Madrinas and padrinos are like the fairy godparents of Latino weddings. They might not be able to make all your dreams come true, but they do sponsor certain aspects of the wedding and are there to offer the couple advice as they enter into marriage. They also contribute financially to this special event by paying for items to be used in the ceremony or throwing the couple an engagement party. You don’t get to choose your parents, but you can choose your padrinos. It’s considered an honor to be chosen, so madrinas and padrinos are happy to pitch in where they can.
“Padrinos typically sponsor and participate in el lazo (lasso), la mantilla (wedding veil), flowers for the Virgin Mary, las arras matrimoniales (wedding coins), etc.,” says Erica. “Typically, they purchase these items for the couple as a gift and present the gifts to the couple, the bride, the groom, Virgin Mary, or the priest during the ceremony.”
Meet the Expert
Erica Christine is owner, designer, and senior planner at Elite Eventz, an award-winning wedding and special event planning firm based in Houston, TX. She’s planned many Latino weddings, and also teaches an event planning course on multicultural weddings.
Padrinos are like your wedding guardian angels. They're there to help out and make sure everything goes smoothly. They'll give you some of the most important items you'll use in your wedding ceremony, and that you'll treasure years down the line. Below, we explore the history of this meaningful tradition and tell you everything you need to know before you ask your loved ones to serve as madrinas and padrinos.
The History and Meaning of Madrinas and Padrinos
Madrinas and padrinos have been part of Latino culture for centuries. Similar to godparents in Christian religions, parents first choose padrinos for their child at the child’s baptism. If something were to happen to the child’s parents, padrinos would step up and raise that child themselves. For this reason, it’s most common for madrinas and padrinos to be a married couple. Their role as a guiding influence in a child’s life starts at baptism and continues throughout major life events including their first communion, quinceañera, confirmation, and finally, their wedding.
“A padrino or godparent is someone who is essentially promising before God to act as a guide, support system, and mentor in the child’s life,” says Erica. “It is not isolated only to weddings, as it is a spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial promise – one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
Madrinas and Padrinos FAQs
Who can serve as madrinas and padrinos?
Madrinas and padrinos can be an aunt, uncle, god-parent, cousins, or an extremely close family friend. Typically, it’s someone close to the family that has watched the bride or groom grow up over the years.
Many Latinos will incorporate the padrinos from the baptism into their wedding, but a couple can also appoint new madrinos and padrinos specifically for their wedding.
Can I have multiple madrinas and padrinos?
Yes! This helps divide up the responsibilities and distributes the financial burden of providing the gifts that will be used in the wedding ceremony. Two to four sets of padrinos is ideal.
What should a couple keep in mind if they’re choosing madrinas and padrinos for their wedding?
“If choosing additional padrinos for the big day, I’d suggest selecting someone with the time, financial means, and someone who genuinely loves and cares about you, as it is a big ask of someone,” says Erica. The padrinos should be supportive and dependable, as the couple may lean on them more heavily leading up to the big day to run any last-minute errands or pick up the tab for things like the wedding cake or decorations.
How will they process?
Often, the couple will ask padrinos to walk in the processional after the bride and groom’s parents. They may stand next to the maid of honor and best man during the ceremony, but they can also sit in the first pew.
What their role in the wedding planning process?
“Padrinos are there for advice or wise counsel on life matters, but they typically do not have much input on the planning process besides financial contributions,” says Erica.
What’s their role in the wedding ceremony?
Padrinos typically sponsor elements of the Catholic wedding ceremony and purchase things like el lazo (lasso), las arras matrimoniales (wedding coins), or the Bible used throughout the service. Depending on what traditions the couple decides to incorporate, padrinos play an important role in the ceremony. They come up to the altar to present these gifts to the priest, who will then perform the sacred traditions.
Are there any etiquette rules a couple should follow when it comes to padrinos and madrinas?
"It is expected for the padrinos to attend and participate in the ceremony/mass at the church," says Erica. "If this is not done it is frowned upon because it is a great honor in Hispanic culture to be asked to be a padrino/madrina."
How much does it cost to be a padrino?
It depends. If a couple has multiple padrinos, the cost of purchasing items for the wedding will be split amongst them. The bride and groom should be reasonable in what they ask of their padrinos, but padrinos should offer to pay for as much as they feel comfortable.
Certain elements can also be reused from the bride and groom's parents’ weddings. This adds a sentimental aspect to the ceremony and helps the couple (and padrinos) save money.
Should I get them a thank you gift?
Absolutely. Madrinas and padrinos should also be mentioned in the wedding program and thanked aloud during the toasts. While they’re not technically part of the wedding party, they should get priority seating at the reception.
Madrinas and Padrinos Responsibilities
It’s an incredible honor to be asked to serve as madrinas and padrinos for a wedding, but the roles come with quite a few responsibilities that play a huge part in the big day.
- Consider hosting an engagement or bridal shower. Padrinos should celebrate the bride and groom making this commitment by offering to host a shower. If the couple has chosen additional padrinos, this would be a great opportunity to get to know the other important figures in their lives and throw a party together.
- Be supportive. Asking the couple or their parents if they need any help goes a long way. Offer to help out where you can leading up the wedding day.
- Provide certain elements of the wedding ceremony. Coordinate with the bride and groom on what they need for their ceremony and offer to purchase items as necessary.
- Attend the wedding rehearsal. If you’re going to be a part of the ceremony, it’s important to attend the wedding rehearsal to know when you’ll be called on to perform your duties.
- Continue to advise the couple after they get married. Padrinos aren’t just a wedding day commitment. It’s a lifelong promise to be there to support and guide the couple on their journey as a married couple. Honor that commitment by checking up on the couple and offering any words of wisdom you might have to share.