A Foreigner’s Guide to Weddings in Spain

Since the bride and groom delivered the invitations earlier this summer, I had been anxiously awaiting this weekend. Not only were Dani and I happy that our friends were tying the knot, but I was also excited to attend my first wedding in Spain! But not just any wedding—a Galician wedding!

To add to the anticipation, everyone kept telling me, “¿Es tu primera boda gallega? ¡Vas a flipar!” (It’s your first Galician wedding? You’re going to freak out!) They were right about that!

If you’re wondering, what’s Galicia?, it’s a very mountainous, lush region in the northwest of Spain that I now call home. Because of its rich history, cool climate, and Celtic influences, Galicia has its own customs, cuisine, and even language separate from the rest of Spain. So Galician weddings, although similar to normal Spanish weddings, are even more unique with special traditions and above all, food!

So without further ado, here are the details of my first Galician wedding experience and a guide for anyone attending a wedding in Spain.

Wedding Attire and Gifts

Spanish weddings are black-tie formal and it’s important to dress accordingly if you don’t want to arrive under-dressed. The Spanish are pretty stylish people, so expect fancy suits, dresses, heels—the whole nine yards. The golden rule of not wearing a white dress still stands, but white dresses with floral patterns are fine. Usually ladies wear short dresses for daytime weddings and long dresses for nighttime ones. But honestly, no matter when the wedding starts it’s going to last all night, so wear what you like!

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When it comes to getting a gift for the bride and groom, Spanish people don’t use gift registries anymore. It is standard to give money in an envelope to the couple during the reception. Of course you can give money and presents, but only family and best friends did that at the wedding I attended.

The Ceremony

This Saturday was the big day and it started like any typical day in Galicia: rainy and gray—traditional Galician weather for a traditional Galician wedding! The wedding guests boarded the private shuttle in Noia (my pueblo) and headed to a neighboring village of Camboño. There, nestled between the mountains and the Atlantic coast, is the quaint 17th-century chapel where the ceremony was held.

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All eyes were on the bride as she entered the church and walked the aisle with her father. She looked simply beautiful! (Honestly I had to fight back some tears.) Like almost all religious Spanish weddings, a priest conducted the ceremony and delivered a Catholic service. Of course this Galician wedding was in galego, the region’s second official language.

When the newlyweds exited the rear of the church, everyone threw confetti, rose pedals, and rice as a sign of good luck and fertility. (So Catholic!) The rain continued to fall as we headed for the restaurant in Boiro.

The Reception Part 1: Drinks and Tapas

If you’re going to attend a Spanish wedding, it’s a good rule-of-thumb to not eat breakfast to save room for all the food. If you’ll be attending a Galician wedding, don’t eat for a couple days! Spanish social events are a big deal, Galician events are even bigger—especially when it comes to food. Wedding receptions begin with drinks and tapas.

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This part of the wedding is to socialize, congratulate the couple, and get a little food in your stomach. But be warned: these appetizers are child’s play compared to the food to come, so don’t eat too many! It was very hard for us to say no to all the delicious Galician tapas: octopus, empanada, croquetas, local cheeses, paté with caramelized onions, cod, and jamón. To drink we sipped on an Albariño white wine from Galicia.

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The Reception Part 2: The Feast

After eating too many tapas, the party moved inside the venue for the real dinner to start. Dani and I sat at a long table designated for the friends and siblings of the couple. There were small bottles of Galician licor café (coffee liquor) at every seat as a party favor for us guests.

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Typical Spanish weddings serve two plates, one of fish and one of meat, before it’s time to cut the cake. At Galician weddings, you start with 3 (or more) courses of seafood before you even get to the two main courses! As much as people warned me beforehand, I was still not prepared for how much food this really was.

We began with lobster, moved to king prawns, and then had clams. I’ve never had such incredible and gigantic shellfish in my life! Galicia has spoiled me rotten with its fresh local seafood.

For our main courses we had rape (pronounced RA-PAY, not sexual assault) or monkfish in English, which came with a nice white fish sauce, asparagus, and caramelized onions. The second was carrillera (the cut of beef along the neck of the cow) with potatoes and peppers. This was hands down the best plate of all though sadly I could only finish part of it. Between the two courses there was a much-needed drink break of mandarin orange sorbet cocktails. I was super impressed by everything they served us that day.

Last but not least, we topped it all off with strawberry cheesecake and chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream. It’s becoming more popular nowadays to serve this style of dessert instead of traditional tiered wedding cakes, and I can’t complain! A final shot of Galician liquor wrapped up this unbelievable feast.

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The After Party

All weddings in Spain, like in most places, typically finish with an open bar and after party of dancing till late hours of the night, or till you can’t stand in your heels anymore. Dani and had an amazing time with all of our friends. I couldn’t have asked for a more fun day and I hope the married couple couldn’t either. Big thanks to F and N! ¡Vivan los novios! 

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Thanks for reading! Have you been to a wedding in Spain or are going to one soon? How was your experience? Comment below! As always, happy travels everyone!

Written by

I’m an American expat living in Galicia. I want to inspire travel, learn a dozen languages, and try every food in the world.

3 Comments

  • Inma

    Loved this one!
    And it’s all so true 🙂 we Galicians put life before everything else. And weddings just magnify that.
    Wanna attend yours next! The Galician one of course 😉

    • Heather

      Hey Inma!
      Thanks for reading my article. It’s now officially Galicia approved 🙂 I am in LOVE with the weddings here! They really are incredible. It will be some years in the future but I definitely will be having mine here 😉
      Happy travels!
      -Heather

  • Ruth

    Hi Heather

    It is quite a wonderful experience to attend a Galician Wedding. I can relate. I attended one in the summer of 2014 and you are right about the food and dancing! I have been invited to a second wedding next year in July and I am looking forward to it.
    I am Namibian and married to a Galician from Muros, close to your Pueblo..Noia. We live in Namibia and only visit Galicia over summer or Christmas holidays.
    Perhaps one day we will move to Galicia and I can have the full experience of living there.

    Your blog is informative and totally awesome. Thanks for sharing.

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