About Wedding Arras
The beautiful tradition of the wedding arras
“Bless and sanctify your children in your love. May these arras be a symbol of their mutual fidelity and help. Your word says that wealth is “the reward of humility and the fear of the Lord”. We pray that they never forget the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Help them use their resources in service to their family, the Church, and the community. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
The above blessing is from the ritual of presenting the arras in a wedding, an old Spanish tradition. Unique variations of this custom exist within the various cultures who make weddings arras a part of their wedding ceremony. It originated in Spain, and has been carried throughout the world, particularly in places that had once been under Spanish rule and have a great deal of Spanish influence, such as Mexico and throughout Latin America and the Philippines.
The arras are thirteen coins, traditionally gold or silver – though gold plated coins, and coins or tokens made of other metals are now common as well. The coins themselves are usually presented and kept in some sort of elegant box or pouch. They may have originally been a symbol of the bride's dowry, an amount of money or property given to a groom by the family of his bride. Bringing the actual dowry to the wedding would be impractical, especially given that a dowry may have included a large chest of money or goods as well as some livestock or land.
Though the link to the dowry alludes to the money the bride brings to the marriage, typically the groom in some way presents the coins to his bride. It is said to symbolize that he will be there to protect and provide for her, and also symbolizes that he shares all his worldly processions with her – his wealth is her wealth. The thirteen coins are sometimes said to stand for love, trust, commitment, respect, joy, happiness, harmony, wisdom, wholeness, nurturing, caring, cooperation, and peace – traits the couple would want their marriage to be filled with. Tradition also states that the number of thirteen coins is chosen to symbolize Jesus and the twelve apostles.
The method of presentation can vary, as each culture that has incorporated the tradition has developed it's own unique manner of using the arras. In some wedding ceremonies, the coins are poured through the brides hands, her fingers spread to allow the coins to fall into a plate so the money could be donated to the church. In other ceremonies, a sponsor provides the coins, which the groom then presents to his bride, and the couple keeps the coins as a keepsake. The groom may pour the coins into the bride's hands, or he may present each coin one by one. In some variations, the couple brings the coins with them, in others the coins are provided by a chosen sponsor – a friend or family member – who may even a role in the wedding party and procession, similar to the role of a ring bearer.