Mexcellence Is in the Eye of the Beholder


A mini-identity crisis

by Massiel Bobadilla

Mexcellence Is in the Eye of the Beholder | A Practical Wedding

I was email dating a few different wedding coordinators to see who “got” the vibe my fiancé and I were trying to go for with our wedding. To quote my sister, it is shaping up to be “Game of Thrones meets Jane Austen” and is full of winter coziness and old time cuteness. Like the Internet-loving girl I am, I’d share my wedding Pinterest boards with some of the coordinators I was talking to so they could visualize all the pinecone visions dancing in my head. Oh, but there was one bit I forgot to mention: I’m Mexican.

So how does that factor into anything? Well, I’m not really sure. I’m a Mexican girl marrying the cutest Swiss-German-Nicaraguan you ever laid your eyes on and we’re having a Catholic wedding with a full Mass wherein about fifty percent of the guests will be (you guessed it) Mexican. But it ends there. Or so I thought. As I opened emails from different coordinators and relished the fact that I had an opportunity to spout on and on about “my vision,” I happened across one from a planner that was full of links and pictures of what she said was perfect for me.

Here’s what it was: maracas, pink and orange and yellow papel picado, cacti and succulents everywhere, and teeny tiny tequila bottles as favors. In short, what a wedding between Chiquita Banana and Frito Bandito would probably look like.

I was confused. Where in all the autumnal wintery glory of my wedding board did I convey my desire to have the most Mexican wedding north of the Rio Grande? But that wasn’t all. I began to wonder if there was some sort unwritten rule relegating me to the category of Latinos Only weddings. Conversely, was there something wrong with me not having more Mexicanity in my wedding? Was I subconsciously ashamed of my heritage? What does it mean when a Mexican girl doesn’t necessarily want the big, fat, Mexican wedding?

This bizarre email exchange sent me into a mini identity crisis. I quickly went from, “Why does she think I need to be so Mexican?” into, “Crap, why don’t I have more Mexican things?!” and my fiancé became the one looking on with the world with furrowed eyebrows as I freaked out beside him.

After being told to calm down multiple times, my ever wise boo reminded me that heritage isn’t something that I need to validate or justify. It is in me, in the ways I can see and the ways I can’t, and has helped mold me into the person I am today. There’s no way to be any more Mexican or less Mexican than what I already am. Even though this particular wedding planner seemed to see me as the walking, talking embodiment of Cinco de Mayo, there’s actually more to being Mexican than covering my wedding head-to-toe in churros and carne asada.

He was right (per usual) and the brain shit storm that was raging inside me finally subsided. I realized that I can’t be forced into having the wedding some people may think I need to have because I’m Mexican, nor should I tell myself that anything short of a balls-out Mexican fiesta is somehow negating my cultural pride.

No, we’re not having a mariachi. Yes, our first dance will be to a traditional bolero. No, my groom will not be dressed as a charro. Yes, we will be having a lasso and arras at our ceremony. Hello, I’m Massiel. I’m Mexcellent, and then some.

Massiel Bobadilla

Massiel Bobadilla is a born and bred Angeleno currently engaged to her super dreamy best friend, a staunch NorCal supremacist with eyes like the Pacific Ocean at sunrise with whom she fell in love when they were neighbors in the dorms at UCLA. She enjoys fawning over their dog baby Moana, camping, eating, reading, dancing, tree-hugging, tending to the family chickens, inventing nonsense words with her sister, generally loving California, speaking in robot voices, and correcting historical inaccuracies. Massiel currently lives and works in Los Angeles but divides her free time between Hogwarts, Middle Earth, and Westeros.

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  • Christina A.

    Yes! I’ve been asked four or five times since I started planning a wedding (by Mexican family and friends, no less), “Why aren’t you having a Mexican wedding?” Um, I am. It’s very tempting to overcompensate for my perceived lack of Mexican-ness, but there’s so much to my heritage (and to who I am) than only one side.

    We’re going for the mariachi, though. :)

    • Moe

      If you’re the bride and are Mexican, it already is a Mexican wedding! :)

      • Christina A.

        Right?! Thank you.

  • http://toandfromage.com/ Valerie

    This was definitely something I wrestled with, too, especially because I live far from home. In the end, my father and I danced to a Norteño cumbia, and I incorporated a quote from my favorite Latino poet into my vows, and that was just perfect. But what I wouldn’t have given to find an all lady mariachi group in the mid-atlantic!

  • Laura C

    Just before I read this piece, I was reading an article about the Latina characters in Orange is the New Black, talking about how rare it is to have depictions of Latinas on screen who aren’t basically the character equivalent of maracas and teeny tiny tequila bottles at a wedding. Just one of those mornings where there’s an unexpected theme to my reading.

