San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Invitation to a Country Wedding

Our whole village was invited to a genuine country-style wedding held in the salón comunal, or community hall. Indeed, it was a total community effort. Some of the people went early to decorate the hall with potted plants and set up a table for the altar and chairs for the wedding party and guests. Others were pressed into service finding suitable attire for the soon-to-weds, while others went door to door issuing invitations. This was a wedding we all looked forward to.

As prescribed by la hora tica, the bride and groom arrived late. Blame it on the plodding oxen that pulled the bright blue cart carrying the wedding party.

The groom, dressed in an old sport coat over a plaid shirt and jeans, sported rubber farm boots and an almost new canvas hat. He was helped to a standing position by two of his drinking buddies who also served as his best men.

The bride, dressed in white and crowned with a fluffy whitish veil, clung to her man with one arm while holding up her bulging belly with the other, bouquet dangling modestly to cover up its size.

Then the music began, letting us know that the long-awaited ceremony (about nine months awaited) was at hand. Unfortunately, it toned out the funeral march instead of the customary bridal music, but that soon got straightened out after several people raced to the tape recorder with the “real”music.

First to enter was the groom, pushed forward and upright by his best men. His dourlooking parents, in somber work clothes, chose seats to the left of the altar.

Then we all craned forward to watch the beaming bride sway in, accompanied by her relieved mom and dad in what aspired to be finery: a mantilla that fell to the shoulders of her house dress for mother, and an almost white shirt for dad.

Mercifully, the ceremony was short, what with the fight that broke out between two of the men who went at it with fists and machetes and to which the groom’s father, never one to miss any action, strained to join but was held back by his wife, and the pain that provoked panic in the bride who feared her baby just might be born out of wedlock after all.

But calm returned and the ceremony resumed. With an eye to the bride’s condition, the priest skipped over the Mass and proceeded with the vows.

The groom wasn’t so sure how to answer, or even if he should, but once again his mother intervened with a good poke in the ribs, and he stammered out a “.” No one had to prompt the bride to affirm her desire to wed. She said it loud and clear – very loud and clear. In fact, she shouted it.

Then it was time for the rings, if anyone could find them. At last they were discovered in a pocket and placed on the appropriate fingers, and the groom was told, or rather ordered, to kiss the bride. His reluctance was smothered along with his whole head as his lawful wife bore down on him.

Next came the reception. The bride and groom led the dancing. There is a custom at Costa Rican weddings to pass out safety pins for the baile del billete. To help the young couple set up their first home, friends pin bills to the clothes of the newlyweds for the right to dance with them, the men with the bride and the women with the groom.

Although dozens of safety pins were given out, only three “guests” braved a turn on the dance floor with this couple. Giving up, the bridal pair retreated to what under normal conditions would be the luna de miel, or honeymoon.

The guests clapped, whistled and cheered. It was all a play.

The boda campesina is a traditional piece of entertainment that is making a comeback at carnivals and festivals. Though the theme of the play is a country wedding, the entire action is improvised and exaggerated, but includes enough reality to make it recognizable.

It might include the macho stud patting all the women, a priest with his cassock buttoned wrong or inside out, a huge ring of sausage for a wedding present or any stunt that is outrageous and will bring a laugh.

The wedding is always funny because the players are friends and neighbors, and it gives those in the community with a yen for acting a chance to perform. And, far from making fun of those who live and marry in the campo, it’s seen as a creative bit of wit to be enjoyed.

Besides, never in one’s wildest dreams could a real wedding be as disastrous as one portrayed in a boda campesina.


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