First communions are a BIG DEAL in Spanish culture and they’re considered “part of the package” when dating a Spaniard (along with weddings and baptisms too). Communions are not only an opportunity for families to uphold religious and cultural traditions, but they’re also the perfect reason to throw a fabulous party! Before attending your first Spanish communion, there are a few rules you should know. Check out my tips below on the different “types” of communions, the gifts you’re expected to bring, and of course…what to wear. 😉
1. You’re not expected to attend the ceremony
Considering the majority of Spaniards are Catholic, you can bet on attending quite a few communions during your time here. Typically the communion ceremony happens in the morning—and only family and close friends are expected to attend. Everyone else meets up at the party afterwards to celebrate. Don’t stress about showing up at the church unless the parents specifically request it when you’re invited.
2. Dress accordingly
So based on the info provided by local friends, there are three different styles or options for communion parties (keep in mind people can celebrate their child’s communion however they want so you may encounter something different to what I’ll explain below). The first communion style is the most extravagant, and this is the kind Javi and I attended recently. The family rented a large country home, hired a catering company and invited over 200 people. If you’re invited to this kind of communion I’d recommend wearing something dressy—that is, dressy enough for a day wedding, but without a fascinator. Most of the men wore sports jackets without a tie, combined with a button up shirt, belt and trousers too.
The second type of communion is more low-key. Typically a family will rent a “nave” or small space with a kitchen, bathroom and sitting area. They may hire servers and a cook for the party or prepare everything themselves. I’d expect between 20 – 50 people to attend an event like this. I would recommend wearing something comfortable but not too casual (your “Sunday best” for example)—keep in mind immediate family members tend to get more dressed up for this kind of party compared to other guests.
The most “familiar” communion party style involves family and close friends. The parents will make a reservation at a restaurant for 10 – 20 people and invite everyone to lunch. I have heard of instances where invitees pay for their own meal too. If you’re invited to this type of event go for something cute and comfy—like what you would wear on a first date or to a nice restaurant.
3. Be ready to eat and drink a ton!
Communion parties are normally celebrated midday and almost always involve lunch. We showed up at 2pm to the party, ate hors d’oeuvres and appetizers for a few hours, and sat down to eat lunch around 4pm (there was a seating chart similar to what you’d see at a wedding). After the meal we got to enjoy cocktails at the open bar and pigged-out on the sweets table (complete with a cotton candy machine). There was a live band after lunch and a barbecue around 9pm—Javi and I ended up leaving the party around midnight. Keep in mind the communion party we attended was the “most extravagant” style of the three I mentioned above; with the other two styles you can expect to eat one meal and it will probably end between 5 and 7pm.
4. Prepare a present
Traditionally, people have always given presents to the child who is receiving their first communion. Kids get anything from the latest gadgets and toys to signed futbol jerseys from their favorite teams. Over the years however, as the parties have become more lavish, it’s now common for guests to give money (which probably goes towards paying for the event). If you’re invited to a “big” communion like the one I’ve described above, you (and your +1) should give money—Javi and I gifted €100 between the two of us at the party we attended. If you prefer to buy a present all you need to do is get it wrapped and bring it to the party. If you’re not sure what to spend try asking other people that have been invited; sometimes people combine their gifts (to buy a really cool/expensive toy for example).
5. Enjoy the experience
My best advice is to attend the event with an open mind and enjoy the experience! If you’ve been in Spain long enough you’ll know Spaniards love to throw a good party…and will use any excuse to gather, eat, drink and be merry! 😉 Don’t stress too much about fitting in, and if you’re in doubt about what to wear or what to give, just ask the parents who are hosting the communion. Good luck and have fun!