    • Meg Keene

      I particularly love and always notice that one of them is really into Depeche Mode, etc. It always startles me as so outside the normal TV script.

      • Shotgun Shirley

        I cracked up at the iPod exchange…

      • Moe

        Latinos LOVE Morrissey too.

      • http://www.therewm.com/ Rachel W. Miller

        Yes! Flaca is totally hip and aware (see also: her comment about gay porn in S2) and I love that about her.

    • Sarah E

      Awesome article. Thanks for sharing!

  • Alyssa M

    I have nothing of substance to add… but feel the need to contribute my rage at that coordinator…

    • Bets

      Yeah, my eyebrows were furrowing as I read this, too. I can’t believe the planner sent you those links… how presumptuous.

  • Jade

    I know it’s not the same thing but I’ve had similar “is my wedding not Indian enough?” doubts. People assume things like: my FH is going to come in on an elephant/horse, I’m going to have at least 500 people at my wedding, there will be several pre-wedding ceremonies and rituals to go through first, etc.

    Um, no. Clearly you don’t know me well enough.

  • Massiel Bobadilla

    The way I figure, the traditional elements we are choosing to have are the ones that actually mean something to us and aren’t just part of some crazy theme wedding. That’s generally been our rule of thumb whenever we’re confronted with that “How Mexican is your Mexican wedding going to be?” question :)

    • Massiel Bobadilla

      Case in point: today I’m going to work with my Mexico soccer jersey on because my dad raised me to revere the World Cup as the holiest of all global month-long sports-based holidays

      • Marcela

        I’ve been ransacking my wardrobe for professional clothes in blue, yellow and green for similar reasons. My office would not be down with me in my jersey. (Don’t tell me how the game’s going!)

    • Bets

      Culture/traditions and theme/decor are completely different. Imagine planning a wedding in Mexico (or wherever) and the hotel deciding, “Oh, they’re American, let’s put up stars and stripes as decorations and serve hamburgers for dinner.”

      • Alyssa M

        Yes! This really boils down to the coordinator being racist! Anyone who reduces a culture to a “theme” is unacceptable.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Yup. I worked really hard to have what I thought would be a traditional Anglican wedding – except there was also a chuppah and a glass-breaking and chopped liver and the horah. When people talk to me about my wedding, it turns out it was multicultural without our even trying too hard.

  • kcaudad

    I think this is the wedding coordinator’s mis-guided stereotype, and not an issue of you being ‘mexican enough.’ I know it’s not the same, but… I got married in the fall in the mid-west USA. That did not mean that I wanted fallen leaves and pumpkins as centerpeices or red and orange as my colors. I had cream, brown, green and white as my colors. I wanted green and white hydrangias as my flowers… where in there did the vendors hear ‘orange and red leaves and pumpkins everwhere’?? When vendors started down that route, I knew they were not for me. As your FH probably pointed out, this is their issue and stereotype, not yours!

    • Eh

      We were also married in the fall and our reception venue warned us about extra charges for cleaning up after straw bales, corn stalks, leaves, etc. I had briefly toyed with having pumpkin centerpieces (our colours were orange and blue) but that seemed like too much work.

    • Cat

      I agree! Nearly every time I search for autumn wedding inspiration, it’s leaves, pumpkins and apple cider out the wazoo! We’re going for a metallic yet cozy backyard vibe… maybe I should look at winter weddings! ;)
      Keep your straw bales, give me a little glamour.

  • JDrives

    It sounds like you are planning a wedding that has many elements important to you and your fiance, including cultural traditions. You’re doing what’s right for you both, not what someone outside of your lives (and possibly culture?) think is “right” or “cultural enough.” So, go you.

    ALSO – hi, fellow Game of Thrones geek here! We are definitely going for a Game of Thrones vibe with our wedding as well. It’s awesome to see another APW with similar ideas. *fistbump*

  • Moe

    I’m a Mexican girl who had the big fat Mexican wedding. I’m third generation, don’t speak Spanish, we didn’t have mariachis, but there were catered tacos!! There was a little salsa dancing, but not much. I didn’t buy it, but there was tequila everywhere. I found the bottles the next morning.

