Last month, my host family invited me to attend their nephew’s wedding in March. Yesterday was the big day, which meant my host parents, my host siblings and their partners, and I loaded into my host father’s van (which doubles as a school bus for elementary schoolers during the week) and started the quick trip to Celaya.
Armed with snacks from the local Oxxo (a valero-esque gas station and convenience store), we exchanged chips, candies, and different kinds of aloe water as we headed west. My host sister mocked as we crossed the border from Queretaro to Guanajuato. She explained that Celaya had absolutely nothing and that the pueblo’s claim to fame was their cajeta. Cajeta is a caramel type sauce made with goat’s milk. True to her word, we passed expansive fields that were only interrupted by the highway we traveled upon. My host brother told me that you could cross the entirety of Celaya by car in 20 minutes! As we got closer to the city center, there were more shops and residences, and even car dealerships on the outskirts of town.
Parking in front of the tiny church, we all got down to help my host dad unload his music equipment. He would be singing the wedding mass! My host siblings/in-laws decided to go visit my host brother’s girlfriend who was staying in Celaya with her sister for the weekend. My host mom and I found our seats in the pews and waited for the ceremony to start. I heard my host dad strike the famous chords on his keyboard and we all stood to watch the bride enter the church.
The couple was truly beautiful and though I felt slightly intrusive having just met them on their wedding day, I was also so grateful to be included. The mass was more or less the same as one might be conducted in english. It felt strange to understand what the priest was saying but not knowing how to answer in spanish! (Hint: blurting out “And with your spirit” in English isn’t how the rest of the congregation is going to respond.) More specific to the wedding, I noticed that there were what seemed to be bridesmaids/groomsmen, though they didn’t stand at the front of the altar next to the bride and groom. They were all color coordinated (a cute grey and pink), but dispersed throughout the pews.
After the mass, the bride and groom also honored and prayed to the Virgin de Guadalupe. My host mom explained to me that it’s tradition that the bride leave her bouquet of flowers under the image/paintings of the virgin after the ceremony. Everyone filed outside slowly, stopping for pictures and to catch up with relatives that hadn’t seen in years. I met so many new people and was thankful for their gracious welcome and smiles.
Packing up my dad’s music equipment, the three of us climbed back into the van to go to the wedding reception. The reception was hosted at a beautiful outdoor space, complete with lights strung across the yard and tables overflowing with floral centerpieces. Dinner consisted of an appetizer of mini empanadas, a broccoli/cilantro cream soup, a plate of chicken with pasta and salad, and flan for dessert. Before the dancing started, the musical selection was… interesting. Classic rock and roll songs sang in English were covered by a woman with a smooth almost jazzy attempting seductive voice, making the classic songs almost uncomfortable. Since they were all in english nobody seemed to notice but I was just laughing to myself as I had to endure the music on my own. A live band came out around 11:30, which marked the start of the “vibora del mar”. Traditionally, men and women take turns linking hands or lining up and running through a small tunnel made by the bride and groom holding their hands above their heads. When they invited the women up, I was hesitant to go because my host sister, my host brother’s girlfriend, and my host mom stayed glued to their seats. After watching the others lineup for a bit, my host mom grabbed my arm and told me we were joining. I reached for my brother’s girlfriend, but she insisted she couldn’t run in heels. I looked desperately at my host sister but only heard a cry of something about machismo culture.
I turned to see my host family cackling as my mom and I marched around. Returning to the table, we found small envelopes where guests were invited to put money for the couple’s honeymoon. My host dad told me that traditionally, this money was collected differently. He told me that the bride would carry around a shoe, stopping by each table for people to stuff bills inside. The groom would then follow up by letting people write a message/sign his shirt and put money into the shirt pockets.
The dancing started around midnight and a live band crooned popular reggaeton hits. Again my family stayed in their seats, though after the first two songs, my host sister grabbed my hand and pulled me to the dance floor. I grabbed my host brother’s girlfriend and my host mom and we all laughed and danced to the live band’s imitation of the pop hits. My host dad waited at the table for the cumbia songs that would not be played. He told me how much he wanted to dance to cumbia and I was sad that we never got to.
Around 12:30 we hugged everyone goodbye and once again piled into the van. My host brothers Adam and Lalo fell asleep almost instantly. Lili and I stayed up and chatted while my host parents fidgeted with Google maps. After dropping Lili and Adam off at their house, we made it home around 1:30. I’m so thankful to have a host family that is so willing to include me in their family events and take every chance they get to teach me more about their culture.
This post was contributed by Paige Johnson, a 2019 Global Ambassador majoring in International Relations and Global Studies.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Paige’s experience in Mexico>>