All over the globe, engagement and wedding traditions can vary massively. A custom that I would like to share with you is the Spanish pedida de mano, or ‘asking of the hand’.
When my fiancé Antonio proposed to me last September, it was a magical moment in Real Alcazar, a palatial garden in the heart of his hometown of Seville. I was lucky enough to say yes to my soulmate surrounded by orange trees, Bougainvillea and antique Azulejos tiles. However, this was just the beginning of our engagement.
In Latin culture, the pedida de mano is a near-essential step of any couple’s trip down the aisle. Traditionally, the small ceremony brought together the core family members of each partner, with an emphasis on the groom and bride’s father. The former would ask for the bride-to-be’s hand in marriage, with the father of the bride assuring himself that his daughter would be properly cared for and either deciding to give her away or not.
Luckily though, the tradition has evolved and is today more symbolic than anything else, less intimidating for the future groom and reliant on the bride-to-be’s wishes rather than her father’s. It is often an occasion for both families to meet for the first time and get to know each other before the wedding, as well as for the traditional exchange of gifts: a watch for him and the engagement ring for her. Now if you’re thinking that Antonio therefore had to propose to me without a ring, that would be incorrect. He proposed to me with a diamond-studded eternity band, which is both my engagement ring and not my engagement ring. Allow me to explain.
The custom dictates that as a material welcome into each family, the fiancée receives a more lavish ring from her future family in law (the formal engagement ring to be worn with the eternity band). As for the fiancé, he receives a watch of equivalent value to the formal engagement ring from the bride’s parents, which traditionally is worn on the wedding day.
We had the official pedida dinner this May in Seville (usually the bride’s parents host it, but as the tradition is Spanish, it felt more fitting to plan it in Antonio’s hometown). The setting was a private room in a restaurant, housed in a historic building of the city centre: very fitting as my fiancé is an architect. There were moving speeches, the exchange of gifts and general getting to know each other better, with interjections from a marching band in the street below, as well as a religious throne procession, which we could watch from the balcony of our private room. We finished the evening on the roof terrace with drinks, making the most of the balmy weather before returning to the hotel.
The pedida can sometimes be dismissed as an old-timey Latin tradition that doesn’t have any bearing on the couple’s future together, but its evolution into a more family-oriented event focused on sharing memories has modernised and reaffirmed it as a stepping stone to wedded bliss.