Universally, a wedding is about three C's—ceremony, commitment, and celebration—but so much of the experience depends on who and where you are as a bride. Take a walk down someone else's aisle for a change—with our Weddings Around the World series that explores marital traditions all across the map. This stop: Brazil.
When we asked Brazilian bride Gabriela Schmidt to describe a typical wedding from her home country in one sentence, she replied, "A big party where no one is sitting!" Instead, after the ceremony, guests are up and moving about — mingling with friends and family throughout generally colorful decor, plating sweets from multiple dessert tables, or breaking a sweat on the very-full dance floor.
In charge of planning all the fun details for some of these "big parties" is wedding planner Samantha Cooley of Noiva Tranquila (which, funnily enough, means "relaxed bride" in Portuguese).
"Here in Brazil we have all kinds of different brides and styles," Cooley says. "More and more, they're not concerned about protocols and traditions of old; they just want their wedding to have their style."" Still, she says there are some rituals that have stood the test of time, and others you might recognize because they're also common in the States.
Below, Cooley walks us through a modern Brazilian wedding, and Schmidt shares special insights from her own — with photos that are so breathtaking, you may actually want to sit down for this.
In Brazil, your wedding is more likely to be a whole weekend than a single day, Cooley says, and most couples choose a venue at the beach, or a beautiful ranch house outside of a major city.
One favorite Brazilian pre-ceremony task involves the bride writing all the names of her single friends on the inside hem of their wedding dress for "good luck" so they will be next to get married, explains Cooley.
Fluid, minimalist dresses are favored by Brazilian brides, says Schmidt, while the grooms usually go for a suit and tie. While the groomsmen may wear the same color tie if it was gifted to them by the couple, bridesmaids almost never wear the same dress.
In the past "only male priests or ministers conducted the ceremony," says Cooley, but nowadays there are plenty of popular options for couples who want more unique proceedings — including women officiants or having the bridesmaids and groomsmen lead the service. "Sometimes the whole thing is just the couples doing their vows," says Cooley.
Still, the average ceremony lasts about an hour and may include rituals that incorporate water, sand, or fire. "This celebrates the elements of nature and their symbolism that connects to marriage," explains Cooley. "Water equals purification, earth signifies germination or fruitfulness or different paths, air suggests lightness and communication, and fire represents the flame of love and life."
Water equals purification, earth signifies germination or fruitfulness or different paths, air suggests lightness and communication, and fire represents the flame of love and life.
Expect grand entrances for the groom, the bride, their attendants, and "there's always a child carrying something," says Cooley, "like a bouquet of flowers, a big lollipop, or a cute board." Schmidt had multiple children in her wedding party adorned with flower crowns and toting precious bouquets.
The party go as late as the following morning! "When the wedding is on the beach, it usually starts earlier, around 4 pm, and then goes anywhere from midnight - 3 am depending on neighbors, or sound concerns," continues Cooley. "But when the wedding is in the city, things get going around 7 pm and last until between 2 am and 5 am."
In addition to the couple's favorite cuisine, couples often have the "dawn snack," explains Cooley, "which is served very late, an hour or two before the wedding ends. Those are usually things like mini hamburgers, milkshakes, fried potatoes, wraps, or popcorn."
Additionally, most Brazilian weddings have a sweets table with at least ten kinds of sweets. "For a 200 person wedding we have at least a 1,000 sweets," jokes Cooley. These may include traditional Brazilian desserts such as brigadeiro (sprinkle-covered chocolate balls) and the bem casado (translation: "well married), a small fluffy cake usually filled with dulce de leche.
To drink, look out for the Caipirinha (Brazil's national cocktail made with cachaça, sugar and lime), but Aperol Spritz, Gin & Tonics, and Moscow Mules are other frequent finds.
In addition to bands or DJs, many Brazilian couples choose to have a live attraction "like samba dancers from our carnival celebration," says Cooley, and "it's also increasingly common to see the bride and/or groom participate in a flash mob with friends in addition to the traditional first dance."
Though it's a less common occurrence these days, an old-school tradition is the cutting up of the groom's tie later in the night. Each piece is then auctioned off to wedding guests, and the couple pockets the cash to presumedly put towards their honeymoon.
During the reception party, signature dance moves include the lifting of the bride and groom in chairs — similar to what you might see at a Jewish wedding — and the lifting of the bride's dress (see above). "In almost every Brazilian wedding I've gone to women surround the bride on the dance floor and lift her skirt," says Schmidt, assuring us that it's in an appropriate manner. "The pictures look beautiful, and I have the confess: the breeze is super refreshing too!"