In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting some of the favorite memories and traditions of those folks on the front lines: Latinx wedding vendors. These individuals are the magic makers, the ones who make sure everything goes right on your special day, from finding you your ideal venue to designing your perfect dress, to capturing all the moments in between to ensure you can relive your wedding again and again.
From getting the right mariachis to making sure the Hora Loca is as wild as it needs to be, these vendors make these moments bigger than life. Below, what it all means to them.
Mexican wedding designer, florist, and stylist María Limón’s favorite part of her job is “that precise moment in which love and creativity come together.” She’s inspired by her native country’s colors, music, and traditions, whether it’s the callejoneadas in San Miguel de Allende with the mojigangas (big puppets),” the mariachis, or simply “walking in the streets with music and tequila.”
But what she truly loves is when couples want to incorporate Mexico and its traditions into their wedding day. “For example, once I met a bride that her favorite day was the Día de Muertos, so we incorporated the cempasúchil flowers (like marigolds) that we use in Mexico for that day, and they all painted their faces like skulls after when the dance began.”
Dominican-American wedding and portrait photographer Amy Anaiz loves creating images that never compromise on the connection between the subjects in the frame. “No event or shoot is ever the same, even if the reason for being there is, (be it) a wedding or engagement session,” says the NYC-based creative.
Her favorite part of any wedding is always the ceremony but says she also enjoys watching her fellow Latinxs dancing and celebrating afterward. “When you look at the dance floor, all you will see is endless twirling,” she says.
As for couples preparing for their wedding, Anaiz says, “Don’t get caught up in having to do traditional formalities. Remember that the day is about both of you, so feel empowered to include unique, new traditions that are meaningful to your relationship.”
Destination wedding photographer Adriana Rivera’s most beloved part of the job is simply getting to know her couple’s story.
“I draw my inspiration from human connection. I’ve always been absorbed by the idea of love. Who we love, how we love, and who we chose to share our journey with. What makes my job so infinitely interesting is the way that every person loves and connects so differently,” says Rivera, who grew up in Miami with her Salvadoran family.
But it’s not just the connections between couples Rivera cherishes. She shares this memory, from a wedding that took place in San Salvador.
“The groom saw his grandfather arrive. He went to greet him and as he seated his grandfather, he pulled the chair next to him closer and sat down next to him for a minute. During this time, he grabbed his grandfather's arm, rested his face on his shoulder, closed his eyes, and shared the most beautiful moment of intimate silence.”
Fine art wedding photographer Jose Villa has traveled the world capturing the most important day of many couples’ lives for the past 18 years. The accomplished Mexican-American has even had the pleasure of photographing the wedding between Priyanka and Nick Jonas, “a wedding week I’ll never forget,” he says.
He reminds future newlyweds to “enjoy the moment” and “take it all in.” But he also wants them to be certain they get a great videographer to capture movement and sound as well. “You won’t really know how important that is until you start to lose loved ones that attended your wedding," he adds.
Ines Di Santo has been designing breathtaking bridal collections for roughly two decades. The designer was born in Italy, but grew up in Argentina, and has a love for both sides of her identity, including the way both cultures approach weddings.
“Italian and Latin tradition is to respect the family by going to the bride's house on the morning of the wedding. I typically help to dress the bride and be there for her family as she transitions from leaving their ‘family home’ to starting a life of her own,” says Di Santo.
Recognizing the way in which COVID-19 has altered weddings, Di Santo says it’s important for couples today to “think outside the box” and work on reimagining their wedding days. “This is a time to follow your heart when selecting your gown and all of your wedding choices," she says.
Growing up in Oregon, Lupe Juarez says she always dreamt of becoming a wedding photographer in California. The daughter of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants, Juarez eventually made her dream come true, relocating to Los Angeles, “a city full of talented creatives.” But her favorite wedding memory actually happened right in her hometown of Portland.
“It was when the couple walked down the aisle as a married couple to the song 'Bidi Bidi Bom Bom' by Selena Quintanilla! It was a ceremony entirely in English. However, the bride was Latina and incorporated the song. I felt a rush of happy emotions as I grew up listening to Selena, but also understood the importance of couples personalizing their wedding day to reflect who they are,” she recalls.
