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Marriage and Funeral Traditions in Dominican Republic
The Marriage and Funeral traditions in Dominican Republic are passed down from generation to generation. Marriage and Wedding traditions are very important. Starting with asking for the hand in marriage, the service and giving of gifts. The same with Funeral traditions. Many traditions, such as the wearing of black, have changed for many. Even though nowadays many modern traditions have seeped into the culture, the old traditions and ways are still honored.
Marriage/ Matrimoniales Traditions in Dominican Republic
The man usually proposes.
If the couple decides to have a church wedding/ boda and reception then the bride’s family does most of the preparations.
Weddings can be expensive and so some people choose to have smaller gatherings or just marry in civil court.
As of January 2012 The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has trained pastors representing non-Catholic religious denominations to celebrate weddings including the Iglesia Asamblea de Dios, Asamblea de Iglesia Pentecostal, Concilio Cristiano, Iglesia Apostolica Misionera, Iglesia Adventista del Septimo Dia, Concilio Menonita, Iglesia Metodista Libre, Dios de la Profecia and Asamblea Cristiana. In the past, only a Catholic Church priest could marry a couple. Followers of other Christian religions had to go through a civil marriage process with a Justice of Peace. In the past, anyone wanting to marry outside of the Catholic faith had to marry in a Civil Court or Judges Chamber so they can have all the necessary legal documents. The couple would marry in civil court or in a judge’s chamber the morning of the wedding or even the day before the actual church wedding. Then they could have their ceremony in their chosen religion.
Bridesmaids and large wedding parties are not the norm here. Having a cute little ring bearer and flower girl is. Many times the little ones dress the same as the bride and groom, in smaller scale.
Having “padrinos and madrinas” (godparents of the wedding) is very traditional. The godparents are usually the mother of the groom and the father of the bride and their role is to serve as witnesses. Along with the couple, the godparents also sign the marriage certificate.
Another tradition is to have a child (usually a boy) carry the “arras” or coins on a silver tray. The boy would have 13 coins (they are usually 10 cent coins) that at some point during the ceremony will be passed to the priest. The priest will pass them to the groom and he in turn will pass them to the bride. This exchange signifies that the couple pledges to provide for each other and that material goods are to be shared equally. The whole thing is very symbolic and is quite romantic.
In addition to the flower girl, the ring bearer and the coins bearer, the ceremony also has a child that carries a fancy white bible.
The mother of the groom, escorted by the groom, enters the church first. The mother of the bride then enters escorted by the father of the groom. The wedding party enters next including the children, usually entering in pairs.
Another Dominican tradition is to have what is called a “ceremonia cantada” meaning that every piece of music was actually sung, instead of being just instrumental.
It used to be that Dominican wedding receptions consisted mostly of cake and champagne, along with light appetizers at best. Today, sit down dinners or a party are the style.
There is usually a bachelor party / despedida de soltero and bachelorette party / despedida de soltera. The bridal shower is another tradition.
The vast majority of Dominicans deliver their gifts to the bride’s home before the wedding day. Never take a gift with you to the wedding ceremony or reception.
The church is usually not divided into “bride’s” and “groom’s” sides. So you can sit where you would like.
At the end of the liturgy, a large number of people go to the altar. These are witnesses, and there could be dozens. Asking someone to be a witness is a way of honoring them as a special guest. Family members and friends will be included.
The newly married couple will be the first to exit the church. Do not try to greet them outside. Instead, proceed directly to the reception.
The bride and her father have the first dance. The groom and the bride’s mother join them. Then the entire wedding party and family enter the dance floor. After this then the guests can start dancing.
Most newlywed couples will stay until the end of their party, which could last til 3 AM or later. They are never the first to leave. If you want to leave do not hesitate to leave before the bride and groom. Any time after the meal is socially acceptable, although you are likely to miss quite a party.
There is no tradition about the Groom not seeing the Bride before the wedding. This is when most of the wedding party photographs are taken.
Dominicans show much respect for their dead. A funeral is an event that will gather people together, including family members, who may not have seen each other for a number of years. Inside the chapel it is sedated and reverent, but outside, it is livelier almost reminiscent of a normal social occasion.
The Wake will continue until 12 noon the next day, followed by burial at the cemetery. It is the family’s choice, some decide to retire at midnight and return the next day around 7AM for the burial.
