Monday, July 5, 2010

Weddings of the World- Colombia

I have always been a huge fan of personalizing spaces and events. I love the idea of using heritage and culture to influence an event's personality. I love that the uniting families' heritage can be weaved into so many aspects of a wedding. My goal is to feature a new country's traditions at least once a month, so check back to see new countries and let me know if there are any countries that you want to see featured. The first country I wanted to research was a no-brainer. I was born in Bogotá, Colombia and was raised in the United States. I have always been interested in my culture and would love to be familiar with the wedding traditions so I can integrate them into my wedding one day.

Colombia is the most northwestern country in South America, bordered by Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. It is the 2nd largest country in South America and the 3rd largest Spanish speaking country in the world. Home to over 45 million people, Colombia was originally inhabited by indigenous nations before the Spanish arrived in 1499 to colonize the country. Even after Colombia gained its independence from Spain in 1819, the country remained very ethnically diverse, including descendants from the original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, Africans brought as slaves and twentieth-century immigrants form Europe & the Middle East. Colombia has urban cities, the Andes mountains, Amazon rainforest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines (1).


Colombia is a predominantly Catholic country, so the ceremony is basically the same with a few cultural additions. The first difference is the decoration of the church. Flowers are a key element in enhancing the church's beauty and symbolizing the special union of marriage. One of the most traditional customs is the candle ceremony which happens after the exchanging of the rings. The groom lights the candle on his left and the bride lights the candle on her right. When they both have their candles lit, they put them together and light the candle in the middle. Then they have to put out their original candles and this means that they become just one body for the rest of their lives (2). The joint candle is then held by the couple while they dance to traditional music.

The majority of the Colombian traditions are seen in the reception. Similar to American traditions of the garter toss and the throwing of the bride's bouquet, Colombians have their own take on these celebrations of the single guests. The first tradition is for all the single men to put their shoes underneath the bride's dress. The bride then chooses a shoe and that man is the next to be married. Another custom is that all the single men take off their belts. The man with the longest belt "wins".

According to Ivan Leyva, a Colombian family friend who was married last year, receptions now include many Brazilian influences. He says that "we also use a celebration called Carnavalito" in which they buy masks, use colorful accessories, and play Brazilian music used in the Rio de Janerio Carnival (3). Speaking of music, all Colombians love to keep the party going with lively Latin beats. Typical music would be vallenatos, salsa, and reggaeton, just to name a few.

Food & Drink:

This is a key element of any reception worldwide. Colombia's national liquor, Aguardiente, is based in sugar cane, tastes similar to Sambuca (so I'm told, I can't wait to try it!), and is used in all types of festivities. Empanadas are one of the most typical Colombian dishes, it is a meat turnover that can be made in various ways (4). The region of Colombia that a person is from determines the exact recipes used. Also, Platanos Fritos (fried plantains/ bananas) are a side dish typical to Colombia. The riper the plantains are, the tastier they will be after they are fried. In addition, Yucca, which is similar to a potato but is more fribrous, is a popular side dish Colombians love to see on their plate at weddings and family events (4). Aside from the typical Colombian food, traditional aspects of the receptions are still in place, such as starter food, entree meal and cake. The most important element is the togetherness of family and friends celebrating the couple, which of course, is a pretty universal concept.

1. Wikipedia- Colombia
2. Jimena Baquero
3. Special thanks to my friend, Ivan Leyva, who lent his knowledge and his wedding photos to this post
4. International traditions


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