Brazilian Challenge Day 71: The Wedding

Yesterday, day 71 of my Brazilian Challenge, we attended a wedding. This was the first wedding, outside of my own and my brother-in-law’s, that I’ve been to in Brazil, definitely the only wedding since we’ve moved.

One of the cultural differences between U.S. and Brazilian weddings is the way they approach the bridesmaids. In the U.S., the series of activities surrounding the bridesmaid is a ceremony in itself. Not only is the bride faced with making bridesmaid selections that will not cause any uproar from friends or family, but she must select a dress style and color that will suit all of her female attendants. Some brides figure it is their day and simply select what they like best, without regard to the size and shape of the friends and family members they have bestowed this “honor” upon. Some, more kind-hearted brides, select a color that they like and then point the group of women toward a bridal shop that carries that very color in an array of dress styles so that each bridesmaid can choose an individual style that suits them.

In Brazil, there is none of that. Each bridesmaid shows up in a different dress. I believe sometimes the bride gives a bit of direction on the color palette, like requesting that all the women wear a jewel tone, but that is the extent of it. All different colors and different styles.

This turned out to be an issue at my wedding. We had our church wedding in Buzios, Brazil, a small resort town/fishing village a couple hours outside of Rio de Janeiro that was a place my husband spent a great deal of time at as a child. My bridesmaid selection was easy. I only needed to choose from the pool of close family and friends that were willing to travel to Rio de Janeiro shortly after the release of the movie City of God. This meant that I had two bridesmaids – my sister and my best friend whom I had known since childhood. Well, two bridesmaids as far as I knew.

Since my dress was a simple, strapless gown of silk, more fitting for the beach surroundings, I selected a simple, off-white, sleeveless silk dress with floral embroidery for my two bridesmaids. Turns out, upon arrival into Rio, I discovered I had a whole gaggle of other bridesmaids, assigned by my soon-to-be mother-in-law. Many times I asked the obvious question. “But what are they going to wear?” This was always ignored or I was distracted by other wedding issues.

As you might have guessed by now, the other bridesmaids all showed up in their own random dresses. But there was my 5’2″ sister and my 5’9″ friend dressed the same. Of course, the Brazilians didn’t understand why on earth they were wearing the same dress.

Oh yes, and they were both holding weeds wrapped in twine.

Apparently the bridesmaids don’t carry bouquets either. I did not know this, so in one of my very few Bridezilla moments, I demanded that my “wedding designer” come up with bouquets for my two bridesmaids. Though there were a countless number of gorgeous flower arrangements set up around the resort where the reception was being held, he pulled together some green weed-looking plant life to give them. Then the “wedding designer” gave each of the groomsmen one weed to wear in his lapel. You know, for consistency.

Needless to say, they were none too happy with the way they were being presented (and mocked by the Brazilians) that day. Luckily, all three of us have a darn good sense of humor.

So yesterday at the Brazilian wedding, all the bridesmaids walked down the aisle in a different style and color dress, sem bouquets. There were a few other foreign characteristics of this wedding and I’m not sure if it is because they were Brazilian (actually the bride was Brazilian and the groom was Italian) or because it was an Evangelical wedding. But the parents sat in chairs on the alter behind the pastor facing the bride and groom (this would be a bit intimidating for me). Then, a couple singers got “on stage” and stood right in front of the bride and groom, facing them, and belted out a duet (right in their faces). Awkward.

The man and the woman in red in front of the couple were the singers. See the parents lounging around the alter.

Finally, while at other weddings I’ve been to, once the couple is married, everyone goes outside for pictures. But at this wedding, the audience waited and waited (and waited) while the bride and groom took a picture with each of the couples that stood up with them, and then the parents. That took at least 30 minutes.

Oh, and by the way, I feel much better about my indiscretion on Friday night (see The Play). My husband, the bride being a former co-worker, slept through much of the wedding.

However, it was a very lovely wedding, despite the roaring thunderstorm outside (I was really feeling bad for them.) And we were very lucky to be a part of the beautiful event.

Another thing I learned yesterday is that the “buffet” concept is not just for infantils (kid’s birthdays). There are adults “buffets” too, which is where the reception was held. No, there were no video games or ball pitts or “jumpy-jumpies.” But, imagine my surprise when this landed at our table.

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20 Responses to Brazilian Challenge Day 71: The Wedding

  1. Alex says:

    Wow, this is great.

    I loved the story about your wedding. Buzios must have been a really cool/great place to have a wedding! And you’re family was brave to go to RJ after Cidade de Deus! If I didn’t know any better I’d probably be scared haha….

