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Brazilian Wedding Traditions Posted by on Jul 16, 2010 in Culture, Customs, Vocabulary

At lunch yesterday with 3 other girls from work, we got to talking and as with every chat we usually have when we’re able to break away from the boys, we talk things girly.  Yesterday was as girly as you can get: gyno visits & “dream” weddings.  I’ll skip the chat on gyno visit…

After banquet waitressing for 5 years, I’ve seen tons of weddings!  So many that I probably wouldn’t want a “traditional” wedding anymore… I’ll probably want something Rachel Getting Married-esque (the movie, not the other writer for this blog!).  But now that I’m in Brazil, what IS a traditional wedding?

First, the noivado, or engagement.  Most people I know in Brazil haven’t had spectacular wedding proposals.  The couples usually decide together, then go out and buy their wedding bands, alianças, place them each on their right ring finger, and go tell their family, etc.  Of course there are romantic couples out there, I’ve just yet to find a great story here!  And then they wear these bands on their right hand until their wedding day!  Usually they’re gold in Brazil as well because there’s also a big tradition of anel de compromisso, or simply, aliança de namoro, which a lot of people wear just to tell others they’re in a committed relationship.

Bridal showers are usually called Chá de Panela or Chá de Cozinha, and literally focus on kitchen supplies.  Bachelor/ette parties, festa de despedida, are oftentimes celebrated together, or there are two parties!  You know Brazilians and their desire to throw a party for everything.

Then there’s preparing for the wedding ceremony and reception!

Weddings are usually in the evenings and on Saturdays.  I’ve seen churches where the earliest time you can schedule a ceremony is 4:30 PM.  And since most Brazilians are Christians, and amongst those, mostly Catholic, a huge tradition is to get married in na igreja, although this tradition has been straying for some time. My poor grandmother was dumbfounded when my cousin said she wasn’t getting married at church and said, “Mas não é o sonho de toda moça entrar na igreja no dia do casamento dela?”  The bride will usually also walk into the church with Ave Maria playing (personally, I want this rendition of it.)  At the church, there is the signing of the marriage license, and it is also signed by padrinhos and madrinhas, the North American equivalent of the wedding party.

Speaking of wedding party, matching dresses and tuxes aren’t very common in Brazil.  É muito coisa de americano.  Os padrinhos simply wear whatever formalwear they’d like and that’s if they can afford it!

Receptions are traditionally held at the same sorts of places as north American weddings, but catering halls here are called buffets (pronounced, “bífês).  Instead of seated a la carte dining, you’ll usually see buffet style dinner served.  And for dessert? Docinhos and bem casados. Along with the cake, of course.  Docinhos are those Brazilian candies everyone raves about and bem casados (which translated literally is, “well married,”) are tiny square wrapped up cakes which are two slices of cakey goodness sandwiching something like doce de leite, chocolate, or anything else yummy and sweet.

And of course there’s dancing! The kind of music depends on the couple’s taste and region they’re from!

After all that, I think I’d still want a “Rachel” wedding with a Brazilian twist.  I’ll probably get married in a tiny little country church with close friends & relatives, then rent out a sítio and throw a huge churrasco with great food! … and bem casados.

I guess that’s all I can think of that’s “different,” can you think of anything else?  Are there different traditions in other Lusophone countries you can think of?

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  1. Brian Young:

    Oi Polyana,

    Great blog. I’ve been following it for over a year. I would add to the traditions Cha de Bar and Despedia de Solteira. Also the practice of getting married in the cartório for those who can’t afford the full wedding is very common. Keep up the good work!


  2. Tim Case:

    Speaking of Brazilian wedding traditions, how about the wedding that occurs without any ceremony and happens solely because two people have been together for over a year or so? I noticed my neighbor used to tell me stories and would refer to her husband. “O meu marido prefere ir para a praia bem cedo, pra evitar o transito.” Then all of sudden they broke up, and I assumed a divorce was impending, only to learn that they never were officially married and now when she speaks of him she calls him her “ex-namarado”. I notice this all the time. Marriage without marriage. What’s up with that?

