It was only a year ago that I stood at the altar in a beautiful gown. My dress – a bright fuchsia – clung to my skin, sticky from the summer heat. The greenery a splendid scenery for a wedding.
How did this Latina get married in a hot pink dress? I didn’t. But I did wear a strapless number as a bridesmaid at my sisters nontraditional wedding.
The wedding took place in South Carolina. Unlike traditional Dominican weddings, there was no priest. Instead, my sister and her African American groom were married by a pastor. My sister, Ariana, also didn’t marry in a church, which almost killed my God-loving mama.
“If I don’t have my ceremony in a Catholic church, Mami said she’s not walking me down the aisle,” my sister confessed months before her big day.
“Well, she needs to respect your decision,” I advised. “Besides, we have to create our own traditions.”
That isn’t always easy for Latinas. Just like Mami, other Latina mothers expect their daughters to follow cultural wedding guidelines.
Diana Escalante, a Mexican-born American, is struggling with her own mother about one broken custom. The bride-to-be is wearing a birdcage ala a 1950’s Hollywood star, instead of a two-layered veil like a virginal bride. The veil is a symbol of purity. Lifting a bride’s veil is also a sign that the family is ready to give the bride away. A tradition that is being taken away from Escalante’s mother; hence the upset.
Other brides have shared similar tales of mother’s clutching pearls due to broken traditions and “el que diran.” Lourdes Estevez, a Dominican American residing in Teaneck, NJ, had to fight for her right to wear a cream-colored dress. “My mom thought my dress was way too dark,” Estevez shared.
Who cares, right? It wasn’t a pink dress, or worse, a black tutu.
“She knows I am not a virgin but white is virginal, so she wanted to keep up appearances,” Lourdes explained. In other words “el que diran” would be that her daughter was una muchacha caliente because she wasn’t wearing the whitest white.
Despite her mother’s protests, Lourdes wore the dress that she fell in love with to say “I do.” How did her mother take it? “She handled it by saying that she would wear a white dress to my wedding if I didn’t!’ Luckily, family members stepped in and knocked some sense into the mother-of-the-bride. Besides, Estevez had been living with her then fiancé for years. So it seems the cream dress was the best choice.
Another popular choice among Latina brides, due to the pressure of wedding planning and cultural traditions, is to elope and not deal with the fuss of a wedding at all. Yolanda Machado, a Peruvian/Mexican from Los Angeles, was all about the courthouse. “I was already pregnant and we had been living together for over a year, she shared. “We always said, ‘Take care of the baby first then we’ll think about a “real” wedding.’”
Did her family get over their quick vows? “My abuelita is still asking us when we’re going before God!”
So, that’s probably a no.
Another bride, Maria Brown, wed in New York City Hall due to family drama. They disapproved of her much darker Cuban/Dominican man as Maria, who is of Costa Rican heritage, is very pale. Add the fact that he’s not Catholic and her very religious parents were dead set on breaking up the couple.
“With all this drama going on, we decided to have a wedding at City Hall,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, our union is between us. We are the ones that matter as well as our son,” she shared.
So, are any Latinas going the traditional route? A little. My sister did have some traditional Dominican dishes at her wedding. (She really can’t live without her platano maduros.) Diana has decided to include las arras – a Mexican tradition where silver coins are exchanged from groom to bride to symbolize that he can financially support his bride. Lourdes may not have donned the purest white but she did marry her groom in the Catholic church. And then there is the story of Rosanna Rodriguez.
“I went super traditional. Church, veil, father/daughter waltz, and even a white ball gown,” she said of her wedding. Still, even then, tradition was broken. “My father wasn’t too traditional that he felt the desire to foot the bill!
So, whatever your choice, remember that your wedding is your day. You are marrying the man (or woman) of your dreams and are starting a wonderful life together. Don’t you want to jump the broom on your own terms? Yes, I think you do.