A Guide to Costa Rican Wedding Traditions and Customs

Bride and groom on the beach

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Destination weddings in Costa Rica (especially on Costa Rica's beaches) are tropical fantasies by definition. All that’s required are bare feet or sandals, flowing sundresses and, of course, armfuls of tropical flowers. Costa Rica destination weddings reach their exotic potential when the cultures themselves are married — your culture as well as Costa Rica's.

Wedding Traditions

Wedding traditions in Costa Rica are similar in many ways to those in the United States: Friends and family gather to witness the vows, most often in a church. The bride usually wears white and the groom a tuxedo. The bride throws her bouquet to unmarried female guests, and the groom shoots her garter to unmarried male ones. Rice is thrown over their heads as they leave the church for good luck.

But Costa Rica has traditions that are unique to its culture. Here's a sweet one: A few days before the wedding, the groom, his friends, and a band show up at the bride's house for a serenade of love songs to her. He often brings her roses, too. At the reception, there's dancing, just like in the U.S. But in Costa Rica, they traditionally have what's called the Money Dance. Guests pin money on their clothing as sort of a payment for dancing with the bride or groom, and the money is collected as a nest egg to start the new couple in their new life together or pay for a honeymoon. This is similar to the tradition at Italian weddings in which the bride carries a bag called a "la borsa" at the reception and guests place envelopes filled with money in the bag. Americans of Italian heritage also often follow this tradition.

The Reception

Food is plentiful at Costa Rican weddings. "Casados" – literally, “marriages” – are common dishes at Costa Rica wedding tables. Casados feature meat, salad, plantains, and the ubiquitous Gallo Pinto. Many Costa Rican couples choose seafood barbecues for their celebratory meal after a beach wedding. If you're tying the knot at an inclusive resort, a wedding dinner is often part of the package. Package options differ, but ordering off a specific resort menu for hors-d'oeuvres, drinks, and dinner is typical. In that case, you'll have your choice of gourmet specialties and top-shelf alcoholic beverages with a Costa Rican twist.

Live music and dancing are must-haves at weddings in Costa Rica among the locals. What a great tradition to follow. There could be groups of guitarists, a full-on dance band or a DJ, or a mix of these as the party goes late into the night and the dancing really gets (rocking and) rolling -- sometimes until dawn. If you think your guest list will be down with that, have a celebratory wedding breakfast planned.

The music ranges from traditional Latin music to Top 40 selections, new or old. If you’re getting married on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, you might choose a reggae band or a group specializing in island-themed tunes.

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