Brazilian traditions in weddings: here comes the panforte

Oct. 12, 2009, 1:02 p.m. | by Adriano Petrich | Categories: Brazil panforte wedding

Brazilian traditions in weddings: here comes the panforte

The Wedding party in Brazil

Like most traditions it feels that they all follow a unwritten(sometimes even written) script.

But that is was tradition is, isn’t it? A cozy, well known dance that all can follow at the same time without fear of the unexpected.

Most of what I will say here applies to the most traditional weddings.

So as you get invited for a wedding in Brazil the first thing that you have to know is: have been invited for the 2 events or only for the religious one?

Weddings are a two stage event here: The religious part and the big party.

First everyone goes to a chapel where the religious wedding is done by a catholic priest. Almost anyone that you know should be invited to this phase, and that means that as large as the chapel may be it will be crowded to the roof and way too hot inside. When the wedding is formalized by the priest two things can happen. if everyone was invited to the big party the newlyweds would exit the church and leave on a vintage fancy car, but if you invited people just to the religious part they would move to a side of the church and a big queue would form to greet the newlyweds.

The big party is normally done on another location, usually less than a 10 minutes drive from the church.

The big party

When you enter the party the first thing you will notice is a large table filled with assorted sweets. actually it looks like mountains of assorted sweets. The second thing would be armed guards that don’t let close to the sweets table. Ok not armed guards, but very polite members of the serving staff that nevertheless would not let near enough of the table.

The party would start with everyone waiting on a cocktail party while the newlyweds, the bridespeople and groomspeople would enjoy what feels like an 30 hour long session of photographs, oh the joy!

After the pictures more pictures would be taken during the cut the cake ceremony. Cut but not served. They are just taking pictures while the newlyweds are not skunk drunk.

Then dinner would be served, and between the the main dish and the dessert the dance floor would open and people would mingle again.

Then guards at the sweets table would leave.. or relocate to protect the wedding flavor table.

All in all being one of the guards is probably one of the most boring jobs that I can think of on a wedding.

Sweets galore

All that mountain of sweets is now open for grabs. A very traditional wedding would use the rule of thumb of 8 sweets per guest. All those old cheek-pinching aunts are almost coming to blows to get some sweets first.

The sweet tooth is one of those cultural clues that show, without a hint of a doubt, that we’ve been colonized from the Portuguese.

While the sweet tooth is endemic the variety and range of sweetness has not only come a long way from Portuguese times, but also shows the incredible diversity that happens here. Specially in Sao Paulo.

Italian, Japanese, Lebanese, African, Center European, Eastern European, Spaniards, you name it they came here, and bringing their food.

So sweets just changed the Portuguese rule of Eggs yolks, Sugar (and eventually Almonds) to a rich anything goes mix.

A word of advice

Classifying them is somewhat of a challenge, one that I am not go much into.. but I do think then in a few stereotypes(not really categories because one specific sweet can be in more than one stereotype)

We have: the bitter chocolate ones; the milk chocolate ones; the coconut ones, the pecan ones, and the ones sweet enough to drive a German into hyperglycemic shock.

The ones sweet enough to drive a German into hyperglycemic shock have the telltale color yellow.. they are probably done in traditional Portuguese way: egg yolks and sugar. (am I kidding when I say that? no. some recipes call for 18 large egg yolks and a pound of sugar for one medium cake sized quindão)

The wedding favor

On the way out of the party the guards patrolling the wedding flavor table are all smiles (mainly because their ordeal is close to an end) and they promptly give you 2 to 4 “Bem casados“(it means “well wed” in portuguese) small parcels (as the one on the photo above). The rule of thumb being 3 bem casados per guest.

Theres only a single problem with that approach: Predation.

Wedding suppliers see newlyweds as huge fat, lazy Thompson’s gazelles.. so it is feeding time.

Bem casados prices are ridiculous. Not because they are hard to make or anything but because the wedding market pays for that price.

The NEW-traditionalist

Bem casados are so traditional that now wedding could be done with out it, right? Right?

Actually.. I don’t play so well with exploration exploitation.. specially when the explored party is me. Doing bem casados by myself is nice if I wasn’t wedding at the same time.. So initally we were thinking about skipping the wedding flavor..

Then it struck me: Panforte

The crusades siege food: Panforte, Panpepato

Panpepato is the old name meaning “peppered bread”.. Panforte or Panforte de Sienna is the most usual name meaning “Strong Bread”.

It is not a bread.

It is a not overly sweet, very spiced and tender flat pie.. It is the old cousin of the power bar.

Right now I am still in a research phase of the panforte there are some possibilities: chocolate or not, candied citrus or not

When I get done with my very hard a exhausting research I will post it here :)


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