When we told people we met in Guanajuato that we were going to a Mexican wedding upon our return to Celaya, we saw the same expressions and heard the same things over and over. Huge smiles, shakes of the head, and, “Have you ever been to a Mexican wedding before? Wow. You’re in for a treat. They really know how to party!” Even Bertha’s dad hinted at this on the way home from the airport right after he picked us up. “Luckily,” he said, “The wedding starts at 1:00 PM and there will be lots and lots of food. It should end by 11:00 PM, so hopefully you won’t be too tired [hungover] the next morning.”
Thankfully, they were all correct.
I had googled my face off trying to find information about Mexican weddings and traditions beforehand so as not to accidentally do anything culturally taboo. However, most searches including the phrase “Mexican Weddings” turned up links for planning the destination wedding of your dreams. I was able to find some cultural information about how the bride and groom are encircled in a lasso during the ceremony (Bertha and Daniel were) and how they might exchange gold coins as a show of their ability to support one another (they didn’t). However, I couldn’t find anything else about proper guest etiquette, except maybe that during Catholic ceremonies in traditional churches, women should cover their shoulders (not in this particular church), so I packed a pashmina. I didn’t know if I was allowed to wear black, or if it would be bad luck or offensive like wearing white in the United States. Turns out, black is totally cool and all of the bridesmaids wore it so I fit right in, and as a note, I’m pretty sure you’re just never supposed to wear white to a wedding in any situation where the bride wears white (except for Pippa, of course).
The only other things I read were multiple comments about how much of a party weddings were in Mexico (some lasting late into the night/next morning) and how much dancing there would be. Accurate.
Bertha’s parents arranged transportation for wedding guests from the hotel (where there was a wedding block) in Celaya. Charlie and I followed some fancily dressed Mexican folks from the lobby onto the bus. However, as we waited to leave and the minutes ticked by, we realized we would never make it in time for the 2:00 ceremony. Now, I know that in the United States, that would make us look pretty tacky (not that I’ve ever done this or anything), so I thought, “Great, what a good start. We’ve managed to get our hungover selves on the correct bus from Guanajuato and all the way to our hotel in time, but now our arranged transportation was going to make us late. We’ve been framed!”
Fortunately when we arrived at the beautiful ex-hacienda, we were among many guests still filtering in as the priest continued to speak without batting an eye. Bertha and Daniel were seated at the front. That’s how you know it’s not going to be a quick ceremony, if the bride and groom are comfortably seated. Slowly all the pews filled up, but people kept arriving and a large crowd gathered in the back where it was standing room only. I glanced back to see tons of others behind the crowd milling about in the sunlight trying to catch a glimpse of the ceremony. It didn’t seem to bother anybody that guests would walk in whenever they arrived, some of them getting up to walk out and back in. I can dig it.
The ceremony was held in the chapel of the old hacienda and was very light and spacious, with an airy feel, the huge doors in the back left open and the ceilings incredibly high. The priest spoke in Spanish, of course, and invited everyone present to partake in communion if they so desired. People took pictures throughout the ceremony with their smart phones and cameras. It wasn’t nearly as solemn or quiet as most weddings I’ve been to in the States, but it was definitely beautiful and it really felt nice that it wasn’t so uptight. This attitude would continue throughout the night as people sat at their dinner tables, smoking cigarettes, bridesmaids and bride included.
The bride and groom were encircled in a thin silver lasso, signifying lifetime unity and everlasting love. Bertha and Daniel professed their vows and eventually they stood and were pronounced man and wife. The church stood and clapped and cheered. Cue everyone taking even more pictures with their smartphone. I too am guilty, as you can see from these photos (I couldn’t stop myself!).
The Celebration… Oh, The Celebration!
As soon as Bertha and Daniel walked out of the church into the sunlight, the mariachi band awaiting them started up. It was like something from a movie! Oh man, we’re really in Mexico now! is (most likely) what Charlie and I looked at each and exclaimed, laughing at this awesomeness that was unfolding. The caterers had sneakily set up drink stations right beside the church door, serving micheladas, mojitos, pina coladas, and fruits to all the guests immediately after they exited. Um, I LOVE that.
Once we broke free of the crowd of other guests who were also eager to get their first wedding cocktail, we spoke to Bertha’s mom (with many kisses on the cheeks, obviously) and enjoyed the largest mariachi band we’d seen yet. We also had our picture taken twice by the hired photographer roaming the reception who then later, surprise, brought us prints that we could buy! Yes, please, we will have those.
Then we scurried over the freshly manicured grass to the gigantic white tent (the biggest one I’ve seen at any wedding ever) to find our designated seats… with a table full of young, fun Mexican people who happened to speak incredibly good English (thanks Bertha, your powers of foresight are amazing!). We grabbed some cocktails and soon the food began pouring out, transported to our table by caterers dressed in black and white from all corners of the tent while the mariachi band blared Mexican music and poked fun at the guests, Charlie included. “Come on, sing, you know the words!”
The Food. You knew this was coming.
First, there came appetizers of taquitos and fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with cheese that were quickly passed around the table.
My table neighbor, Emanuel, fellow food lover and soon to be best friend, thought perhaps he shouldn’t tell me what one of the foods was, but I assured him I’d eat anything. He proclaimed the little congealed squares were pigs’ feet, and I proclaimed myself a badass and ate a forkful. Instant regret. That texture. Later he told us we HAD to try them with the crackers that were provided. Ahhhh, to my surprise, they were much better. The crunch of the cracker detracted from the fatty gristly texture of the feet. However, I still preferred the zucchini blossoms.
