Wedding spice

Time-honored New Mexico wedding traditions

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To understand the traditional Hispano way of bringing about a fun, culture-driven and time-honored wedding, you have to start at the beginning — the courtship.

As told to me many moons ago by Jerry Padilla — my late friend and longtime Spanish section editor at The Taos NewsAs told to me many moons ago by Jerry Padilla — my late friend and longtime Spanish section editor at The Taos News — once relatives got wind of a romantic relationship, elder males in the boy's family, such as a father or grandfather, were enlisted to start the formalities. A polite letter was written to the girl's family, inviting them to dinner. Often the elder would hand deliver the invite, promptly leaving to give the family time to consider the union. This was known as pedir la novia (to ask for the bride-to-be.)

Praise of the potential bride-to-be was a main focus in such a letter and should her family agree it was a good idea to become relatives by allowing their beautiful princess to be wed to a humble, hardworking, etc., prospective groom, to please reply by coming to dinner.

If no was the answer, the girl's family would find a large pumpkin and discreetly leave it at the boy's family's doorstep. Giving a pumpkin to politely refuse was known as dando calabaza.

Conversely, if the girl's family accepted the invitation, they sent an equally polite letter back stating they would be honored to have their humble daughter become a part of such a distinguished family.

Once a date for dinner was agreed upon, the happening often became an engagement party, or prendorio. After that, the wedding details were worked out, allowing time for the pending nuptials to be announced at church on three consecutive Sundays, known as correr tres banas.

As the big day drew near, the groom was required to give the novia a ride in a wheelbarrow from her home to the church. This was done to prove he could handle the load (responsibility) he was taking on. Even in remote rural areas, there was likely a capilla (chapel) where the wedding would take place — and with any luck, she didn't live far from it. I remember Jerry telling me that he had never heard of any groom failing to fulfill this expectation, among practicing traditional families.

During the ceremony, it was customary to tie a faja (sash) around the couple who knelt before the altar. This signified that they were now symbolically enfaciados (belted together).

At the reception, it was customary for a male relative to sing the entriega, verses explaining to the couple their responsibilities to each other. Kneeling humbly before the troubadour, the couple sometimes had to listen to many verses. If the singer was talented at composing rhyming lyrics, the entriega could go on for a while.

Then it was typically time for La Marcha, a type of wedding march where all attending danced in two intertwining lines and concentric circles honoring the bride and groom. The music then changed to a waltz and all the men and women took turns pinning a dollar to either the bride or the groom signifying a dance with them.

But it's the tradition of el trivilín that Jerry said was the "most fun" and likely made for a "nervous" groom. In some parts of the country, this is known by other names similar to "shiveree." Once the bride was abducted, it was the job of the best man and ushers to ransom her back. Usually, this was done before the couple left on their honeymoon. The price was the promise to provide for a dance, food and beverages in the near future.

The La Marcha custom is still en vogue in Taos, and as for the rest, Jerry said that just depends on how much old-fashioned fun and cultural experiences you want to have along your road to marriage.

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