Many families follow on with a series of memorial masses held for nine (9) consecutive days. This is known as los nueves dias, novenario, or la vela. When and where these masses are to be held will be announced. It is not necessary to go to these masses unless you were a close friend of the person or family, especially if you attended the funeral. One is never expected to attend all the masses unless you want to do so. If you were not able to attend the funeral you should go to one of the masses. You might choose to go to the last one that usually will be announced in the press. This marks the end of the mourning period ceremonies.
The nine days of mourning usually consist of three days of grieving (crying and reminiscing). 3 days of silence (thinking and reverence). The last 3 days are for release (accepting and separating).
To “cumplir” is to act in accordance with the standard social procedures. A person will go to a funeral whether or not it is his desire; it is his duty. To “cumplir” is important in this society. It signifies respect and caring.
Many of the poorer people are only laid out for 1 day in the home. This is because of the heat and fast decomposition of the body. Also, the caskets usually have a window for viewing. Maybe this is to keep the smell in and bugs out.
Flowers are not expected.
Only good friends and family are expected at the burial.
One of the Padres de la Patria / Founding Fathers
Born March 9, 1817 and died July 4, 1861
Francisco Sanchez was one of the three founding fathers of The Dominican Republic. He, including Juan Pablo Duarte, Ramón Matías Mella, are the Padres de la Patria / Founding Fathers. He is also considered by many to be the strongest of them all. Giving his life in martyrdom for his dream of a free country and for the men who fought with him.
Sanchez was the son of Narciso Sánchez and Olaya Del Rosario. He was born in San Juan de la Maguana. At the time of his birth his parents were not married. His father, Narcisco, came to Dominican Republic from Spain. All that is known of his mother is that she was “a person of color”, maybe African descent, according to the baptismal records. He taught himself Latin and French, studied philosophy and also studied with Father Gaspar Hernandez, a priest who was anti-Haitian.
During Sanchez time studying under the priest, along with many other young people, Sanchez met Juan Pablo Duarte. In 1838 he joined the Trinitarios to fight against the Haitian occupation. He was known for his hard work, determination and honesty. Because of his leadership abilities (when Duarte was later exiled to Venezuela) Sanchez took over leadership of this group. While leading the Trinitarios he always kept in touch with Duarte. Duarte had complete confidence in Sanchez.
El Manifiesto de Independencia
Sanchez helped write El Manifiesto de Independencia/ The Manifesto of Independence. On January 16, 1844 Mella sent the document to Tomás Bobadilla for corrections and additions. The group met on January 24, 1844 at night to make the final decisions about the manifesto. At this time Sanchez was promoted from the Commander of Arms to the rank of colonel (soon after he was succeeded). Attending this meeting was Francisco del Rosario Sanchez, Ramón Matías Mella, Vicente Celestino Duarte (the brother of Juan Pablo Duarte), the brothers Puello y Los de la Concha Jacinto and Tomás, Juan Alejandro Acosta Cabral, Pimentel, Manzueta, Adón and others. At the bidding of his friends and colleagues, Sanchez agreed to be the head of the Junta de Gobierno when he was only 27 years old. This group led by Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, met at the Puerta del Conde (known at this time as the Baluarte de San Genaro) and on this day, February 27, 1844, the Haitians were expelled from the country and the new Dominican Republic was founded. The new flag was raised with the logo ¡Dios, Patria y Libertad! / God, Patriotism and Liberty!
After independence was claimed Tomás Sánchez Bobadilla was named President. Duarte, who was in exile, was permitted to return home. He was met at the Puerto del Ozama by Sánchez y Mella who were so excited to see their friend again they jumped aboard the boat to greet their friend and leader of the revolution. Duarte joined the Junta de Gobierno as General de Brigada/ Brigadier General.
This new government was not long lasting (only about 6 months) as there was another revolt. Duarte who was elected president in Cibao confronted Pedro Santana who was the elected president of Santo Domingo. Duarte lost the fight and on August 22, 1844 Santana exiled all these men who were the founders of independence. Duarte was banished soon after.
On September 1848, when Santana was out of power, the new President, Manuel Jimenez, granted a general amnesty to these exiled men. First to Duarte, then to Mella and Sanchez, finally the rest of the group followed. After almost 4 years in exile Sanchez returned to the country on September 8.
