My mother took a gap year between high school and college to live as an exchange student in Sevilla, Spain where she stayed with a host family. This eventually grew to become a lifelong friendship, and because of this she has traveled back and forth to Spain many times throughout her life. Here she describes the wedding rituals in the rural regions of southern Spain.
“So, right, Spanish wedding customs.. I wouldn’t say there’s anything too crazy different about them, I mean, all night parties, dancing, drinking.. but that’s pretty standard for all parties in Spain and pretty much the Mediterranean in general. Not so much the younger kids, but everyone adult gets all dressed up in the traditional embroidered Spanish shawls and the big hair clips with the flowers – you know the ones I’m talking about. Oh, I know. There’s this one thing they would do that was really strange to me. After the ceremony, at the reception, someone would make a big show out of haphazardly cutting up the groom’s tie into a bunch of little scraps and then they would sell them, I mean people would give them money for a piece. They would make a big show of it – kinda like an auction. It wasn’t outrageous amounts of money but it wasn’t 50 cents, you know, maybe a couple hundred dollars for this little sliver of cloth. It was really just a cute little way of giving a present to the bride and groom in addition to the actual present, just giving them a little extra money. And people would keep these scraps – I don’t know how common it was, but the family I lived with had a little box on the mantel with all the tie bits that they collected over the years from all the weddings they went to.
That was before I moved to Sevilla, in the little village I stayed in for a while first. When I moved to the city we were at a wedding where they didn’t do that, so I asked Aurora about it and she kind of, kind of sneered. Like that’s so campesino – umm, redneck. Like low-class begging for money almost.”
While my mom’s friend wrote the custom off as a ‘low-class’ scheme to get more money out of the wedding guests, I think the practice represents something much more well-intentioned. In taking a piece of the groom’s tie, the wedding guests are actively showing that they want to have a piece in the marriage. They are investing in the bridge and groom, both monetarily and in spirit. The way in which the tie bits are sold off – in a goofy auction-like manner – makes the guests almost compete to show who is most supportive of the new couple, but in a silly well-intentioned manner. By keeping all the pieces of ties from weddings, it is almost as if the wedding guests are attempting to preserve the couple’s happiness at the point of their marriage throughout time and whatever may come.
The physical act of cutting the tie seems to carry a lot of symbolism as well. Unlike young adults in the United States who typically move out of their parents’ households either when leaving for college or after they turn 18, young adults in Spain tend to live at home throughout university, attending the most nearby college, and traditionally remain in their parents’ home until they get married and move into a new home with their spouse. The cutting of the tie could represent this breaking off from their parents and the place they grew up in – the complete and final transition into adulthood. The money received from the scraps of tie, however much or little, is used by the couple to create a new life together.