The first real course was a chili stuffed with fideos (tiny noodles) and topped with crispy fried tortilla strips, which I loooooved, but didn’t want to fill up on, because I knew what was coming next…
Mole blanca or mole de la novia was the main course, and the dish Bertha had forewarned me about after she learned of my love for mole. A piece of pork loin was smothered with the white mole sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. I was so excited to try this rare treasure and it did not disappoint. The little green geometrically-shaped side dish is what I believe Emanuel called a corunda, a trapezoidal shaped tamale made with masa (and no filling), traditionally from the state of Michoacán where Emanuel is from.
We ended with an assortment of desserts, from blueberry flan to a lemon/apple pie with tapioca pearls inside, and a few more that weren’t captured on film because I thought it might be rude to make all of my new-found friends at the table wait to eat their last course.
More Celebration… and Mezcal… and Tequila
Toasts were made by the fathers of the bride and groom, and Bertha’s dad almost made me cry. Surprisingly his Spanish was sounding super clear to me at this point. And then the father-daughter dance may have pushed me over the edge. It’s embarrassing really, my weakness for weddings.
Bertha made it all even more special by coming to our table with shots of mezcal for us to take with her. These, of course, were accompanied by a dish of chapulines, or yes, grasshoppers (some of them may have been crickets, who knows). They say if you eat one in Mexico, you are destined to return. They were, um, earthy. The mezcal was smokey and stronnnng. We were instructed to take a deep breath, take a drink of mezcal, and then exhale through the mouth, because the fumes (yes, fumes) from the mezcal are so strong. Supposedly mezcal is best accompanied by an orange, rather than a lime, to bring out the smokiness and add some sweetness. I must say, I think I prefer tequila…
Especially this tequila. The tequila served that night was specially ordered for the wedding. When requested, the servers would make sure to bring to the table the bottles decorated with a black and gold label that read “D y B” and pour some into your small tequila glass (like a tall shot glass). Of, if you so requested, into your large, thick-glassed vaso… an item I didn’t even recognize as something which could possibly be made for the sole purpose of containing straight liquor until my new friend Emmanuel order it… He proceeded to drink straight tequila all night. I quickly joined him and realized I really enjoyed this slow sipping of tequila throughout the day and into the evening… interspersed with bottles of water, of course. You know, cut out the middle man. No need to fill up on unnecessary drinks. Just have some of this smooth, pale gold liquid until you feel like dancing. [I’m waiting on my bottle in the mail, Bertha.]
And there was so much dancing! The mariachi band played throughout dinner. Then the DJ appeared, colorful strobe lights turned on, and EVERYBODY danced. To get myself on the dance floor, aside from the sips of tequila, I chanted a mantra of Don’t worry, just because literally everybody else here is Latino, that can’t possible mean they ALL dance better than you. While about half of the songs the DJ played were fun, popular Mexican music, surprisingly, the other half were exactly the type of wedding music we listen to at home. Play that Funky Music, Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, and they even slipped in the classic fraternity jam Murder on the Dance Floor. And everyone was really impressed with Charlie’s moonwalk.
A Mexican Wedding, like comida, is a marathon, not a sprint.
The dancing and tequila continued as Bertha’s wedding guests distributed foam hats in the shape of the poop emoji. You read that correctly. They were hilarious! There was a momentary mental WTF until I remembered and explained to Charlie (and now, to you readers) that Bertha and Daniel’s nickname for each other is Poopi! Of course, there were other hat options, but these were the most outrageous. I took a foam poop hat with me in my suitcase as far as Huatulco before I realized I could foresee no possible need for this item ever again and left it as a surprise for our hotel maid.
Later, the bride stood in a chair and threw the bouquet in the way we’re all used to, but when the groom went to retrieve and throw the garter, things went a touch differently. All of the younger men linked arms and surrounded the couple in a funny, pretend show of keeping the act private. Charlie joined in and I snapped some pics of all the dudes being dudes. Then Daniel took off the garter WITH HIS TEETH! Ah-maz-ing.
At one point later in the evening, Bertha’s dad came over to us holding a bottle of mezcal I’d seen earlier on the family’s table. We took celebratory shots together and hugged, graciously thanking him for inviting us to this fabulous wedding and taking such good care of us while we were here. I felt so lucky to have so much time to chat with Bertha’s parents during the reception as I usually feel like the family of the bride and groom are always so busy at weddings.
Late night snacks were served. Bags of chips topped with hot sauce and plates of enchiladas with refried beans (I think, maybe? I was getting tipsy, there were definitely beans). What a great idea!
People at this wedding, from the start of the ceremony to the lingering until after the music stopped, seemed genuinely pumped to be there and enjoyed themselves until the last possible minute. I know I felt incredibly honored to be at a good friend’s fabulous wedding after five years’ apart. We were there for NINE HOURS! And it was phenomenal. I was totally impressed at the partying stamina of these folks, old to young. There were babies on the bus back to the hotel that night. The wedding felt totally familiar, but at the same time totally Mexican… like one of our usual weddings on steroids.
It’s kind of like what Bertha said the first night I was in Mexico, talking late over cigarettes and Cuba Libre, just like we did back in our Buenos Aires apartment. She said, “You know, I thought it would be awkward, kind of, with you coming here after we haven’t seen each other in five years. But it’s the same. It is the same, bitch.*”
*Bertha uses the term “bitch” frequently. As a term of endearment, really.
I had a spectacular time at this Mexican wedding (if you couldn’t tell). Anybody else down in Mexico that wants to invite me to another one is welcome! Have you ever been to a wedding in another country? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!