Wedding & Funeral Vocabulary in Spanish

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

In this Spanish lesson you'll learn words as well as expressions used at weddings and funerals. Let's look at some Spanish vocabulary words that surround marriage and funeral proceedings.

Weddings and Funerals in Context

The traditions people have in the Spanish-speaking world regarding weddings and funerals vary from country to country. However, some traditions are common among countries, and they're important to know. Let's look at some words and expressions used in these contexts.


Spanish speakers must marry in front of a legal authority, such as a civil judge or a clerk, who is authorized by the government to marry people. For this purpose, the couple must have witnesses who sign along with them in front of the authority. This ceremony is usually held in the presence of the closest family members and, sometimes, friends. This ceremony is called matrimonio civil (civil marriage, pronounced: mah-tree-moh-neeoh see-beel) and is mandatory for couples who want to be legally married. Afterwards, the couple might invite everyone to a lunch or dinner.

Some words you might hear in this context:

  • la pareja (the couple, pronounced: lah pah-reh-hah)
  • los testigos (the witnesses, pronounced: lohs tehs-tee-gohs)
  • el acta de matrimonio (the marriage certificate, pronounced: ehl ak-tah deh mah-tree-moh-neeoh)

el acta de matrimonio

The traditional wedding with a big party and lots of guests is la boda (the wedding, pronounced: lah boh-dah). This celebration has no legal effect and its sole purpose is to celebrate and socially announce that the actual matrimonio civil has taken place. In fact, priests will not celebrate the ceremony at church unless the couple shows their acta de matrimonio.

Some words you may see in la invitación (the invitation, pronounced: lah een-bee-tah-see-on) you receive are:

  • la iglesia (the church, pronounced: lah ee-gleh-seeah)
  • la recepción (the reception, pronounced: lah reh-sehp-see-on)
  • el salón de eventos (the reception hall, pronounced: ehl sah-lohn deh eh-behn-tohs)
  • la novia (the bride, pronounced: lah noh-bee-ah)
  • el novio (the groom, pronounced: ehl noh-bee-oh)
  • los novios (the bride and groom, pronounced: lohs noh-bee-ohs)

los novios

Next to those words, you will have the name of the specific church where the religious ceremony will be held as well as the reception hall.

Along with the invitation, couples often send a small envelope with the guest name and a message with the bride and groom names followed by a message that reads: agradecen su gentileza (thank you for your kindness). This means the couple expects a cash gift, which you must put in the small envelope and deposit inside the box that will be available at the reception hall.

Otherwise, it is now customary to include in the invitation a número de cuenta de ahorros del banco... (savings account number at the Bank...) followed by the specific name of a bank. This means your cash gift must be deposited in that bank account and you will get a receipt for it.

It is not very common for Spanish-speaking couples to have a wedding registry at a store. However, if that is the case, the invitation will include the name of the store.


It is important to know that, in the Spanish-speaking world, the passing away of a loved one is handled in a very personal way by the family. Most likely, right after the passing, the closest family members dress their loved one, then call a funeral business to take care of everything else. This means that, within a few hours of the passing, you will go to what is called el velorio (viewing / wake, pronounced: ehl beh-loh-ree-oh).

Unless you are really close to the family, you probably will not receive a call. Instead, you will find out through others or will read about the passing in the funerary news of the local newspaper. During el velorio, people sit in silence and accompany the family with their sole presence. These are the words you should use to show respect and condolences:

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