extremely festive and communicates happiness to all those present. Large crowds sing and dance to celebrate the bride and groom, even if we do not know them all.

A traditional wedding in Belize is similar to a church wedding in many other countries, where the bride walks down the aisle on the arm of her father to meet her waiting groom and witnesses. However, it is not unusual for the bride to go down the aisle dancing.

In those cultures where dance is part of everyday life, it is much more natural than elsewhere to start dancing at every opportunity and weddings are events that allow everyone to dance when they want to express their joy.

Mayan culture and Catholic traditions

Mayan culture in Central America is now less important than we have seen with the example of marriage in Guatemala but many take care not to let it go. And at weddings in Central America, where Catholic customs have now taken their place, following the rites of the Mayan tradition is the personal choice of the bride and groom: will we celebrate our marriage according to the Mayan custom or is that not important?

Generally, weddings are the representation of interesting harmony between traditional Mayan culture and the rituals of religious Catholic wedding ceremonies, but now just under half of marriages follow Mayan traditions.

Weddings in Costa Rica

A traditional wedding in Costa Rica is representative of wedding ceremonies in Central America in that the family is truly at the heart of the event and also because the music plays a vital role. A local band or musician friends lead an evening of celebration that is full of music and usually lasts until the next morning.

Costa Rica is a popular destination for weddings abroad and honeymoons but a traditional wedding in Costa Rica is different from modern customs. For example in Costa Rica, it is traditional for brides to wear a long black dress!

Although black is the color of mourning in many countries, this is not the case at Costa Rican weddings, but nowadays, modern traditions and white dresses have largely taken over from the old traditions. Another typical tradition is also disappearing: the bride was traditionally responsible for sewing her groom’s shirt by hand. Few brides these days know how to stitch by hand, and the most courageous will use a sewing machine. Many of them place an order with a dressmaker, but most of the time the outfits are bought in stores.

One custom that exists in several Central American countries is that of the groom giving 13 coins to his bride. This is a traditional wedding ritual, which usually symbolizes the role of the husband as head of the family, responsible for taking care of his future wife and supporting her. However, this custom is also a Christian symbol as the number 13 is supposed to represent Jesus and his apostles.

Weddings in Costa Rica are popular with couples worldwide as they are synonymous with celebrations on the beach: marriages are celebrated on the sand in a very idyllic setting in the midst of palm trees and tropical flowers. People in Costa Rica do not traditionally usually get married on the beach but the wedding reception could be held there.

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