  3. Annissa:

    Bom artigo, especialmente sobre os docinhos e bem casados:)

  4. Flavia Magalhaes:

    Hi Polyana,
    Very, very, very nice article. Congratulations.
    I would like to add that in the past it was part of the tradition that the bride’s family would pay all the costs of the wedding party. Nowadays it has changed – it is usually the couple who have to save (a lot) of money to be able to pay a decent ceremony.

    @Tim Case (comment above): it is very common here in Brazil to call someone “wife” or “husband” even if you’re just living together and are not officially married. It is a matter of respect, and also to avoid having to explain “my boyfriend – whom i live with – blah blah blah”.

  5. Kristina:

    great blog! I’m attending a wedding in Brazil, and when I asked how formal it would be the answer i got was suit and tie. what does that mean for the guests? should I plan on wearing what is typical for a semi-formal wedding here in the states? i don’t want to wear a sleeveless dress or something to find out that is as against the rules as wearing white is here…..

  6. polyana:

    hey kristina!!

    i guess it would depend on the wedding. some people say wearing black is bad luck, so try to stay away from that just in case. but if the wedding’s at night and you feel like wearing something formal, i would go for a longer dress. if you’d rather something shorter, a cocktail dress should be just fine!! be mindful if the ceremony’s in a church. some towns are more traditional and it would prob. be more respectful if you cover your shoulders for the ceremony 🙂

    the important thing though is to have fun at the wedding!!!


  7. Kristina:


  8. Jana:

    Such a great post thank you! After having just gotten married in the US but trying for a little Brazilian flare (we had a Brazilian rehearsal dinner complete with caipirinhas) and I had the brazilian flag painted on the bottom of my wedding shoes with an outdoor buffet bbq, but I walked down the aisle to Ave Maria and had no idea that also was a little Brazilian. How very interesting, I love how relaxed they are on the bridal party attire, I think its silly how caught up we get with all that!
    Thanks again

  9. Jojo:


    I have a customer/ Friend visiting from Brazil and she just recently got proposed to. She is not engage yet not until Sept 2011. Wouild it be inapproriate to celebrate and have dinner with a simple wedding shower/bachelorette party??? If not what is traditonally done?? I would like to incorparate a few traditions to share with everyone at the party. . . .


    • polyana:

      @Jojo not a problem at all! as you can already tell by reading the blog, Brazilians usually love an excuse to celebrate! A combination wedding shower/bachelorette party could be a “Chá de Lingerie” where women usually get together for cocktails & food, and buy lingerie (and sometimes other fun things ;-)) as gifts for the bride to be!

  10. Polly:

    Love the post,
    I am a brazillian about to be a married woman in the usa. Struggling to represent my both sides during the celebration…found this post tobe very helpfully 🙂
    Thank you!

  11. Cecilia:

    I have been officiating weddings in Florida for over 12 years. I am Brazilian and my forte is bilingual wedding ceremonies. One of the traditions taken from the Brazilian Catholic wedding that I suggest to the couples is the greeting of the parents and bridal party (padrinhos) at the end of the ceremony. It is very emotional and beautiful!

  12. samantha:

    hi, im really struggling to organize a bachelor party for my brazilian friend…we live in holland and i wanted to have a geek party for her as she loves big bang theory, with her dressed up as amy with a veil and badge so clear she is bride and for us just big silly glasses and ties and geeky stuff. but the dutch are very against it as here only the bride is made to look silly. i wanted us all to do it so that its a way to tie us all together as obviously we all dont speak brazilian, some dont speak english etc. can you tell me what they normally do on the night of the bachelor party there?

  13. Polyana:

    Hi Samantha!

    Here we do one thing that’s pretty fun which is a “lingerie shower” – each guest brings a different set of lingerie/sex toys or whatever to make the bride blush 🙂 And then we usually make her guess the color – what it is – etc before opening it! If she doesn’t guess correctly – she gets made up in different costumes by the guests + then we force her to go out looking ridiculous 🙂 We’ll usually go out to some night club if that’s the case!

    Hope this helps 🙂

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