Cuban-American wedding vendor Tali Gallo says her favorite cultural tradition at a Cuban wedding is the “money dance.” “This is when the bride dances with the family and they gently pin money on the dress," explains Gallo, who is co-owner of The Bridal Finery, a bridal boutique based in Orlando, Florida. "The money is used for the honeymoon. It always gets people dancing and laughing."
Ahead of the big day, she enjoys helping her clients celebrate with their attire. "As a bridal boutique owner and stylist, I love finding ways to celebrate cultural traditions and individualism," she says.
Colombian-American Tatiana Angel’s mother founded CCC Event Planning 25 years ago, and Angel has been helping to plan and produce weddings and events the world over. But her favorite wedding moment happened atop a hill overlooking three volcanoes by Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan.
“It was a ceremony performed by a chaman around a firepit on the lawn, and at a certain point, he called for wind, and a nice breeze suddenly started," she recalls. "Then he called for water, and suddenly it started to drizzle for a few seconds. It was beyond anything we have ever experienced.”
One of Guatemala’s top wedding vendors, Olga and Gladys Santizo established Saguzo Eventos 15 years ago and they love planning destination weddings to their home country. “I really enjoy that each couple has the wedding of their dreams. Seeing the photos of our client's weddings makes me happy,” adds Olga. Their favorite part of any wedding? The wedding recessional “because the couples are extremely happy and relaxed.”
To couples embarking on wedding planning, Olga offers this one bit of advice: “Start early and enjoy the wedding planning process!”
“I love having traditional moments during the ceremony that honor both families,” says Ashley Espinal Riggs, owner and lead planner of NYC-based boutique wedding planning firm Dulce Dreams Events.
The Dominican-American planner’s favorite memory by far though has been witnessing a 30-piece mariachi band performing for a Mexican groom as a surprise for his wedding. “His brother/best man even performed with the band and it had everyone in tears. It felt like all of Brooklyn could hear the band play these beautiful, traditional ballads. It was truly memorable,” says Espinal Riggs.
Edgardo Zamora was raised in Buenos Aires, but came to the States in 1992 and quickly established himself in the event planning business. While he doesn’t typically get to take part in the wedding day itself, he enjoys working with amazing vendors to ensure everything for a wedding comes together by the end.
Zamora shares one of his favorite Argentinian wedding traditions is the Carnaval Carioca, similar to Venezuela’s La Hora Loca. “We hand out fun props, hats, feather boas, and dance the night away! We do love to dance, right? That happened at our wedding with my husband, Celio," he says. "We merged his Brazilian heritage and mine, and we had the most amazing Carnaval Carioca, with a live persecution band and Carnaval dancers in gorgeous costumes.”
Daniela VillaRamos and Karla Villar are two Peruvian-American sisters crushing it at making sure the ceremonies they officiate are unique, inclusive, and most of all, memorable.
“We make sure we not only use our Spanish to serve our Spanish-only speaking clients but that we offer bilingual ceremonies that flow where folx won’t miss a thing,” says Karla. “And, whenever possible, since Latinx folx are not a monolith and our different nationalities mean we have different idioms, sayings, and slang, depending on the tone of the ceremony and the personalities of the couple, we often try to include language that is more culturally relevant or specific their country of origin and/or heritage.”
Daniela also shared her favorite memory of a wedding she officiated, “a personal one” as she puts it—her parent’s bilingual vow renewal ceremony for their 40th wedding anniversary. “It was an intimate gathering of our closest loved ones and when our parents realized what was happening, they were overwhelmed with joy. Being able to share their love story and celebrate our incredible parents with our familia will always be among my favorite memories.”
José Rolón was a video editor but found his new calling while planning his own wedding. “I was ready to tell a story in a different way,” he says. These days, Rolon, whose family is from Puerto Rico, happily works as a wedding planner in New York.
Among the traditions he’s had a chance to witness and help bring to life, his favorite is La Hora Loca, a typically Venezuelan tradition that’s often co-opted in other Latinx weddings. “I was introduced to this by one of my Cuban lesbian couples, Isa and Silvy, a few years back," he says. "As a Puerto Rican, I couldn't believe I had never heard of this tradition! Now I try to incorporate them in every wedding I have.”
