bridal mania

Green white green

Who doesn’t love a wedding?

I am a British-Nigerian about to marry a Spanish man and I fleetingly familiar with some aspects of both cultures. I have written about them in various incarnations of my blogging life but given that I am going through the same process myself now – I thought it might be interesting to write about it as a bride-to-be. It helps organise my thoughts (and I am bored of looking at wedding shoes and dress designs!).

I have cut and pasted this information from a previous post – because I am not one for reinventing the wheel! However I have added some pictures from a recent engagement ceremony that I attended.

Nigerian’s typically hold an engagement ceremony before the marriage.

The groom’s family introduces themselves to the bride’s family, and asks for their daughter’s hand in marriage to their son.

The groom and his family

Olopa Iduro (‘standing policeman’): an appointed speaker by the groom’s family

The bride and her family

Olopa Ijoko (‘sitting policeman’): an appointed speaker by the bride’s family

Others if the families so choose.

The introduction takes place at the bride’s house, and her family is responsible for the preparations and costs, but if the groom’s family is able to, they can suggest helping out with some of the costs and/or the food. Both parties are in traditional attire.

Upon entrance into the bride’s home, the groom’s family kneels (women) or prostrate (men) for the bride’s parents. The groom’s family and the bride’s family sit on opposite sides of the room, with the bride and groom sitting closer to the center, and the olopa iduro and olopa ijoko sitting in the very middle.

The olopa iduro introduces the groom and his family to the bride and her family. He then brings a proposal letter from the groom’s family, usually tied with a ribbon, and gives it to the groom’s family, through the olopa ijoko. The letter is read out, and responded to verbally on the spot. Since this is mostly a formality, and it is already known that the couple will marry, there usually is not much rejection at this point. Usually, a prayer is said at this point, and some symbolic items of food are tasted by the olopa’s and then passed around to the guests.


obi (kola nut) is shared, during which the following words are repeated:

Won ma gbo (they will ripen).
Won ma to (they will eat and not go hungry).
Won ma d’agba (they will grow old)

ata ire: this consists of many seeds, and it is opened up, and the superstition is that the number of seeds that fall out is the number of children the couple will bear.

oyin(honey), sugar, ireke (sugar cane): these all symbolize that the union will be sweet.

Some additional words may be exchanged, then gifts are exchanged, and then the families and guests eats traditional food, and there may be singers and drummers for some celebration later.

During the ceremony the families are introduced to each other formally so the invited guest are familiar with everybody in either family.

Along with other things, the grooms family will come to this ceremony with traditional food stuff such as: yam, palm oil, sugar, ram, drinks and many more. Other things the grooms family will provide is a suitcase packed with traditional clothing include shoes, bags, jewelry and in some cases they will have to give a dowry. This is known as the bride price.The couple usually gives each other a holy book (Bible or Quran) give each other rings, and they may say some words to each other.


It can all be rather hectic but for me a colourful and beautiful affair. It is a way of introducing two families in a serious but light-hearted fashion.

Me – clearly being serious and lighthearted!

* * * *


The wedding day is a day of celebration, eating, drinking and dancing for parents, relations, the new husband and wife and their friends and, often, even foes. Marriage is not considered to be only a union of the husband and wife, it is also seen among the Yoruba as the union of the families on both sides. But before the bride goes to her husbands house, she is escorted by different people i.e. family and friends to the door step of her new home in a ritual called Ekun Iyawo meaning ‘The cry of the new bride’, this is to show that she is sad leaving her parents’ home and signify her presence in the new home. There she is prayed for and her legs are washed. It is believed that she is washing every bad-luck that she might have brought into her husband’s house away. Before she is finally ushered into her house, if she is an adherent of the Yoruba faith, she is given a calabash (igba) and is then asked to break it. When it breaks, the amount of pieces it is broken into is believed to be the number of children she will give birth to.

* * * *

Now comes the Spanish side…

My fiancé has told me a few things as has his mother – but I cobbled to together some of this information from little bits of reading here and there. I will find out in the months to come how much is relevant now and what we will incorporate into our own ceremony. I am guessing that some of stems from Latin American and Catholic culture (my fiancé is neither Latin American or Catholic). However  if you happen to stumble across this blog post and want to add your two pennies worth – please do I am eager to learn.

* * * *

Historically, the night before the wedding, hand lanterns were used to light the way from the groom’s home to the bride’s home. The groom’s family would then carry a wedding chest filled with gifts for the bride’s family.


The groom is not allowed to see his bride before the wedding and it was the bride’s father’s job to keep her hidden before the wedding and of course give away his daughter. As in France, the groom escorts his mother down the aisle.

The flower girl and the ring bearer traditionally dress as miniature versions of the bride and groom. One important part of the ceremony is the arras (gold coins). These are 13 gold coins that represent Jesus and his 12 apostles, which are blessed by the priest and are given to the bride with the groom’s promise to care for and support his wife.


The wedding is paid for by different “sponsors” or god-parents who are all recognized in different parts of the ceremony. They are the ones who will carry the arras or the rope into the church. The rope or rosary is another tradition where it is placed over the bride and groom to insure protection of the union.

Photocredit: Catherine Guidry Photography

During the ceremony, the bride has someone hold her bouquet while she carries a rosary and a bible. Orange blossoms are the flowers of choice for Spanish brides. The white petals complement the white dress and symbolize purity. Since orange trees bear their fruit and blossom at the same time, this special flower is believed to bring both happiness and fulfilment to the newlyweds. The flower can be seen in the bouquet, decorations, and even in the bride’s hair.

