The narrator tells the story of Bayardo San Roman, the bridegroom of Angela Vicario. Bayardo arrives in August, six months before his eventual marriage. He is about thirty years old, but seems younger because he has a slim waist and golden eyes. He says he has come to find someone to marry.
He first sees Angela when she is crossing the town square with her mother, dressed in clothes of mourning; the two of them are carrying baskets of artificial flowers. The next time Bayardo sees her, she is singing out the numbers to a raffle at a town event. He buys all of the raffle tickets and wins a music box inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which he then has delivered to her house as a gift. She never discovers how he found out it was her birthday.
The Vicarios are a family "of scant resources." Poncio Vicario is a goldsmith, but has lost his sight from doing so much fine work. Purisima del Carmen, Angela's mother, had been a schoolteacher until she married. Angela is the youngest and the prettiest of the family. Pura Vicario wants Bayardo San Roman to identify himself properly; to gain her approval, he introduces his whole family. The family drives to the village in a Model T Ford. Bayardo's mother, Alberta Simonds, is a mulatto woman from Curacao, who in her youth had been proclaimed the most beautiful woman in the Antilles. He has two young sisters, and his father is famous: General Petronio San Roman, hero of the civil wars of the past century.
Angela does not want to marry Bayardo. Their engagement only lasts four months. Bayardo asks Angela what house she likes best, and she replies that she liked the farmhouse belonging to the widower Xius, which is on a windswept hill and overlooks the purple anemones of the marshes. The widower insists that the house wasn't for sale, but Bayardo keeps offering more and more money until Xius gives in.
Nobody knows that Angela isn't a virgin. They have a huge wedding, with extravagant gifts and days and nights of dancing and revelry. The narrator says that he and his brother, Luis Enrique, along with Cristo Bedoya, were with Santiago Nasar all the time, at the church and after at the festival. The four of them had grown up together, and it was hard to believe that one of them could have had such a big secret.
The narrator has a confused memory of the festival—he remembers proposing to marry Mercedes Barcha as soon as she finished primary school. At six in the afternoon, the bride and groom take their leave and drive to their new house. The narrator, Luis, Cristo and Santiago all went to Maria Alejandrina Cervantes' house, where the Vicario brothers also went and were singing and drinking.
Pura Vicario goes to bed at eleven o'clock and has fallen into a deep sleep when there is a knocking at the door. She opens the door and sees Bayardo and Angela standing there. Bayardo pushes his wife into the house and kisses Pura on the cheek, thanking her for everything. After he leaves, Pura holds Angela's hair with one hand and beats her with the other. She does this so stealthily that she does not wake her husband and other daughters. The twins return home, and Pedro asks Angela who has taken her virginity. She says that it was Santiago Nasar.
This chapter explains the motive for the murder of Santiago Nasar. The narrator implies that Santiago is not, in fact, guilty of the crime he dies for. However, even if Santiago truly is innocent, we never learn who was guilty of taking Angela Vicario's virginity. Nor does the narrator—he questions Angela at length later in life, but she quietly persists in saying that Santiago was the one.
After Bayardo's family comes to visit the Vicarios, it becomes clear to the town that Bayardo can marry whomever he wants to. Angela Vicario's parents are highly in favor of the match, since Bayardo is handsome, wealthy, and comes from a prestigious family. Earlier in the narrative, the narrator says that the Vicario boys "were raised to be men," and that the Vicario daughters "were raised to be married." In this culture, the best way a woman could improve her life was to marry a husband who would provide for her well. Angela Vicario protested to her parents that she did not love Bayardo, but her mother dismissed that idea, telling her that love could be learned.
The brutality of the social conventions surrounding women becomes clear in this chapter. Because she was not a virgin when she married, not only is Angela abandoned by her husband, but she is beaten by her mother. The double standards of her culture are highlighted by the fact that the narrator, Santiago, Luis Enrique, and Cristo are all at a whorehouse doing whatever they please. It is culturally acceptable for men to have premarital sex, even if they are already betrothed to marry other women.
The importance of the ritual of courtship is also very evident in Colombian culture. Bayardo will do whatever it takes to win the approval of Angela by showering her with gifts. The economy behind the match is made clear through this method of courting. Bayardo does not seem to concern himself with getting to know Angela Vicario; he merely demonstrates the amount of money he will be willing to spend on her. Bayardo demonstrates that he will get the music box and that he will buy the house. It is a way of showing not only the bride, but the bride's parents, that she will be well taken care of. Another ritual is that the entire family of each spouse must meet before the match can be approved—understanding the background of the spouse is vital, so that the daughter does not dishonor herself by marrying someone from a questionable family with little money.