“I am a first-generation Mexican American, hija de imigrantes,” says Vermont-based Maricela Ehmann, creative director and co-owner of Ehmann Events.
Ehmann says she has “always enjoyed wedding traditions such as el lasso matrimonial and the song “El Nino Perdido” by a live mariachi band,” but admits that her favorite cultural tradition actually comes from Jewish weddings she’s managed in Palo Alto.
“The Yichud follows the ceremony in a Jewish wedding, allowing the newlyweds to rejoice privately and share their first meal together as a married couple. Couples rarely have opportunities to take a few moments to themselves during a wedding celebration, and I wish more people would adopt a version of this tradition to their day.”
“I really enjoy helping couples incorporate those important traditional elements from their culture with a modern twist,” says Karla Solórzano, founder and lead planner of Kiss and Say I Do Events. “Those small details are the ones that make their wedding unique and meaningful."
Specifically, she says it's important for me to serve and help couples that are first or second-generation Latinx like her. "I understand and appreciate what it is like to protect your culture and to share it with the others,” says the Los Angeles-based wedding vendor.
Solórzano, whose family hails from Venezuela and Costa Rica, also shares her favorite moment from every wedding: “When the bride is walking down the aisle, the look on her eyes and her partner’s when they first see each other is priceless, you can feel the love.”
Mexican fashion designer Gustavo Nunez found his calling by watching his mother design women’s sportswear as a child. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue his career and is launching his own line, VERDIN NY, this October—named after his mother, Maria Verdin.
His favorite big-day moment: hearing the music mariachis play at Mexican weddings. “I think this is so very romantic,” he says. He adds this advice for those embarking on marriage: “Be partners in life, accomplices, best friends. Never take each other for granted, and share as a couple all the joys and challenges that life will present you.”
Miami-based Anna Noriega loves a traditional Catholic Latinx wedding ceremony. “I love the mantilla worn by the bride, the offering of aras, the readings by the padrinos, and all the beauty surrounding the blessings for the couple. I love the profound music of the organ player and even at times the instrumental soloists,” says Noriega, who is both owner and creative director of Aloré Event Firm.
But the Cuban-American entrepreneur also has a soft spot for hosting weddings in Mexico, especially when they include a typical Mayan ceremony. “The mysticism behind all the traditions is beautiful," she says. "These are typically performed in jungle-like settings, cenotes, hidden caves, or even on the beach in the sand. They include a lot of visual elements such as fire, water, and performed by a Shaman dressed in typical Mayan tribal attire.”
Wedding photographer Ayenia Nour shares a tradition directly from her home country of Cuba. “Right after the wedding ceremony, the newlyweds ride a vintage 1950s convertible while a colorful caravan of cars follows them around the city," she explains. "At the same time, everyone yells Felicidades, vivan los novios! It is a lot of fun and extremely photogenic!”
While she is now based in New York City, Nour's passion for photography was sparked the moment she discovered her grandparents' wedding album in Havana. “I fell in love with how images could capture and carry emotional memories without saying a word," she recalls. "These photographs gave me the present of indelible love and family history all displayed within the frame. The beauty and nostalgia of these images transcended time and still continue to fuel my passion for creating transportive wedding photographs to hold and share with your loved ones.”
Bronx-born wedding planner Irene Tyndale says she considers it a “blessing to assist couples one of the most important moments of their lives.”
“I often say that a piece of me goes with each couple and that we are forever connected. If I had to choose what I most enjoy about my job it would be getting to know the couple and executing their vision of a perfect day,” says Tyndale, whose family hails from Puerto Rico.
For Tyndale, infusing cultural traditions is the most important part of planning memorable experiences for her couples and their guests. “I love surprising guests with a traditional Mariachi band during cocktail hour or dinner," she adds. "It’s always a big hit and one that many guests do not expect.”
Diana Dorsey has been planning weddings through her own company, Simply Elegant by Diana, since 2011, and shares her favorite Mexican wedding tradition is something called La Vibora del Mar, which translates to “the sea snake.”
“Traditionally, the bride and groom stand on a chair facing each other. Her veil is used to make an arch. It's almost as if you are playing ‘London Bridges,'" she explains. "Your guests are then invited to all form a line and hold hands, and the leader guides everyone as they parade in and out of the couple and around the room."