The mantilla veil (a lace or silk veil or shawl worn over the head and shoulders, often over a high comb called a peineta) is common and in Spain brides wear black silk dresses to symbolize their devotion until death; however in recent years Spanish brides have worn white dresses as well. In Spanish and Latin American culture the bride and groom wear their rings on their right hand.

After the ceremony, a festive mariachi band, salsa music, or a Spanish guitarist would bring an abundance of fun to the reception. During the first dance, the guests form a heart shape around the newlyweds to cheer them on.

The meal of choice for Spanish ceremonies is paella or some other seafood and of course sangria, while in Mexico it would probably include spicy rice, beans, and steak (carne asada) accompanied by a spicy tomatillo sauce. It is also common to see almond cookies in addition to the cake.

Aside from the bouquet toss, single ladies at the party are expected to wear special pins upside down. If the pin is lost, that woman will be next in line to marry. Wedding favors for the men are typically cigars, other favors include wedding cookies, Spanish hand fans, or some other local good such as pottery.

Here is an A-Z guide there is some overlap but I think it covers most things

Alianza Wedding ring, which in Spain is worn on the ring finger of the right hand.
Arras In a tradition going back to the days of the Visigoths, the groom presents the bride with thirteen arras, or coins, made of gold, silver and metal. Originally, these sealed the deal – money in return for virginity. In today’s more enlightened times the bride normally presents her man with his own set of arras.

Arroz Rice is still the throwing-at-the-newly-weds weapon of choice.

Banquete Wedding feast, ie the reception. If it’s an evening wedding, don’t expect to sit down before ten o’clock or stagger to your feet until well after midnight.

Convite another word for wedding feast.
Corbata The custom of cutting the groom’s tie into pieces and then auctioning it off is considered to be in very poor taste. Doing the same thing with the bride’s liga (garter) is even worse.
Damas de honor Bridesmaids are not a traditional part of Spanish weddings, but thanks to the influence of Hollywood they are becoming so.

Despedida de soltero / soltera Hen night / stag night. Like in the UK, the simple night out / booze up with friends has been largely replaced by the pre-nuptial mini-break.

Detalle Wedding guests usually receive a small gift at the end of the meal. Typical detalles in Andalucía include dessert wine miniatures, hand-painted fans and engraved fino glasses.

Discurso Speech. The Spanish don’t go in for post-dinner speeches. However, with so many weddings on the coast where one partner is Spanish and the other British / German / Dutch etc, they are getting quite used to the practice. And they make great audiences – very participative, lots of cheers and olés and viva los novios!

Etiqueta A no-expense spared, ultra-formal wedding is referred to as una boda de etiqueta – the equivalent of top hat and tails in the UK.
Frac Tail coat.
Gastos Expenses. A church wedding with 150 guests costs an average of €28,500, according to a recent study by the Federación de Usuarios y Consumidores Independientes (FUCI).
Huevos de Santa Clara Superstitious brides-to-be take a basketful of eggs to any convent of Santa Clara in order to ensure fine weather on the Big Day. Rain is supposed to augur a tearful marriage – though according to a contradictory piece of wedding lore: “Novia mojada, novia afortunada” (A wet bride is a lucky bride).


Invitados Spanish weddings tend to be quite large, with around 150-200 guests.

Juzgado Non-religious weddings are held at a juzgado (court room), ayuntamiento (Town Hall), or anywhere else that the juez (judge), concejal (councillor), alcalde (mayor) or other floating funcionario can be persuaded to officiate.

Lista de boda Wedding gift list. El Corte Inglés is very popular for these.

Madrina The bridegroom’s mother

Niños de arras / Niños de anillos Page boys and page girls who are –  entrusted with conveying the arras and rings on velvety cushions.

Novios – shorter than saying ‘bride and groom’.
Orquesta Not the symphonic kind, but the dance band that strikes up after the wedding feast.
Padrino Best man, sort of. From the verb apadrinar, meaning ‘to sponsor’. The padrino is usually the bride’s father and the madrina, the bridegroom’s mother. The groom and the madrina are always the first to arrive at the church. It is the padrino who ‘gives away’ the bride.

Puros It’s always been the thing to dish out cigars to the male guests after dinner. With fewer and fewer people smoking these days, however, this custom is on the wane.
Quiero (sí) I do. The wording of the civil ceremony means you actually say “Sí consiento” (I give my consent).
Ramo de flores bouquets of flowers

Sobres In Andalucía, money is often the preferred gift. After the meal, the bride and groom circulate from table to table and collect their sobres, or envelopes. Things are changing, though, and you may well receive the number of a bank account along with your invitation. The amount you give should at least cover the cost of your cubierto, or place setting.

Tarta nupical Wedding cake: typically a sponge cake, smothered and filled with  cream. Mmmhhh….

Testigos Two witnesses are required to sign either the ‘Acta’ (marriage certificate) at a civil wedding or the Libro de matrimonios (marriage book) at a church wedding.
Traje de novia Wedding dress. As elsewhere in the West, white and off-white (blanco roto) are the most traditional colours.
Velo nupcial Wedding veil.

Votos these are the wedding vows.

Whisky No Spanish wedding (or any other kind of party / celebration) would be complete without plenty of whisky – or güisqui, as the Real Academia would have it.
Ximénez Dark sticky sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry is a popular dessert wine at weddings

I am certain that there is so much more and that are variations. But it’s enough to be thinking about!


Random aside – the Nigerian and Andalusian flags are green white green. Nigerian horizontal and Andalusian horizontal.





2 thoughts on “Green white green

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