Many people have dreams of being married from the time they are old enough to understand what a wedding is. Making it unforgettable is essential since it will change your life so drastically. One approach to make your wedding and reception memorable is to include ethnic traditions in it.
By incorporating Cuban wedding customs into their special day, many Cubans in the United States and abroad have perfected the art of producing unforgettable weddings. Whether you’re merely interested in learning more or are organizing a Cuban wedding, here are a few customs you should be aware of.
An Overview of Cuban Wedding Customs
In the past, weddings in Cuba were expensive religious celebrations. However, they appear very different now as a result of the 1959 revolution and the ensuing economic changes. Fidel Castro tried to lessen the influence of the Roman Catholic Church after the revolution because he considered it a danger to communism. As a result, religious customs are becoming less common at Cuban weddings, and those who still adhere to them wait until the reception.
In the years following the revolution, in addition to religion not taking center stage, not everyone could afford to have a spectacular wedding. Weddings are a luxury because of the communist state’s low wages and food rationing. Despite this, Cubans make the most of their situation and continue to celebrate love and follow their wedding customs. Additionally, second-generation Cubans and those in the diaspora can carry on the customs below wherever they are in the world.
Cuban Customs Before Marriage
Cubans celebrate the pair in ways that are distinct from American weddings before the nuptials. Both blessing the union and showering the soon-to-be-weds with lavish presents are priorities.
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Cuban weddings are a special and traditional affair, beginning with the engagement ceremony. The engagement is an important part of the Cuban wedding tradition and involves both families. It is typically a large gathering where the two families come together to negotiate and sign the agreement. The bride’s family must approve of the groom, and usually, a dowry or other gift is exchanged.
During the engagement, the families will drink coffee and share stories about the couple, showing that they approve of the marriage. During this time, it is also customary for the family members to give gifts to each other in celebration of the engagement. The gifts may be money, jewelry or other meaningful items.
The engagement ceremony can be a long and complex process, but it is an important part of the Cuban wedding culture that should not be overlooked. It is a time for both families to come together and celebrate the union of their children and create a strong bond between them.
Mist of Fire
Cuban couples may participate in a ceremony known as a misa de fianza a few months before the big day. In this ceremony, the couple dances a particular dance and exchanges wedding rings. As the misa de fianza is also when the parents bless the marriage, you may compare this ritual to the introductions that take place in Nigerian wedding traditions.
Pricey Presents from Parents
When their children get married, parents have a costly chore at hand that involves purchasing pricey presents. These presents serve as a means of recognizing the union and the start of their children’s new lives together.
A new house is an illustration of an expensive present that newlyweds may get. Homes are frequently handed down through the generations in Cuban culture. Since we’re talking about big presents, it’s vital to remember that the bride’s parents often foot the bill for the wedding.
The Importance of the Cuban Wedding Ring
The Cuban wedding ring signifies the couple’s eternal love and commitment to each other. It is also a symbol of the couple’s new life together. The couple is required to wear their rings on the fourth finger of the left hand. They also exchange these wedding rings during the wedding ceremony.
Cuban Wedding Location
When it comes to choosing the perfect location for a Cuban wedding, there are many options available. From beachside ceremonies to glamorous, modern venues, there’s something to suit every couple’s dream of the perfect day.
For those looking for something a bit more traditional, there are plenty of churches and cathedrals available across the country. Whether it’s a grand cathedral in Havana or a smaller chapel in a rural area, you’re sure to find something that will make your ceremony special.
Beachside weddings are a popular option for couples looking for something a bit more relaxed. Imagine exchanging vows under the bright Caribbean sun, with waves crashing in the background and a light breeze blowing through your hair. With its beautiful beaches and secluded coves, Cuba has no shortage of stunning wedding locations by the sea.
If a luxurious setting is more your style, then you’ll be spoiled for choice. Many high-end resorts in Cuba offer exclusive wedding packages for couples seeking a grand celebration. These venues often boast grand ballrooms, exquisite décor and picturesque terraces with breathtaking views.
Finally, if you’d prefer a more natural setting, then you can always opt for an outdoor wedding. With its lush jungles and rolling hills, Cuba has some truly spectacular locations to choose from. Exchange vows beneath the shade of an ancient tree or on a hilltop overlooking the Caribbean Sea — the possibilities are endless.
No matter what kind of venue you choose, you’re sure to have an unforgettable day that you and your guests will remember forever.
Cuban Marriage Ritual and Traditions
In Cuba, priests preside over many events, but if it’s a civil ceremony, things could be different. A judge could officiate the wedding in that situation. Many religious customs, such as the unity candle, the arras and the white bouquet, will be observed during the event.
