By Norma Montenegro Flynn
The U.S. bishops recently approved translating into English liturgical texts used for the placing of the Lazo and Veil, and the giving of coins or “arras,” customs that are popular at weddings in Latin America and among Hispanics in the United States. This means that those adaptations that are now performed in Spanish upon request will soon be performed also in English if the marrying couple requests it.
Those customs, mainly practiced in Mexico, Central America and some countries in South America, are also part of our cultural Hispanic identification and another way we express our Catholic faith.
If you go to a Hispanic wedding, you will see some or all of these adaptations. The couple will give each other the coins or arras as they express to each other the commitment to care for the home and to provide for the family.
The Lazo symbolizes the new union through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. It is usually incorporated after the marriage rite. The Maid of Honor and the Best Man or padrinos will place a double looped rosary on the couple’s shoulders. The priest then proceeds to say a prayer inviting the couple to reflect on and to follow the example of the Holy Family. If the veil adaptation is included, then the bottom of the veil is extended to cover the groom’s shoulders and the veil is held by the Lazo. The Veil the bride wears symbolizes chastity, and extending the veil over the groom’s shoulders represents the common call for a chaste and pure marriage.
For my wedding, I needed to include the placing of the Lazo, and explained to the priest
—and to my then future husband— that practicing this tradition was a way to express my Hispanic heritage and my Marian devotion, and I considered it a beautiful visual of the bond that was beginning to form. It also meant a lot to my mother and aunt who grew up embracing these traditions.
Guests who were not Hispanics —and even my husband and his family— did not know about these traditions, but expressed admiration and wanted to know more about them. They also wished they had understood the prayers, because the rite was performed in Spanish for the most part.
The translation of these cultural traditions will be of great help for couples when one of them is not Hispanic. It also will benefit people of Hispanic heritage who do not speak or are not fluent in Spanish and want to include these customs in their wedding ceremony.
These new translations show that the bishops are paying attention to our needs and embrace our cultural contributions to society.