    I do understand that feeling of not feeling connected to my heritage because I’m not bilingual and I don’t have an accent. What I lacked in traditional Mexican wedding decor my big fat Mexican family (on both sides) made up for in spades. No matter how much I planned a nice traditional ‘American’ wedding, I knew who my guests were. I remember when talking to wedding coodinators (who were all very lovely people and I’m sure were very qualifed) I remember thinking in the back of mind “Yeah, but do you know how rowdy my family can get? Do you know what could happen when you get too many drunk Tios on the backyard dancefloor that’s a little to close to the swimming pool?”
    Ultimately I found my wedding day-of coordinator here on APW and felt so comfortable and confident with her that I addressed my concerns with her directly. She was perfect for the job. I gave her full permission to shank any rowdy guests. (No, no one was assaulted at my wedding, I was joking.) But she understood where I was coming from and knew what I was talking about.
    I loved your post, and I hope your wedding day will be beautiful…maracas or not. :)

  • Anne

    That would have frosted my cookies! Sounds like your partner is a wise one.

    • SarahG

      “Frosted my cookies” is a much more adorable expression that “pissed me the f off”… I need to adopt this immediately!

  • Class of 1980

    That is just whacked that the planner looked at your Pinterest board and then completely ignored it.

    I don’t know whether she’s that clueless, or if she’s harboring a burning desire to plan a Mexican-themed wedding and decided your wedding was her chance.

  • ktmarie

    Can I just say how much I love your bio?!

    • Massiel Bobadilla

      THANKS! I wasn’t sure if it came across as interesting or insane, but I’d like to think it struck a happy medium

      • ART

        I love your writing style – this piece cracked me up but also upset me for (I hope) all the right reasons. And now I kind of want a head-to-toe churro party at some point!

      • ktmarie

        I don’t think those are mutually exclusive :) I like to think I live in between interesting and insane…haha. I really enjoyed your piece. It’s funny because I went through something similar- even though I am not Mexican, I live in the Southwest and when we planned our wedding here, everyone thought I wanted the ‘southwest motif’ (read: old west, cactus, turquoise etc). I love living here but am not really into that aesthetic. I was so frustrated with venues that I started to begin my conversations with ‘I don’t want any pictures by a wagon wheel’ to get them to understand.

  • Caitlin_DD

    Excellent!

  • Lizzy

    I think this is the fault of theme weddings. WIC states that you HAVE to have a theme. And then go hog-wild with it. Don’t get me wrong, themed weddings are awesome. But not everyone wants a themed wedding. Just reading the comments about Autumn weddings “having” to have leaves and pumpkins, makes me shake my head. Just because you have your wedding in autumn doesn’t mean that it’s autumn themed.

  • Katie

    Ugh! I live in Maine, and I’m getting married in Maine, and NO fill-in-the-blank vendor, I am NOT doing LOBSTERS. Or lighthouses. Or sailing flags. Or navy and red. Or navy and kelly green. I don’t even hate those things, but after awhile it’s almost like you have to be ANTI whatever everyone thinks you should have just to be able to make sure you have ANYTHING of what you do want.

    Mexican wedding cookies are really delicious and look kind of snowy though. I’m sure those are practically the same thing as a mariachi band and tequila, right? ;)

  • Michelle C

    Love this piece! This is sorta kinda but maybe really not related, this reminded me of a nagging thought I had after my hubz and I first saw our photos on our photographers’ blog. He is Guatemalan and I’m pretty sure that was known to all our vendors at some point or another through a year’s worth of conversation and such. Imagine our surprise when we saw that our photos were tagged up the wazoo as a “Mexican wedding”, “Mexican ceremony”, Mexican this and that. Honestly, there must have been only 3 Mexicans at all at our wedding and nary a pointy toed boot in sight. I loved our photographers but this really bothered me because I have a sneaking suspicion that this was done on purpose to generate more traffic to their site and not due to some little “whoops!” on their part. So I can’t help wonder if this coordinator had in mind to have an “ethnic wedding” under her belt to market herself to a broader audience….

  • CC

    I almost curled up into a ball and wished to be a turtle when a vendor said that in a nod to our Chinese heritage, we should have chopsticks at each place sitting tied with bows….she was so clueless but made me feel so anxious and upset that all of our wedding vendors were going to be this way (hint, in the end, it wasn’t, and my husband was awesome at dealing with these things). Glad you felt like there was something wrong with them rather than you. Awesome bio, and Mexcllence!

  • Fiona

    This is the best. So well put! When I first started looking at wedding boards, I spent a lot of time wading around “cultural wedding” cadegories, trying to figure out how to marry my Haitian-Dominican groom right. But after several months of that nonsense, I realized how inauthentic it was. We’ll dance to some Dominican music, but we’re not going to try to hard to have Dominican food. We’ll probably also do some German waltzing for my grandparents, and we’re going to wear whatever we like, and not what is traditional “Dominican.”