2/16/2013 9:31:00 AM Rituals of unity augment Mexican weddings
Catholic Sentinel photos by Jose Salame
Rosa Lidia Pascual receives ceremonial coins from Victor Cristobal during their wedding at St. Patrick Church in Portland.
Victor Cristobal and Rosa Lidia Pascual are bound with lasso-like rosary during their wedding at St. Patrick Church in Portland.
Well before the wedding, some couples in Hispanic cultures keep an old tradition in which the man asks the bride's family for her hand in marriage. Because of the importance of family unity, the groom's entire family meets with the bride's entire family for this rite.
The second part of the custom involves the wider parish community. At the end of a Sunday Mass, some time before the wedding, the engaged couple receives a simple blessing from the priest and the assembly present.
Mexican culture includes the tradition of wedding coins or arras, which goes back to 11th century Spain. After the blessing and exchange of rings, the priest or deacon blesses a set of 13 coins. The groom then gives the coins to his new wife as he pledges to care for her and the home they will build together. The bride receives the arras (the word means "pledge") and commits herself to working with her new husband to use the gifts they have to care for all in need. This is not an official part of the Roman marriage rite.
Together for Life, Juntos Para Toda La Vida, a book for couples published by Ave Maria Press, says the arras ritual can be updated if couples desire. "Today, many couples depend on two incomes in order to manage their financial needs," the book says. "So the words that accompany the giving and receiving of the arras can express this contemporary reality as well as communicate the sacrifice that each of you will make for the other. If the words you use are crafted well, they can also express your new sacramental role in the community. As a couple, you are now a new sign of God’s love to the world, especially for those in need. The arras can represent your sacrifice not just for each other but also for those who come to you seeking your care and kindness."
The use of the lazo — today a large double-looped rosary that ties the couple together — goes back at least to the seventh century Spain. It seems to have been a garland of uncertain shape draped over the couple's shoulders, says Gift and Promise: Customs and Traditions in Hispanic Rites of Marriage. The circular lazo used today may have additional roots in native Meso-American marriage ceremonies, in which the clothes of bride and groom were often tied together.
The U.S. bishops have approved the new rite of marriage in Spanish language for use in the U.S. The arras and lazo are now included as options in the official ritual.