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Purépecha Wedding Ceremony

In November, I was honored to be invited to my lovely friend Claudia’s wedding. The happy couple elected to have a traditional Purépecha wedding ceremony rather than a Catholic church wedding, as the groom is from Michoacán. It was an amazing experience. Words can’t do it justice, but I’ll try.

The guests formed a circle at the beginning of the ceremony, with the couple in the center. We placed our right hands over our hearts and extended the left towards the bride and groom, sending out love out to them. 

Afterward, the bride and groom stood behind the altar and a woman named Betti officiated, dressed in flowing white. She spoke about what it meant to become a family and the newlyweds’ responsibilities towards each other. 

A procession of family and friends approached with gifts and words of advice. One friend presented the couple with an antique key which represented how they should guard their hearts and only allow those worthy in. Three girls presented seeds. I couldn’t hear what they said, but I imagine it had to do with allowing love to grow. 

The entire ceremony was conducted outside with the couple barefooted so that there was continuous contact with Mother Earth. The four cardinal elements were represented. The burning copal and the sounding of the conch shell represented air. Earth was given by the fathers of the bride and groom so that they could put down roots. A friend presented water as he imparted words of wisdom to the couple about how they should always take the time to refresh and replenish one another. The mothers were the keepers of the sacred flame which they passed to the bride. 

Let me tell you, I’ve never been one to cry at weddings, but watching this, I wept! The other guests looked at me funny, but I didn’t care. Claudia was also overcome with emotion and cried throughout the ceremony.

A niece and nephew of the bride crowned the couple with flowers. Apparently, this tradition used to include a bread crown which has since been replaced with flowers. The ceremony itself is called tembúchakua, which translates loosely as “crowning.” 

Betti wrapped Claudia in a blue rebozo and told her that a woman’s lot was difficult. The rebozo would provide comfort as it reminded us of being wrapped in our mothers’ loving arms. The groom was draped in a sarape. He was instructed to take the bride under his sarape, symbolizing his role as protector and provider. 

Claudia and her new husband exchanged rings and vows. The parents stood behind the couple. The bride’s parents were behind the groom, accepting him as a son, and the groom’s parents were behind the bride, accepting her as a daughter. 

Then the new family was presented to the guests. There was food, music, drinks, and laughter as we celebrated this marriage. 

Later, when I had a chance to talk to Claudia, she mentioned how she and her husband had passed the “prueba” by living together for a year before marriage. Doing a little research, I found this custom is common among certain indigenous groups. This “matrimonio de prueba” is a year, and if both are willing, they marry. If not, then they go their separate ways without any problems or recriminations.

I’m beyond happy that Claudia found love, someone who will support her artistic endeavors and someone who can buffer her from herself. 

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