A Costa Rican Wedding

Getting married is a very important social event in Costa Rica, as it symbolizes a new stage in life. A tradition still practiced today is the “serenata”, which usually takes place some days before the wedding ceremony. The groom arrives at his girlfriend’s house, by surprise, with his friends and a group of musicians who sing traditional romantic songs while the bride, her family and friends listen to it inside the house for some minutes before going out. In addition, it is customary for the groom to bring some roses for the bride.

Wedding bouquet
The Wedding Bouquet (Photo by Laura Pardo)

The day of the wedding ceremony, the bride wears a white dress and the groom wears a tuxedo. Relatives and friends on both sides of the family go to the church to attend such a big event, and they all dress up for it. At the end of the ceremony, it is common to sprinkle uncooked rice over the newlyweds as a way to wish they will have everything they need to live well. Sometimes, soap bubbles can be used instead of rice.

If there is a reception after the religious ceremony, the father of the bride dances a waltz with her. One of the most traditional activities is the “baile del billete” (Money Dance): guests dance with the newlyweds, but in order to do this, they pin bills on their clothes as if “asking for permission” by “paying” for the privilege. The money collected is then used by the married couple as extra cash for their honeymoon or other expenses.

The Bride throws the bouquet
Bride throwing the bouquet (Photo by AleSura)

Another custom during the wedding reception is for the bride to toss her bouquet over her shoulder to the unmarried women. It is believed that the woman who catches it will be the next to marry. In a similar way, the groom tosses the bridal garter to the unmarried men. Then, the man who caught the garter places it on the leg of the woman who caught the bouquet.

gettting the bridal garter
Getting the bridal garter (Photo by AleSura)

The wedding reception is a fun time to celebrate the newlyweds’ happiness; there is good food and music. The “Mariachis” or a “cimarrona” (musicians in a band) might add even more enjoyment, and the lots of photos taken will be a proof of how wonderful the occasion was.


Stay tuned for more weddings around the world every day this week!

Read more:
Just married: how many countries decorate cars to get married?
A colourful Portuguese lovers’ tradition
Gift etiquette around the world

About the author

Nuria Villalobos
My name is Nuria Villalobos and I'm Costa Rican. I am a current professor of English as a Foreign Language at Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica, and a former ISEP (International Student Exchange Program) student in the United States. I speak Portuguese and I am currently studying the Teaching of Spanish as a Second Language. I'm passionate about languages, cultures, photography and meeting people from different places.
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  • Nuria,
    Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed this. Actually, I enjoy weddings, as long as I don’t have to be the guy paying for them !

  • We have the same bouquet tossing custom in England. But not the garter!

  • Sean Oliver

    Hi Nuria. Basically the same traditions in most of the US, except for the Seranata.

  • Nuria

    Thanks guys!! :)
    @ Mike: lol If you had a daughter and you lived in India you would have to do it :) Lucky you! jiji
    @ Sean: Yes, weddings in CR and the US are very similar, though we don’t have bridesmaids (only the maid of honor and the best man)
    @ Liz: Oh, the garter custom is the best part jiji because this couple might not know each other, and the man needs to place the garter on the woman’s leg, which is kind of fun to observe ;)

  • This was really interesting! for one, I loved the idea of serenading the bride.. so romantic! the part of the money dance sounds great….and interestingly, we in India also bless couples with uncooked rice!

  • Nuria

    Thanks Anu! The “serenata” is very romantic, indeed! ;) It’s so nice when we find some similarities among cultures, even if there are many differences, huh?! :)

  • My husband tells me it’s traditional to throw rice in Italian weddings as well. We went to a wedding in Italy last year, and they also made a heart shape out of the rice. I thought it was really cute


  • Nuria

    How cute!!! :) Yes, an Italian friend of mine told me they have the same custom there…so nice! I love this idea of the heart shape out of rice! ;) Thanks for sharing it Liz!


    Hello Nuria:
    In turkey also we throw something..
    Guess what rice with a coin..
    We don`t throw this in front of the couple if not they can get hurt with that coins:))
    I love the serenade part a lot!

  • Nuria

    Nice hearing from you Senem! ;) Thanks for stopping by! Ohhh, you get coins as well? That sounds great! jijiji

  • Nuria, I love the seranata! I live in Costa Rica and plan destination weddings here. Most of our clients are American, Canadian, and European and we have had several include the seranata as a nice way to include Costa Rica traditions, because otherwise the ceremony traditions are very similar to the US.

  • Nuria

    Thanks for your comment Meghan! It’s nice you try to include Costa Rican traditions to the weddings because being here, it makes sense to do that :) You should do the money dance and include a “cimarrona” as well ;)