10 Essential Cuban Wedding Traditions We Love

No matter where you go in the world, there are always fascinating and wonderful things to learn from the people you will encounter. When it comes to getting married, the customs and rituals can vary dramatically.

The island of Cuba has a long and storied history filled with a myriad of different cultures, so it’s no wonder that Cuban wedding traditions are a complex blend as well. Whether you’re planning or attending a wedding in this incredible country soon, or you just want to learn, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the most important wedding traditions of Cuba, as well as other elements of the culture, food, and music in the country that you will definitely want to know.

Where Do Cuban Wedding Traditions Come From?

In any country you visit, various aspects of the culture will have changed significantly over time and they will have had a number of different influences along the way. Cuba is perhaps one of the strongest examples of this concept in the world, considering how many different peoples have made their mark on this relatively small island.

Cuban History and Population

The first settlers to build a life in Cuba were the Native American Guanahatabey and Taíno people, who also populated many of the surrounding islands in the Caribbean Sea. To this day, their culture and customs are still kept alive in the region, although they have also adapted based on the people that came after.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus claimed Cuba for Spain, originally naming the island Isla Juana. Since the first Spanish settlement of Baracoa was founded in 1511, Spanish and European cultures have been central to the island’s identity, although not without conflict.

Cuba’s first attempt to gain independence from Spain was the Ten Years War, which began in 1868 but was rekindled in 1895. The US became involved in 1898, furthering a long and complicated history between the two nations. The United States took control of the country and gave Cuba its independence in 1902.

When Fidel Castro organized a revolution and overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista, he established a socialist regime and made allies with the USSR. During the Cold War, the US tried to overthrow Castro’s government, and the tensions between Cuba and the US never completely recovered.

On top of all of this, Cuba has also been highly influenced by African culture that was brought to the island by displaced African people during the slave trade.

Cuban Religion and Language

Obviously, the language and religion of a country have a huge impact on its traditions, particularly when it comes to formal ceremonies.

Cuban Spanish is the native language of the country, often known as “Cubano”, and is spoken by around 11 million people. It is adapted from Castilian Spanish, with some terms and phrases that came from communist nations and Haitian Creole slang – which is the second most popular language on the island.

When it comes to faith, things in Cuba have historically been a little complicated.

The country is mostly Roman Catholic although many people also follow the Cuban religion of Santería, which brings together elements of African Yoruba, Catholicism, and Native American beliefs as well. Additionally, there is a relatively large non-religious population, and other believers besides.

Under Fidel Castro, religious practice was highly restricted, and many practitioners left the country. Restrictions lessened over time, and Fidel’s brother Raúl Castro even invited Pope Francis to visit Cuba in 2015, saying that the Cuban Communist Party was officially allowing believers.

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10 Cuban Wedding Traditions

With all of that context, we can start to build a picture of how Cuban wedding traditions have evolved, and where different ideas about marriage and the ceremonies involved come from. The general customs mostly follow those of Catholicism with a decidedly Spanish leaning, but they are highly influenced by modern traditions as well.

Interestingly, weddings (and even marriages) in Cuba were relatively rare for a long time, since they were generally viewed as “capitalist” occasions during much of Fidel Castro’s reign. In recent years, however, some of the enthusiasm for a formal and joyful celebration has returned.

With that in mind, let’s talk about what you might see at a wedding in Cuba, considering all the influences that have come together to make them what they are today.

1. Misa De Fianza

Before the wedding begins, Cuban couples will often get together for a ceremony to bless the marriage in a festival of good luck known as a misa de fianza. The parents from both families will offer their blessings, the bride and groom will exchange rings, and there will often be dancing and music as well.

2. The Venue

Since most Cuban weddings are Catholic, the majority of ceremonies do take place in a church. For a long time, this wasn’t a possibility in the country at all due to the restrictions on religious practices, and many Cubans will still simply attend a small civil affair with a very limited number of people.

3. The Gifts

When it comes to gifts, things can get pretty extravagant, but not from everybody invited. Unlike in some cultures, expensive gifts are far from a necessity for the majority of guests, but the parents of the bride and groom will generally offer important things for the couple’s future together.

