I have heard that at Hispanic weddings, there is a custom of the couple being draped in a large rosary. Is that a special blessing? What does it mean? And are there also golden coins exchanged? What are they for? — Appleton
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has recognized the expanding role of the Hispanic Catholic community in the United States. This is why, and to be more inclusive, in 2016, the U.S. bishops officially incorporated two cultural adaptations in the Catholic marriage rite. These traditions are popular in the Hispanic and the Filipino communities: the Blessings of the Arras (coins) and the Blessing of the Lazo.
The Blessings of the Arras may take place following the blessing and giving of rings. The arras are 13 small gold or silver coins that are exchanged during the ceremony.
First, the husband takes the arras and hands them over to his wife, saying: “(Name), receive these arras as a pledge of God’s blessing and a sign of the good gifts we will share.” Then the wife takes the coins, hands them over to her husband, repeating the same pledge.
Las arras is a particularly popular custom in Spain, Latin America and the Philippines. The 13 arras represent Jesus and the 12 apostles. The coins are usually presented in a decorated chest.
“The Blessing and Placing of the Lazo” may take place before the nuptial blessing. The spouses remain kneeling in their place. The lazo — a long strand of rosary beads — is held by two family members or friends and is placed over the shoulders of the newly married couple, symbolizing the bond that unites them. When the lazo is extended, it forms the number 8 — or the infinity symbol. It is joined by a crucifix, symbolizing the couple’s union with God as they prepare to walk together in their married life.
Sr. Martha Escobar is Hispanic ministry director for the Diocese of Green Bay.