While plenty of fun, the tradition also has a lesson attached: The objective is for guests to make it more and more difficult for the couple to stay standing on the chair, which Dorsey says symbolizes “the obstacles they will face in life.”
Born and raised in Mexico, Ana Hinojosa began shooting weddings when she brought her camera to a friend’s wedding. “After that, everyone around me that was getting married started hiring me for their weddings...It's the best decision I could've taken,” says the photographer, who is based in the northeastern Mexican city of Monterrey.
As for her most memorable wedding tradition, Hinojosa says it’s la callejoneada. "It's a fun and loud parade through the cobblestoned streets of the city where all the guests follow the newlyweds as they dance and sing to the mariachi," she describes. "The tequila is flowing and everyone's so happy! It's the perfect ice breaker and a great start to any wedding weekend.”
“I love weddings that are steeped in tradition,” says Fausto Pifferrer, owner of Blue Elephant Catering located in Saco, Maine. The Cuban-American says his Latinx cultural favorites are Spanish music (especially mariachis) as well as when a couple decides to forgo “first looks.”
“The couple doesn’t see each other before the ceremony, period. Also–the groom also always walks his parents down the aisle,” says Pifferrer.
As for his favorite part of weddings, however, that’s reserved for the father-daughter dance. “As a gay, Latino man, I always dreamed of having a family of my own. And when I think of my daughter, it makes me proud of what I have accomplished," he says. "It also makes me think about ways to ensure that I get to do the first father-daughter dance at her wedding before my husband!"
South Florida-based wedding planner Marylen Exposito says she gets a kick out of bringing her clients to see their wedding venue. “I especially enjoy...seeing the look on their faces when they see what we’ve been able to create for them,” says the Cuban-American wedding vendor.
But when it comes to the festivities, Exposito says her favorite cultural tradition is when individuals have pleneros at their wedding. “This is typical of Puerto Rican culture," she explains. "A small group of musicians with Afro-Puerto Rican origins going around the room playing drums, guitar, tambourine, and guiro, as well as singing along."
She also had one kernel of advice to give to anyone about to get hitched: “Enjoy every minute of the wedding. Five hours goes by a lot faster than you think!”
Javier Martinez and Rafael López are the team behind AKUA and The Lounge, companies based in Puerto Rico with decades of experience in putting on memorable weddings. Both have a soft spot in their hearts for typical Puerto Rican weddings, they tell Brides. “I can’t help but admire the clothing, the music, the choreography, and the energy in the room,” says Lopez.
For Martinez, the best part comes toward the end of the wedding though, when folks are more relaxed. “Then there’s the sound of Puerto Rican Plena music. Everyone looks forward to it. Plena is a mix of African sounds and beats bringing such joy together that no one can resist the dance floor, not even grandma,” he says.
The veteran wedding vendors advise young couples to always make sure they work with an event company that handles crises properly. “An expert will be on your side, making sure everything runs smoothly in one of the most important days of your life and will simplify all the details and decision making that comes with it. An expert on that day, is your best friend,” says Martinez.
Paola Calderon is an Afro-Latinx make-up artist from the Bronx with a knack for reinventing brides on their big day. Her main focus is on bridal glam and giving her clients tips on how to get the best look for their wedding. “I cater to all skin tones and my main goal is to bring my brides’ vision to life,” says Calderon, who has been in the industry for three years.
The Dominican-American artist’s favorite moment from any wedding is the first look. “Just looking at the groom amazed by the bride’s beauty makes me proud and happy,” she says. She advises couples to “work only with passionate professionals who are fully invested in their craft,” as she believes these are the ones who will be able to make the wedding experience even more amazing.
“There is something very relaxing for me and rewarding to be about taking individual floral stems and composing beautiful floral arrangements and installations from them,” says Mexican-American Mariela Aguilar El-Toukhy of Casa de Flores.
As a florist, she recommends couples splurge a bit on their flowers to enhance the romance. Her advice is not to skimp on the bouquets, or the flowers for the ceremony space and sweetheart table especially as, “these will be the flowers that you will see the most in your wedding photos and they will make your images look so beautiful.”
That said, she also wants couples to remember not to sweat the small stuff, stick to their budgets, and most importantly, “celebrate your love and enjoy it to the fullest.”