The Thing About Spanish Weddings…

I went to my first wedding when I was 20. I had never been asked to be a flower girl, and my older cousins didn’t get married until I was already living in Spain. I drove with a friend out to Waterloo, Iowa, for a study abroad friend’s nuptials. The following year, I was a bridesmaid in a high school friend’s ceremony. I was as wedding tonta as they come.

The Novio invited me to a friend’s wedding on Gran Canaria (!!!!) after we’d been dating for about six months. We took a long weekend and explored the island by car, but I was underdressed, had the wrong length dress on, and mistakenly didn’t eat lunch before we left.

Since then, I’ve tallied more enlaces in Spain than weddings in the US – three of fellow americanas who married Spaniards – and I’ve even photographed one! Just last weekend, I attended a bodorrio in the Novio’s village of San Nicolás del Puerto. He wasn’t there, but I went anyway because, who doesn’t love a good wedding?

Yeah, so the thing about Spanish weddings is…


Weddings are typically held in the bride’s hometown. The Novio knows the father of the bride is the one who pays, so he’s promised we can do one back home, too. In fact, I’ve only been to three weddings in Seville proper! 


It’s considered bad taste to send the invitations to your friends and family; instead, the happy couple are expected to hand out the envelopes to guests! There have been several weddings where I’ve not gotten the actual invitation until just days or weeks before the nuptials, and most are sent six weeks before (thanks for sharing this, Lynette!).


Ladies: if it’s a daytime wedding, stick to a short dress. If it’s at night, go long. Do not mess this up, or have the marujas in attendance forever tsk-ing you. If you’re really pija and daring, you can wear a nice pants suit.

El tocado

Those crazy fascinators are ONLY appropriate for day weddings. I know, just when you want to be bold and Spanish and wear one, you find out that you can’t because the ceremony is at 6pm. Sorry.

The wedding party

It’s not common to have bridesmaids and groomsmen; rather, Spanish weddings have a madrina and a padrino who sign the paperwork that legally makes you man and wife. When the Novio’s brother got married in a civil ceremony, I was his wife’s madrina, which also meant I got to fix her hair right before I took photos of them.


There are virtually no gift registries – you hand the happy couple an envelope stuffed with money to start their nest egg (or pay back the lavish meal you just ate).

I was horrified when the Novio slammed 300€ into his friend’s palm at our first wedding together, but money is a lot easier to carry than an olla exprés, I suppose. Brides and grooms sometimes include their bank account number in the invitation, as well, so that you can transfer money in before the ceremony.

Food and Drink

They never seem to stop serving food or drink. Ever.

In Spain, there is usually a coctel where someone will inevitably be cutting a leg of jamón, and you’ll have beer, wine, sherry and soft drinks served, along with finger foods. Once you sit down, there will be more jamón and boiled shrimp before you get two dishes, a dessert and coffee before the champagne toast.

The bride and groom typically come around to your table at this time to give you a small gift, and this is where you hand them the envelope. Every time someone shouts, ‘Vivan los novios!’ you must shout viva.

Then it’s dance and copas time! Most weddings have a DJ or band and they always, ALWAYS play the same songs. I fooled someone into thinking I was Spanish last weekend because I knew every single song they played.

All the normal stuff we do back home?

The bride and groom have their first dance, you throw rice and the bride throws her bouquet, and someone’s drunk uncle hits on you. Like many Spanish celebrations, weddings are over-the-top and full of fun moments (usually brought on by a cocktail or two). And there is always a sevillana or two!

At Jesus and Macarena’s wedding last weekend, the father of the groom asked me how I was enjoying myself. I told him it was the exact wedding I’d envisioned for myself – right down to where the banquet was held (the father of the groom’s restaurant!).

Have you ever attended a Spanish wedding (or had one yourself)? Tell me about it…I am hopeful I’ll get my two parties someday and need some ideas!

Uno de enero, dos de febrero…Experiencing the San Fermines festival of Pamplona

Author’s note: This article was written by a guest author. While I have been to quaint Pamplona, I have never seen the bullfights or the running of the bulls that has made this city so famous. Therefore, none of the sentiments expressed in the post belong to me or to Sunshine and Siestas.

