Updated: May 3, 2021
EDITOR NOTE: Every culture has time-honored traditions and this one dates back to arranged marriages when dowries were still negotiated for the bride to be. Today it stands as a romantic gesture and tradition for a beautiful ceremony.
Las arras matrimoniales, or wedding coins in English, is a wedding tradition that has been passed down for generations in the Hispanic culture. It’s a ritual that has its roots in the Catholic faith and is performed at Catholic weddings in Spain, across Latin America, and in other Hispanic cultures around the world.
Historically, the wedding coins were provided as a dowry, back when marriages were arranged between families of the bride and groom. Today the ceremony is more symbolic than practical. The blessing and presentation of the wedding coins are incorporated into the marriage service as another unity ceremony that signifies the shared responsibility of managing household finances, and the sacrifices that might entail.
“Traditionally, the coins served as a dowry, as weddings were usually pre-arranged,” says Claudia G. de Velasco, a wedding planner based in Houston. “In today’s modern world, the symbolism of the wedding coins represents a promise of prosperity in the couple’s marriage, as well as a promise to always protect each other’s wealth.”
If you’re considering incorporating las arras matrimoniales tradition into your Catholic wedding ceremony, you may have questions about the history and meaning of this ancient ritual. Keep reading to explore the rich cultural context behind this tradition and find out everything you need to know before incorporating las arras matrimoniales into your wedding day.
Historians can't pin down exactly when this tradition began, but we know it originated in Spain and spread to other countries as Spaniards conquered foreign lands. The word arras in Spanish means "earnest money,” and the coins represent the groom’s promise to provide for the family. The bride’s acceptance of the coins symbolizes her trust in her soon-to-be husband to do so. “Traditionally, there are 13 coins, 12 gold and one platinum, all the same size,” de Velasco explains. “Each gold coin represents the wealth shared between the couple for each month of the year, with the platinum coin designed to share with the less fortunate.”
The 13 coins carry multiple meanings; 12 of the coins represent Jesus’ 12 apostles and the importance of putting God first in their marriage. The 12 coins also represent the 12 months of the year and prosperity for the newlyweds as they combine finances. The last coin symbolizes overabundance and reminds the couple that they should always try to give back to the less fortunate if they're blessed with more than they need.
The 13 coins are housed in an ornate gold box, chest, or velvet drawstring bag. The box is presented as a gift from the groom to his bride as a symbol of commitment and trust. Two become one in marriage, and this ritual serves as a symbol of the groom sharing his wealth with his bride. With this gesture, the groom is putting his trust in her to keep their money safe and maintain their household.
Originally posted on: BRIDES