The Wedding Mantilla: Fading Cultural Connection?
Twenty minutes and two forms later, we were done.
There were no flowers, no bridal march, and certainly no mantilla, the most traditional – and most Hispanic – of the Hispanic wedding traditions.
Attend a Latino wedding, particularly a Catholic Latino wedding, and you will surely see two women – usually the couple’s grandmothers, or godmothers, or favorite aunts; women of importance and significance to them – drape a large, lace shawl over the couple’s shoulders while the priest recites a prayer. The draping of the mantilla is a tradition passed down from generation to (Latino) generation.
The mantilla has its roots firmly embedded in Spanish culture, originally made popular by Queen Isabel II in the mid-1800s. After her reign, their popularity waned in most areas of Spain. However, the women of Andalusia continued to wear them for religious ceremonies, such as masses, Holy Week and papal visits. It is believed this lead to their use in Catholic wedding ceremonies.
I never have considered myself a traditionalist. I was not one of those little girls who played out her dream wedding with Barbie and Ken. I never really imagined myself getting married, much less having a huge, church ceremony, complete with fluffy white dress and petal-strewn aisle. The thought of using a mantilla in my wedding ceremony had never even crossed my mind.
Wondering if I was alone in my thinking, I posed the question to a few Catholic friends who did have traditional wedding ceremonies. I expected their answers to run along the lines of “I couldn’t wait to use one,” or “It was very important to have one in my ceremony.” I was actually quite surprised to hear that their feelings about the traditions of the mantilla were not entirely dissimilar to my own.
It turns out their reasons for using a mantilla were almost all identical: They did it because someone else wanted them to.
My niece, Yvette (pictured above), basically did it just to make her grandmother happy. Her paternal grandmother is so Catholic, she practically has the Pope on speed-dial. In order to appease her grandmother, and avoid the Catholic guilt trip, she included the mantilla ritual in her ceremony.
An Anglo friend, although raised as a Catholic, had never seen a mantilla used until she attended her first Hispanic Catholic wedding. And when she married three years ago, her Spanish-born mother-in-law-to-be insisted that a mantilla be included. The mantilla, however, was forgotten in the back room of the church before the ceremony and never was used — a fact my friend’s mother-in-law was none-too-pleased about. (Luckily they can laugh about it now).
For Barbara, another friend, the mantilla was – in her words – “a pain.” When I asked if it had any special significance for her, she said that it “meant nothing,” but she still felt obligated to include it, because it’s Catholic tradition (there goes that guilt thing). Barbara also noted she has seen it used less and less at weddings she has attended.
I find it interesting that even though our mothers and grandmothers still are attached to this tradition _ with all its religious and cultural significance _ the indifference my generation has to this rite shows me how some of our long-held traditions are fading as we “Americanize.”
And, I don’t know how I feel about that.
Lou Galindo is a first generation Cuban-American, born and bred in Miami. She is a “marketeer” by trade, and an artist at heart. Her passions include reading, papercrafting, crime dramas and her Mexican-American boyfriend. She posts regularly at her blog, Searching for Normalcy.