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Dominican Republic Local Customs

A Guide to Local Wedding Customs in the Dominican Republic

Dominican culture is a rich fusion of Spanish colonial and African influences. Wedding customs in the Dominican Republic reflect the island nation’s Spanish cultural heritage. In the Dominican Republic, it is traditional for the man to propose to the woman. The bride-to-be’s family typically makes all of the preparations for the ceremony. Because weddings can be so costly for people who live in the Dominican Republic, many couples skip over the church wedding altogether, have only a civil wedding, and organize a small gathering with friends and family following the civil ceremony.

In other cultures it is considered taboo for the groom to see the bride in her dress before the ceremony but that is not the case in the Dominican Republic. Generally, the bride and groom have photographs taken together a few hours prior to the ceremony when they are already dressed.

Civil weddings in the Dominican Republic take place in the Civil Court of the Judges Chamber. Couples planning a church wedding generally have their civil ceremony on the morning of the day of their wedding and sometimes even the day before. Unlike in the US, church weddings in the Dominican Republic usually don’t involve bridesmaids and aren’t large, extravagant ceremonies. They typically include a nuptial mass. Flower girls and ring bearers are usually always present at church weddings in the Dominican Republic. Young family members serve as flower girls and ring bearers and dress similarly to the bride and groom. There is usually also another child who carries a white bible down the altar. Traditionally, Dominican brides wear white but nowadays some of them even wear red or black dresses.

The Padrinos

The godfather and godmother, or padrino and madrina, are the godparents of the wedding ceremony. Customarily, the mother and father of the bride serve as the godparents. Their role in the ceremony is to be the primary witnesses. Both the couple and the godparents must sign the marriage certificate. In the Dominican Republic, couples sign the marriage certificate at the actual ceremony.

The mother of the groom typically always accompanies him to the altar in the Dominican Republic. At the end of the liturgy, numerous friends and family members go up to the altar to serve as witnesses. It is considered an honor in Dominican culture to be named a witness for a wedding.

The Arras and the Ceremonia Cantada

One tradition followed at church weddings in the Dominican Republic involves having a young guest pass 13 coins on a silver tray to the priest. The priest then passes the coins to the groom, who then passes them to the bride. This ritual symbolizes the couple’s willingness and pledge to share material things and provide for each other throughout their marriage.

Rather than just being accompanied by instrumental music, all music is sung during wedding ceremonies in the Dominican Republic. This tradition is known as the “ceremonia cantada.” Receptions tend to consist of sit-down dinners. It is not considered taboo to leave a wedding reception before the bride and groom since they tend to stay till the end of the party, which usually ends up being in the wee hours.

In conclusion, wedding traditions in the Dominican Republic are based on conservative Spanish customs. Destination wedding couples that are planning a religious ceremony will get a firsthand glimpse into how a traditional Dominican church wedding ceremony is held. If you are having your destination wedding at a resort, you can choose to incorporate some of these wedding customs into your ceremony to give it cultural flair that’s unique to the Dominican Republic.

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