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The reception or the series of receptions organised to celebrate the marriage were no more important than those held at other key moments of the traditional way of life. There are even accounts that indicate that the funeral feasts of a member of the household could be more excessive, depending on the era, both in terms of abundance and the number of guests those organised to celebrate a wedding[1]..

It should also be remembered that other changes of status of any of the family members would be celebrated on the same basis as for weddings. That was the case of the priesthood banquets for priests after they said their first mass or nuns who celebrated taking the habit and entering the order. On those occasions, the family organised the event using the same resources and means as for the children who changed their civil status from single to married.

The general term baraua hautsi, barauskarria, was used for the simple celebrations after the marriage and was used for the breakfast served after the wedding ceremony in the early hours of the morning.

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Guests to the reception

As can be deduced from the data gathered in our surveys, only young people attended the wedding reception, except when older people got married. It was said that weddings led to new weddings. In the places where the parents of the bride and groom did not attend either the wedding or the celebration on the day, they were invited on the Sunday following the marriage.

In any case, the number of guests at the celebrations was usually very small in general. The people survey in several location explained that only the parents, the odd cousin and some uncles and aunts attended the weddings in the early 20th century. Receptions with no more than twenty or thirty guests would be considered large at that time. However, a large number of neighbours were invited to the wedding celebrations in some places in the past.

Apart from the feast offered to the guests, the families often took into account any close relatives that could not attend the celebrations for whatever reasons.

Nowadays, as it has become more common to celebrate weddings at restaurants, the practice has become widespread to use a delivery service to send cakes to the relatives invited and who could not attend the reception or those people who despite not being guests were friends or acquaintances. In some places, cigars are usually sent for the males of the household.

In the case of elderly relatives who are unable to attend the reception, there is the rather common practice of ordering a special meal and getting it delivered to their home on that days.

In 1980s, a bottle of champagne would also be sent with the pastries in many places.

In recent years, it has also become commonplace for the newlyweds to send out an invitation to attend the whole reception or to invite a large group of friends and acquaintances only come along after the meal. They join in for the desserts, coffee, drinks, dancing and evening celebrations.

Involvement of young people in the wedding

As has already been indicated, weddings in the past were mainly celebrations involving young people and youths therefore played an important role in the wedding festivities. It was traditional for the bride and groom to invite their friends to the wedding reception. Additionally, in those places where the mocerías [youth associations] are important, particularly in Álava and Navara, the group of young people took part in special activities.

Except for the activities organised by the mocerías, we discovered that in general the group of local young men and women, or at least the group of the friends and younger relatives of the newlyweds, play a key role in all the festivities of the wedding celebration and, most particularly, in the wedding party and, as we will see later, in the customs surrounding the wedding night.

Large receptions

The wedding celebrated with receptions involved a series of tasks and responsibilities for the families of the bride and groom, particularly the one in charge of welcoming the guests into its home. All the food would have to be gathered together, prepared, the dining areas set up, the guests served and, in addition, the entertainment after the wedding feast organised. If the celebrations lasted several days, the families also had to provide a place for the relatives and guests to stay overnight.

Different rituals were also carried out around the newlyweds, involving the guests and, sometimes, the town's young people.

Over time, the celebrating of weddings has shrunk both in space and time, but, in turn, has become more concentrated. The current trend is for all the rituals to happen at a single wedding reception, held outside the home, at a restaurant generally away from the where the newlyweds are from. However, the number of guests has grown significantly and led to the introduction of new customs to take this large group of guests into account.

  1. "The Funeral Wake. Entierro-bazkaria" in Ritos Funerarios en Vasconia. Ethnographic Atlas. Bilbao: 1995, pp. 533-548 and "Funeral Feast. Enterramenduko bazkaria" in Alimentación Doméstica en Vasconia. Ethnographic Atlas. Bilbao: 1990, pp. 479-480.