Valentine’s Day is coming soon, and in the spirit of love, affection and marriage, we thought we’d share with you some marriage customs in Guatemala.
Henry Orlando, 24, was sponsored through Unbound from 1996 to 2008, when he graduated as an agricultural technician. He married Silvia, on Nov. 27, 2010. In this interview, Henry describes the traditions before and during his marriage ceremony.
How did you get engaged?
Silvia and I were engaged for three and a half years. Around Christmas 2009, we decided to get married.
We fixed the date for ìla pedidaî (asking the bride’s parents for her hand in marriage). Our ìpedidaî took place April 1, 2010. Usually an engagement ring is given, but I did not have the means to do so since I am attending the university.
Pictures of the bridal party after the wedding service.
All my family acted as ìtortulerosî ó people who intercede for the groom during the pedida. My mother cooked a turkey, chicken and baskets of bread for my wife’s family as a sign of my commitment.
There is always a feeling of anxiety or fear during the pedida because the bride’s parents may be less than amicable or because they may not like the groom.
During the pedida a time is set aside for ìlos consejosî (advice). I received advice from my wife’s parents.
The custom is to get down on one’s knees in front of the older members of the bride’s family and listen to them offer advice for a good marriage. I had to listen to the advice of eight people.
Generally, the tradition in Patz˙n is to have three such pedida ceremonies, but my wife is from a distant village, so we only had one.
Tell us about the wedding.
The wedding took place in Patz˙n on a Saturday. My wife and her family left early from their village to have breakfast at my aunt’s house. Typically, they are served tamales and French bread.
My wife’s family arrived in Patz˙n at 6 a.m. The wedding was at 11 a.m. Two buses transported about 150 people and my family’s guests. Approximately 300 people attended.
The ladies in my family dressed Silvia in my home. She walked to church with her family, I walked with my family, and there, the two families met.
Two children carrying pillows with the wedding rings enter first. Another child carries the ìarrasî ó 13 coins the groom offers the bride after the ring ceremony so God may give them abundance and well-being. The bride and groom enter next. Two children hold up the veil.
After we were married, the best man and matron of honor put over our shoulders a cord to symbolize our union as a couple.
A private lawyer married us at Silvia’s house in a civil wedding one month before the religious wedding.
What does the bride wear? The bridegroom?
The bride wears a long white veil about six feet long. The belief is that the longer the veil, the happier the couple would be. She wears white shoes, a Patz˙n huipil (traditional blouse) and traditional skirt. Silvia carried a bouquet of white flowers.
Bridal veil was about six feet long.
It is customary to give the bride her wedding dress. My mother bought the clothes for the wedding.
For the man, it is much simpler. I wore a black suit, yellow shirt and black shoes.
How was the wedding party?
The best moment was when we left the church married. After the church ceremony, the traditional welcome ceremony was celebrated in the Mayan language of Cakchiquel.
Before entering the groom’s house, we were detained for a while at the principal entrance. The mother of the bridegroom gives a welcome greeting to the bride because she is symbolically the hostess.
It is customary to put a white bell at the entrance. The bell is filled with rice, flour and other grains to represent abundance and prosperity. When the married couple enters, the mother breaks the bell as a sign of best wishes and abundance for the couple.
The ìcompadrascoî makes official the relationship between the two families. The married couple and their parents kneel. An elder of the community bathes them with smoke as a sign of union. They all hug. The parents of the couple may now call each other ìcompadreî or ìcomadre,î respectful words when addressing each other.
It is a tradition in Patz˙n to serve beef soup, but my wife’s family doesn’t like it and we decided to serve ìestofadoî (pot roast) for lunch.
Thanks to Luis Cocon at the Guatemala communications center for compiling this information.