Newly married couples often inherit a home from their parents in Cuba, as they will typically still live together as one large nuclear family to allow the grandparents to help look after new children, and receive support themselves as they get older.

4. The Arras

In terms of what actually happens on the day, there are a couple of things that you might not expect. One is a tradition that is common in Spain, Latin America, and the Philippines known as “las arras”. This is a ceremonial offering of coins that happens alongside the exchanging of the rings.

A young child, usually a boy, will carry 13 coins on a silver plate down the aisle, much like the flower girl and ring bearer. He will then hand the rings to the priest, who will pass them over to the groom to give to the bride.

They represent the support the couple will give each other and the fact that they will share their wealth equally for the rest of their lives.

5. The Unity Candle

Another common tradition in Cuba is called a Unity Candle, which is used in a number of different cultures. The couple each holds one lit candle that they then bring together to light the main Unity Candle. This represents the union between their two families as the two flames are combined into one.

6. The Bouquet

As in many traditional Catholic weddings, the bride often carries a bouquet of white flowers that represents her purity and innocence, which she might throw over her shoulder for the unmarried women to try and catch.

There is another similar tradition that you might see in Cuba, though, where unmarried women wear pins upside down on their outfits throughout the day, and if any of the pins fall off, then it means that woman is soon to be married.

7. The Dress

It won’t come as much of a surprise that the dress is an important part of a Cuban wedding. In the Catholic tradition, it is supposed to be white, to show that the bride is pure. They are often made from expensive materials and use floral motifs, but more modern brides are not too strict about what is and is not allowed.

8. The Outfits

As for the rest of the other wedding guests, their outfits are usually pretty colorful and vibrant. Black-tie attire is very rare, and most people will be expected to come in bright colors that reflect the joy and excitement of the occasion.

9. The Reception

While weddings in some cultures are pretty formal, Cuban weddings are typically followed by a long reception that lasts way into the night. There will generally be a lot of food, music, dancing, and merriment, and live performers are often hired to play.

10. The First Dance

Dancing is an important part of any Cuban celebration, and the first dance at a Cuban wedding is always going to be quite a spectacle. Rumba and salsa music are popular choices for the couple to start out with, and you can expect to see a lot of passion, love, and enthusiasm on the dance floor.

What Food Is Served At A Cuban Wedding?

Of course, the food is always going to be a big deal at a wedding – no matter what culture you are in – and Cuba has some delicious dishes that you can expect to see on the menu.

Some of the most popular classics on the island include:

  • Tamales. Similar to the Mexican variety, the Cuban version comes with the meat actually mixed into the dough.
  • Pernil Relleno de Moros y Cristianos. Pork shoulder stuffed with black beans and stewed with white rice, this is an excellent choice for a feast.
  • Shrimp in Lechita. Lechita is a delicious sauce made from coconut milk, garlic, spices, and tomato paste, which is typically served over seafood like shrimp or octopus.
  • Lechon Asado. Another amazing dish to serve a big crowd, this is a piglet cooked whole on a spit, and it’s often accompanied by a Cuban marinade known as mojo that is made from sour oranges, garlic, spices, and olive oil.
  • Costillitas. These are Cuban baby back ribs, and they come marinated in a sweet and tangy sauce.
  • Ropa Vieja. The name might not sound appetizing, as it literally means “old clothes”, but this is the national dish of Cuba. It’s a stew made from shredded beef with tomatoes and onions, and it is delicious.
national dish of Cuba, Ropa Vieja

What Music Is Played At A Cuban Wedding?

Music is a big deal in Cuba, so it will generally play a big part in a wedding.

Traditionally, salsa, rhumba, and flamenco are common genres for getting people on the dance floor, but there is a huge amount more to choose from besides.

Cuba is known for having had a huge influence on music around the world, particularly in the Caribbean, Europe, West Africa, and Latin America. From Afro-Cuban Jazz to Cha-cha-chá and Danzón, there is practically no end to the musical varieties that might fill the air on a wedding night.


Cuban wedding traditions are interesting and complicated, and they have been influenced by a long, storied history.

The main customs originate in Spanish Catholicism, although African and Native American culture have certainly played their part as well.

Cuban weddings have only recently begun to reappear in the country, having been incredibly rare during Castro’s rule, and they incorporate many modern ideas now as well.

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