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I have translated "wedding" into Spanish. I have found four translations for that word, and I am studying the differences between them. From the DRAE:

  • boda: Ceremonia mediante la cual se unen en matrimonio dos personas, y fiesta con que se celebra.

  • casamiento: Referido al matrimonio, acción de casar o casarse. or Contrato de matrimonio.

  • matrimonio: Unión de hombre y mujer, concertada mediante ciertos ritos o formalidades legales, para establecer y mantener una comunidad de vida e intereses. or Pareja unida en matrimonio. En este cuarto vive un matrimonio.

  • nupcias: Casamiento o boda.

Do they all mean the marriage ceremony? What is the difference between them?

Hypothesis: They all refer to the marriage ceremony, "matrimonio" also means the couple, "casamiento" also means the contract.

  • 1
    Tagged diferencias regionales, since part of the answer goes that way. The first part of your hypothesis is right though, the second one I'm not sure – Rafael Oct 22 '16 at 13:22
  • Note that 'matrimonio' can also be : 2. m. En determinadas legislaciones, unión de dos personas del mismo sexo, concertada mediante ciertos ritos o formalidades legales, para establecer y mantener una comunidad de vida e intereses. – user14029 Oct 24 '16 at 20:37
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Disclaimer: the following may only apply in Spain.

Matrimonio is the most generic word of them. It can be used for both the ceremony and the couple (from the DRAE: "pareja unida en matrimonio"). You can see this fact in Ngram:

Ngram

Nonetheless, matrimonio sounds a bit too formal for oral expression. It appears mostly in the written expression, and that's why it appears the most in Ngram.

Boda refers just to the ceremony. It is most used in oral expression, like:

Este fin de semana es la boda de mi hermana.

Casamiento is the same as boda, but it sounds odd to me. This is maybe the word that can suffer the most from regional differences, or even ethnical differences, because I can only remember a song that says:

Soy gitano y vengo a tu casamiento.

- "Soy gitano", by the Spanish cantaor Camarón de la Isla.

Nupcias is (again) the same as boda or casamiento, but it is more a kind of legal term, used only in expressions that note a second, third (and so on) marriage, like:

Juan y Maite se casaron en segundas nupcias.

meaning that for both of them it was the second time they got married. You can also say "Juan se casó en terceras nupcias con Maite", meaning that it was the third time that Juan got married. It can also be used in poetic contexts, such as the message in the invitations to the wedding:

Juan y Maite celebrarán sus nupcias en el Grand Hotel, se ruega confirmar asistencia.

On an aside note, it is interesting to see that de DRAE has a second meaning for "matrimonio" that reads: "En determinadas legislaciones, unión de dos personas del mismo sexo, concertada mediante ciertos ritos o formalidades legales, para establecer y mantener una comunidad de vida e intereses." The times, they are a-changin'...

  • Just add that 'nupcias'is often used when talking about a second (or third and so on) marriage. For example, 'Se casó en segundas nupcias' means 'he got married a second time'. – sanzante Oct 24 '16 at 10:39
  • Regarding your disclaimer, let me add that all those words are known in hispanomerica, being casamiento the less used but fully understood. The most used in Colomba is matrimonio – DGaleano Oct 24 '16 at 19:11
  • @DGaleano thank you, my main concern when answering this kind of questions is not knowing if in Hispanoamérica the words are used the same way as in Spain. If you agree with my answer then I will proceed to remove the disclaimer. :-) – Charlie Oct 24 '16 at 20:19

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