Getting married in Mexico

My Mexican Wedding

- mi boda mexicana

Mexican weddings usually are huge three-day celebrations including not only all third-degree cousins and little loved aunties that can be found, but also the whole village. Many parents take on debts to finance their children’s wedding. From dancing food to cutting the humongous cake, there is a surprising number of must-have elements in the program. In Guerrero, where my husband is from, a turkey is also an essential part of any good wedding celebration. While our wedding was far from traditional, we did in the end tick almost all the boxes. Including the dancing turkey.  

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When my husband and I started thinking about what kind of wedding we would like to have, one thing was clear: We did not want a typical Mexican wedding. We did not want to spend all our money on three days of partying with people we did not even know, dancing dances I had never even heard of and eat cake we did not even like. So we decided on having a low-key civil ceremony followed by a small lunch celebration just with immediate family. But we had not reckoned with his family. 

The one thing we knew was that we did not want a traditional Mexican Wedding

Now that I have been to other Mexican family events, I realize how radical our decision was. When we planned the wedding, I was still a newbie here in Mexico and unfamiliar with the social norms. My mother-in-law complained about our plans, insisting that we invite at least half the village and all relatives that live in Mexico. But my husband was pretty adamant on this. He did not see the point in spending the little money we had on people he did not care about. I completely agreed (and still do). On top of that, I was not particularly keen on spending my wedding day with hundreds of unknown faces. From my German perspective, there was absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Little did I know that not inviting a distant cousin to a party can cause life-long family feuds. I’m sure those cousins and distant cousins that were not invited to our wedding still are a little pissed off. I still think we made the right choice, though. After all, it was our wedding. Besides, being invited but not receiving a big enough portion of the cake to take home can cause the same kind of feud. So who cares.

A low-key civil ceremony...

When we arrived in the village the afternoon before our wedding, everyone was surprisingly stressed out and nothing was prepared. Since we had asked my in-laws only to take care of the catering, nothing else, we did not quite understand the drama. Little did we know that behind the scenes, a lot more was going on. Early the next day, my husband and I went off to prepare the little hut we had rented by the nearby lake and to make our natural flower arrangements. Then I went to the hair dressers to get hair and make-up done and barely had time to get dressed before the civil ceremony was supposed to begin. Of course, everyone was late.

The living room ceremony

My parents, brothers and sister in-law together with their families all squeezed into the living room/office at the registrar’s house for the official ceremony. We were 21 people in that small room. The ceremony was rather stiff, and my husband and I were both a little worried that the registrar might have gotten some of my German data wrong. But everything went smoothly. The only hiccup was that we had to leave a finger-print and did not have anything to wipe off the blue ink when people came to hug and congratulate us.

... followed by a huge surprise!

After the ceremony, everyone went straight to their cars. We wanted to head straight to the lunch location to make some last-minute adjustments but were held back by a part of the family. That was when it began to dawn on us that some sort of surprise was waiting. But we did not expect THIS:

Surprise with turkey

As we turned into the driveway towards the restaurant, all of a sudden, a group of white-dresses mariachis appeared and started playing. We got out of the car and began walking down the path, accompanied by family and neighbours that threw confetti and sprinkled beer on us. One of the neighbours was carrying a live turkey on his head and dancing around with it. Some women carried baskets of bread on their heads. Traditionally, bread, a turkey and other food items are brought to the parents of the bride, all while dancing to a specific piece of music. The mariachis played this music as bread, turkey and confetti danced around us.

Master of ceremonies and many traditional dances

Once we arrived at the party location, we realized that a huge three-tier wedding cake had been made the centre-piece. At first, I was a little annoyed that our instructions to keep it simply and kitsch-free had been ignored. But I soon decided not to care and just go with the flow – and ended up having a very fun and memorable day. The tables had been moved around so that there was a dance-floor in the middle of the room and a DJ had set up his gear. As I now know, the master of ceremonies and his DJ set are indispensable elements of any Mexican party. Without the master of ceremonies, no-one would know which one of the many traditions is next.

After some more mariachi music and a delicious meal of red mole, the master of ceremonies led us through several typical Mexican wedding dances such as the Vibora de la mar, where one side of the family tries to knock the bride and groom over, while the other side supports them. There even is a dance and a specific piece of music for the throwing of the bride’s bouquet and the groom’s tie. The wedding waltz (to not very waltzy music) and the traditional family waltz where bride and groom dance with every adult member of the family, were also part of the program. Even cutting the cake was announced by the master of ceremonies and accompanied by its own piece of music.

A very special day for all of us

At the end of the day, I was exhausted. There are a lot of traditions in a Mexican wedding. And we did not even cover all of them. Still, my in-laws had managed to squeeze a three-day traditional Mexican wedding into one afternoon. It was a really special experience and I am very grateful to my Mexican family for this amazing surprise. Everyone enjoyed themselves. I think my Mexican family was very proud to show me their traditions. After all, our wedding did include some unknown faces, many unfamiliar dances and a way too sweet cake. But I am very happy to have had an (almost) traditional Mexican wedding with all its mayhem and dancing – and the turkey makes for a great story.

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