    Interesting that the groom was Italian…do you still see lots of new Italians in SP?

    Great post!

    • Thanks! I personally haven’t run into an Italians. I believe the man came to Brazil for a job and met his bride to be. But his family is in Italy. (Well, they may not be right now because they were here yesterday for the wedding.)

  2. Jana says:

    Hahahaha, that is one lovely bridal plate right there! What a nice little nature spark on your wedding day, great story. My life in Brazil will be complete once I get invited to a wedding, I seriously can’t wait.

  3. Stephanie says:

    You crack me up! I think this is my fav post so far! Your bridesmaids with weeds and the extra surprise bridesmaids. WOW! You survived and you can laugh about it! Thumbs up from me. If i could buy you a drink I would.

  4. anna says:

    1. the parents are usually at the altar. Normally beside them not in front of them. Sometimes they sit down sometimes they are standing up the whole time.

    2. bridesmaids / madrinhas don’t wear the same colors. Brazilian girls have a big 15th y.o. party called “festa de 15 anos” and the bday girl chooses 15 girls and 15 boys who wear the same model and color. for weddings brides ask the bridesmaids not to wear colors that are too light: white , ivory (not to look like the bride ) or too dark : black , dark blue etc (black being a mourning color). They usually wear long dresses.

    3. Only flower girls / daminhas wear small bouquets in brazil. Women don’t carry it. But groomsmen have boutonnieres.

    4. The choir and orchestra are away from the altar or at least not that close lol.

    5. The audience are not suppose to wait while the bride and groom take pictures . They should have taken the pictures after you left the ceremony.

    6. sometimes they serve salgadinhos as appetizers but they should have done in a more presentable way hahaha

    7. why didn’t your mother in law listen to you about the dresses?? thats not nice…

    • Thanks for the info! Perhaps some of the differences were due to the religion, most of my experience is with the Catholic weddings, as I’m guessing yours is too.
      My mother-in-law doesn’t listen to me any other time, why would she just because it was my wedding? HA!

      • anna says:

        I am actually evangelic / protestant but I have been to tons of catholic weddings as well.

        they both have godparents like Andrew said. They don’t do as much as bridesmaids do e.g. help choosing stuff for the wedding etc but it’s a big honour being invited to be a madrinha. U usually need to be dressed really nice and you should give an expensive wedding gift!

        I hope your relationship w your MIL gets better !!!

  5. Andrew Francis says:

    I find that calling them bridesmaids (or best man) in Brazil is a bit misleading. I usually explain them as “wedding godparents”. At least it’s a closer translation of “padrinhos”…

    • Oh really? That sounds like a lot of responsibility. In the U.S., the “maid” element is more appropriate because they are supposed to do whatever the bride needs them to (and trust me, some brides take full advantage of this…)

      • Andrew Francis says:

        Yeah, that aspect comes across in movies and I’m not sure most Brazilians appreciate why.

        I think, traditionally, the godparents are supposed to be there for the young couple, to provide support and advice as they adjust to married life. Since most times they are good friends or family that stills happens but not in any formal manner.

  6. Andrew Francis says:

    Speaking of religious ceremonies, have you heard of the Sunday Mass at Igreja Sao Bento? It’s a beautiful ceremony even if you’re not into Mass (or Catholic, for that matter) as the monks from the local monastery attend and sing Gregorian Chant. It’s right next to the metro station so it’s very easy to get to but you need to get there early (i.e., at least on time) because it fills up pretty quickly.

  7. Corinne says:

    I had the same issue with transferring the US traditions of bridesmaids to my Brazilian wedding. I made them all wear the same dress. I picked out a style in the US and then had a seamstress make it for all the bridesmaids in Brazil. I also paid for the Brazilian bridesmaid dresses since I was making them all wear the same thing. That said, one of them brought a second dress and changed into it at the reception after all the pictures. I also had bouquets for all the bridesmaids, but it was my wedding, I was paying for it and I did not have anyone vetoing, so I could do what I liked.

    • Good advice. But the Brazilians were definitely not funding my wedding and had I known about all the other bridesmaids, I might have done the same as you. As far as the bouquets, that was just my silly assumption. My sister and friend definitely changed out of their dresses as soon as the reception started, can’t say I blamed them…

  8. workmomad says:

    I wondered if the Brazilian wedding experience was comparable to the Brazilian birthday experience. It sounds like the birthday may be a bit more intense. Am I correct?


  9. Loved reading about this wedding experience and all the comments too. Just stopping by to tell you that I just awarded you and your fun blog a Liebster Award. More info on my blog.

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