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Looks like a wedding, but why is the cake plastic?

‘Falsa boda’ in Spanish, or ‘fake wedding’, is a good excuse for a party

  • Actors Victoria Alcorta, Laura Montini and Nico Leguizamon rehearse ahead of a fake wedding ceremony in BuenosImage Credit: NYT
  • People dance after a fake wedding ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At these events,participants can takeImage Credit: NYT
  • Actors who played the groom, bride, priest and dancers get ready backstage before the fake ceremony in Buenos Image Credit: NYT
  • Veronica Pacenza, who plays the groom’s grandmother, gets her make-up done before the event.Image Credit: NYT
  • Laura Montini throws her bouquet into the crowd next to witness Victoria Alcorta during the falsa boda.Image Credit: NYT
Gulf News

Buenos Aires, Argentina: On a Saturday night here in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, hundreds of guests turned out for what might have been the wedding of the season. The bride and groom were all decked out. So were the witnesses, family and friends.

But the altar was actually a stage. The priest’s questions to the couple were not quite what one would hear in a church. The wedding rings were inflatable, the cake plastic and the Bible oversize. It was all a bit burlesque.

This was no ordinary wedding. In fact, it was no wedding at all, but a “falsa boda” in Spanish, or “fake wedding”, and a good excuse for a party.

In case there was any doubt, as the couple (hired actors) left the stage, coloured lights flashed, the disc jockey started the music pumping, and the announcement was made to the paying guests: “The wedding is fake, but the party is real.”

“The purpose of the ‘falsa boda’ is to convey joy and fun and live the happy moments related to love, without having to fall into the traditional ritual of what a marriage is,” explained Nacho Bottinelli, 30, one of the organisers.

 The fake wedding is telling of the social paradox of a country that remains traditional and overwhelmingly culturally Roman Catholic, even as the divorce rate hovers around 50 per cent and civil unions become accepted.

Bottinelli said he and some friends came up with the idea about four years ago while living in La Plata, a city just south of the capital.

Real weddings have been on the decline in Buenos Aires — less than half of what they were about 20 years ago — as couples are simply living together or waiting longer to marry.

When they do wed, they do not necessarily want a traditional church ceremony. In 2014, a Pew Research survey found only 20 per cent of Argentines went to church regularly, one of the lowest figures in the region.

But Argentines still love a wedding.

Bottinelli and his friends grew tired of waiting for someone in their circle of friends to marry to be able to celebrate. “What if we create a fake wedding?” he recalled them asking.

The fake wedding is telling of the social paradox of a country that remains traditional and overwhelmingly culturally Roman Catholic, even as the divorce rate hovers around 50 per cent and civil unions become accepted.

The spoof is at once a nod to tradition and a subversion of it. It has also become a thriving business. The events are successful enough that Bottinelli and his friends now stage them in Buenos Aires about once a month, sometimes more.

They have recently taken them on the road to other major Argentine cities as well as to Uruguay, with plans to expand soon to Chile, Mexico and the US.

At the events, Bottinelli explained, they can take or leave whatever they want from a typical wedding. Not surprisingly, they kept the fun parts.

Over the course of the evening, which stretched until 6am, there were two wedding rehearsals and two wedding ceremonies, each with an exchange of bogus vows. The actors who were the bride and groom in the first wedding became the witnesses in the second, and vice versa.

Backstage, the actors changed roles and had their hair and make-up done, with special attention paid to Veronica Pacenza, 26, who played the groom’s grandmother.

Soon the guests, who had each paid about $35 (Dh128) to attend, began to arrive. Some took souvenir photos in an inflatable booth near the entrance. Then they made their way to an open bar.

The ceremony itself is short and salty (rather than sweet), allowing guests to get on with the party. The entertainment includes two bands and a DJ.

The ritual of placing a garter on the bride also gets a twist, with 10 single women and 10 single men from the crowd invited to also give it a try.

And what wedding party would be complete without the bride tossing the bouquet? (In this case, she was Laura Montini, 35, an actress.)

A crowd rushed forward. A euphoric woman caught it. Which could only mean she might be the next to marry.

Or not.