What images appear in anyone’s mind when they encounter the words “tour,” “tourist,” “touring,” or “leisure travel”? For me, it brings back memories of my stay in some of the best hotels in Costa Brava, my scuba diving adventure off the coast in Thailand, my long-distance trekking in the Lower Himalayas, and other countless visits in top destinations in the world. However, I’ve always known that tourism is more than that. It includes interacting with locals, tasting local cuisine in the region’s humble restaurants, learning more about the region’s history, shopping and haggling in bazaars and souks, or discovering less-known areas. In other words, to truly complete and enjoy a tour, I usually make an effort to experience a nation’s culture first-hand by doing what locals do every day.

Through my experiences, I learned that one of the best ways to experience a region’s culture is to witness and, better yet, join its festivals. Festivals embody and encapsulate a lot of the nation’s history and culture in a single event. For locals, it is a way to commemorate something significant, historical, or inspirational that made them the way they are today. For tourists, partaking in a festival is a way to learn something about the place while having a great deal of fun.

San Fermines

Spain is one of those countries where festivals are seemingly almost a daily occurrence, which is not surprising considering that it has a rich history and culture whose influence echoes to almost every corner of the world. Each Spanish city, town, village, or municipality may have its own plethora of festivals. And in Pamplona in Navarre, Spain, tourists can have more than just travel and leisure when they partake of the festival of San Fermin, locally known as San Fermines.

The festival, which is celebrated from July 7 to July 14 every year, is held in honour of the co-patron saint of Navarre, St. Fermin, which the festival is named after. It is considered as the one of the most popular and well-attended festival in Spain. In fact, every year, vastly more than 1 million people participate in the San Fermines.  During the festival, the entire populace wears white shirts and red scarves.  I’ve witnessed the San Fermines celebration – it’s spectacular!

Daily Events

Each day of the San Fermines festival is marked by daily activities that are fun, and sometimes dangerous, apart from the festival’s main attraction.

The Running of the Bulls – this event, which begins at 8 AM every day, involves masses of people running for their lives in front of enraged bulls: six bulls to be exact! The participants run half a mile of narrow streets in a part of old Pamplona, a run that usually lasts for 3 minutes, while being chased by big, strong bulls. The run ends at the bullring where the beasts will be held until the bullfight in the afternoon. Needless to say, the event is inherently dangerous. (Cat has walked these narrow, slippery cobblestone streets – it’s not for the faint of heart!)

The Parade of Giants – every morning from July 7 to 8, a parade of giant mascots is held in the streets of Pamplona. The giants, some of them over 150 years old, represent the rulers of different places and races. A skilled performer “wears” the giant costume while dancing to the rhythm of classical Spanish music. It’s a fun event as the giants playfully run after children.


Bullfights – Spain has always been associated with bullfights. Each afternoon from July 7 to 14, fully costumed toreros step out into the arena and perform their dance with angry, powerful bulls. The stadium is always full during the afternoon, and those interested are advised to book tickets ahead of time if they wish to check out bullfights.

Classical sports – Forget football, basketball, and other modern Spanish sports. During the San Fermines festival, tourists and locals are re-introduced to traditional Basque sports that were once played hundreds of years ago. Every afternoon, in a square near the city’s citadel or bullring, local Spaniards and tourists either watch or participate in sports like hay bale lifting, woodcutting, stonelifting, and Jai ali. You can bet on your favourite “athlete,” by the way.

Fireworks Shows – at the end of the day, the city launches a fireworks show. These colourful shows in the sky have been a part of San Fermines since 1595, and  Pamplona has been hosting international fireworks competitions since 2000. During the night, thousands of people sit down on the grass around the city park to marvel at the exploding, brilliant colours in the night sky.

Take part of the San Fermines, one of the most popular festivals in Spain.

Author bio: Ariana Louis is a backpacker, traveller, and blogger. For more than a decade, she has experienced spending hotels in Costa Brava, exploring the jungles of Thailand, hiking the wilderness of the Lower Himalayas, and travelled to the corners of the globe. She keeps a cool photo blog of her adventures which also includes practical travel and adventure tips.

I’m headed to the Tomatina festival this August, a bit more my style than the heart-pounding (not to mention, life-threatening) action. Have you ever been to the San Fermines festival? Was it absolutely mad?!

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