When Sanchez returned he held many important positions during the governments of Jiménez, Santana y Buenaventura Báez. He was a self-taught lawyer, even teaching himself Latin and French. He was appointed to many important positions in the government. Sanchez was the prosecutor appointed to the Tribunal de Apelación de Santo Domingo/ Court of Appeals of Santo Domingo (one of his first cases was against Antonio Duvergé and Pedro Santana in which Duverge was acquitted). He was also Defensor Público/ Public Defender and a Suprema Corte de Justicia/ Supreme Court Justice. Sanchez once again had to leave the country in April 1855, returning in August 1856.
Santana again was president. He wanted annexation of Spain for the country. Sanchez rebelled against this and he was placed in prison August 1859. He was banished from the country for the third time a month later and moved to Saint Thomas.
Sanchez wanted to continue the fight for the independence of his beloved country even though he felt completely betrayed. He ended up going to Haiti with the help of the Haitian president Geffard. Geffard, under pressure from Spain, finally gave in and these Dominicans in exile had to leave his country. Soon after Geffard learned the real facts about why these men were banished and he again permitted Sanchez, along with the others, safe return to Haitian territory and offered to help the cause.
On January 20, 1861 Sanchez publishes his manifesto stating “But if the evil seek pretexts to sully my conduct, we respond with a charge saying loudly, but without boasting, that I am the Dominican flag.” “Mas, si la maledicencia buscare pretextos para mancillar mi conducta, responderéis a cualquier cargo diciendo en alta voz, aunque sin jactancia, que yo soy la bandera dominicana”.
Two days later the Junta Revolucionaria/ Revolutionary Board created the Revolución de la Regeneración Dominicana/ The Regeneration of the Dominican Revolution.
Sentenced To Death
Sanchez had returned too late. President Santana had already proclaimed Annexation to Spain on March 18 (the Spaniards were finally kicked out in 1865). On May 2, Sanchez started his invasion on the Dominican territory. Betrayed and ambushed he and his colleagues were taken prisoner and tried in an illegal court approved by Santana. Sanchez and his colleagues were sentenced to death. At the trial Sanchez asked for leniency for all his colleagues and took responsibility for all the groups’ actions.
Sanchez was shot dead on July 4, 1861 at four in the afternoon in the cemetery of San Juan de la Maguana. The two-time founder and hero of the Republic became immortal. He gave his life, a martyr, for liberty and freedom of the country.
Sanchez became the most important person of the revolt after Duarte left the Dominican Republic in exile to hide in Venezuela. He became the leader of the revolt and is considered by many to be the real patriot of the three founding fathers. He was one of the greatest heroes and men of action in the country along with Duarte, Mella, Cabral, Pimentel, Manzueta, Adón and others. During his public life he was honest, incorruptible and without blemish. He was said to have been bold, brash and also naive.
Because of their love of the country now known as República Dominicana, Duarte, Mella and Sanchez, known as the Fathers of the Country/ Padres de la Patria made this country free. Because of their blood, sweat and tears we became a free nation. They were the leaders of the people in their fight for freedom.
Hymn To Francisco del Rosario Sánchez
This hymn to Sanchez is said to be one of the most moving hymns of the Dominican Republic.
(This is a video on YouTube a school class singing the Himno.) Himno a Francisco del Rosario Sánchez
Written by: Ramón Emilio Jiménez
Music by: José de Jesús Ravelo
Sánchez glorioso, varón ilustre,
que no supiste jamás hollar,
los sacros fueron del patriotismo,
que levantaron el patrio lar.
Tú que juraste morir de hambre,
antes que siervo comer un pan,
y lo cumpliste cuando tu cuerpo,
de muerte herido cayó en San Juan.
Tú que en los labios siempre tuviste,
fiero anatema para el Traidor,
que malograra La Patria hermosa,
por la que dieras vida y honor.
Derecho tienes a que elevemos,
en tu memoria cantos de amor,
ningún soldado fue más glorioso,
nadie ha luchado con más valor.
Cuando miramos llenos de orgullo,
la patria enseña, con qué fruición,
pensamos todos que representa,
la parte roja tu corazón.
Some other interesting facts:
*Altar de la Patria in Independencia Park is a national pantheon dedicated to the nation’s heroes buried here. Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez y Ramon Matias Mella are all buried here.