Feb 7 2011

Marriage traditions in Guatemala

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.

Guatemalan bridal party

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.

Guatemalan bridal party

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.

6 thoughts on “Marriage traditions in Guatemala”

  1. Thank you for posting this. I am 21 years old and engaged. I was adopted from Guatemala as an infant and did not know much about a traditional wedding ceremony. Thank you so much for this! I would like to use some aspects of the traditional Gautemalan wedding in my own wedding. Once again thank you! I cannot thank you enough!

  2. Just one question: Are the sponsors allowed to attend the wedding? If so, hopefully one day we can attend our sponsored child’s ceremony…

    1. Thanks, Helene, for your question.

      If you would like to visit your friend during their wedding ceremony, and you know the date of the event, we can arrange for an individual sponsor visit for you. Generally, individual sponsor visits allow you to meet your friend at the project office, subproject office or another public location.

      Visits occur within normal project business hours and last no longer than one day. All visits between you and your sponsored friend must be coordinated through the Kansas City office.

      We ask you to notify us as soon as you decide to visit. We request a minimum 30-day prior notice. This allows enough time for us to contact the project office to make sure they can accommodate your visit, and for you to complete and sign required forms.

      For these visits, you will need to make your own travel arrangements, but you will have a chance to meet and spend time with your friend. Sometimes a member of your friendís family might visit with you as well.

      The CFCA project staff will be present for the entire visit and will provide translation services as necessary.

      If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Sponsor Services by email or call 1-800-875-6564 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time.

      ~Sponsor Services

  3. Dear Luis — Thank you for interviewing Henry and sharing the story of his and Silvia’s wedding. My daughter, Bridget, was married in October 2010, and I was just about to send wedding pictures and a letter to my sponsored child, Angelica, in Guatemala. Knowing what a traditional Guatemalan ceremony is like will enable me to better explain Bridget’s engagement and marriage ceremony.

    1. Hola Luis! Me gusta el cuento de una boda en Guatemala. Yo espero que estes muy bien. Hola a ti y todos amigos en San Lucas Toliman. Libertad y yo rezamos todas las noches por nuestros amigos de San Lucas.

      Besos y abrazos,
      Christine y Libertad

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