This Christian-inspired Cuban wedding custom is a method for the groom to promise that he will take care of and support his future wife financially. During the ceremony, the husband presents the bride with 13 gold coins. The coins, which stand in for Christ and his 12 apostles, are blessed beforehand by a priest. The bride keeps 12 coins, but the thirteenth is slipped into her right shoe as a sign that she will never be short.
2. Harmony Candle
The bride and groom will ignite a candle known as a unity candle during the ceremony in Cuba. The candle represents unity and the couple’s union, as its name implies. Some married couples save this candle and light it on their wedding anniversaries. This could become a custom you and your spouse follow if you want to have your wedding the Cuban way.
3. Uncolored Bouquet
Cuban brides are also likely to hold a white bouquet as they make their way down the aisle, which is similar to the idea behind the white wedding dress. White is supposed to represent purity, which has great significance in Cuban culture. The bouquet might also stand in for fecundity.
4. Padrinos: Godparents or Sponsors
Traditionally in Cuba, couples don’t have a best man or maid of honor. Instead, the couples had Padrino and Madrina. These are specially chosen people who play a vital role in the couple’s lives.
In most scenarios, the padrinos sponsor or buy the lazo and the arras. This is because it is a Cuban tradition for them to sponsor these accessories. However, modern couples sometimes buy these accessories and have padrinos and madrinas as symbols of Cuban Wedding traditions.
Having padrinos for lazo and arras is often a must, but some couples include other types of padrinos as well. Some modern couples have their best man, the maid of honor, groomsmen, or bridesmaids play the role of padrinos in their wedding ceremony. Also, some couples even go as far as keeping the padrinos and the wedding party separate.
Cuban Traditions for the Wedding Reception
Cuban wedding festivities sometimes stretch for several hours, sometimes even into the early hours of the morning. You may anticipate that at the reception because they like partying and having a good time, much like at Brazilian weddings.
The most common wedding reception traditions in Cuba weddings include cutting the cake, removing the garter, tossing the bouquet, and throwing rice at the end of the ceremony. None of these traditions were born on the island, but Cubans happily adopted them.
Taking Off the Garter
This is a reception tradition where the groom removes the garter from the bride’s leg with his teeth while everyone watches. After that, the groom throws the band to a line of single men at the wedding ceremony. It is believed that any man that catches will be the next to marry.
Cutting the Wedding Cake
At this moment, the master of the ceremony calls out the bride and groom. Both of them stand in front of the wedding cake, then slice it while holding a knife together. After that, they feed each other a piece of cake.
The Bouquet Throw
Here the bride must toss her bouquet over her shoulder to the unmarried women present in the wedding ceremony. Whoever catches it will marry next to walk the aisle.
Tossing rice at the just-married couple is a wish of prosperity and good fortune in their marriage. Cubans know this, and almost everyone throws rice at the exit of the ceremony.
Wedding Attire from Cuba
The bride and her clothing are usually the focus of attention during weddings, but the guests should also be noticeable.
1. White Dresses in Style
White wedding gowns are only worn by virgins according to Cuban wedding customs. Cuban brides are supposed to remain “pure” on their wedding day for this reason. This is such a huge deal that the newlyweds can be required to bring the linens they used on their wedding day a day after the ceremony to show that she was indeed a virgin. The bride and groom must get ready in separate places since they are not permitted to interact before heading down the aisle.
Cuban brides frequently wear gowns that have floral themes, satin, silk and ruffles. Another typical feature of their clothing is full skirts.
2. Bright Guests
If you’re attending a wedding in Cuba, dress appropriately because weddings in Latin America are frequently colorful and exuberant. On the wedding day, guests might dress brightly while the bride looks stunning in white.
Traditional Wedding Songs from Cuba
Salsa, merengue and bachata are a few of the popular musical genres played during Cuban weddings. Cuban wedding tunes that the newlyweds and their guests can dance to are popular. Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente,” “Despacito,” “Danza Kuduro,” “La Chona,” “La Vida Es Un Carnaval,” “Mesa Que Mas Aplauda,” and “Vivir Mi Vida” are some traditional wedding songs.
Every culture has a dance that gets everyone up and moving and the conga is undoubtedly the most popular among Cubans. The street dance, often referred to as the comparsa, was popular in Santiago. Everyone holds each other’s hips and sways to the music. You could also find yourself dancing the rumba, which is both a type of music and a dance. If you aren’t familiar with either of those dances, now is the time to visit YouTube and familiarize yourself with them in advance of the big event.
2. Cash Dance
Cubans and Nigerians both commonly participate in one or more money dances during weddings. A money dance is when the bride and groom are showered with gifts from the bridal party and guests while they dance. Free money is, without a doubt, a terrific present to get as a newlywed couple; they may use it in any way they like. Along with the money dance, the bride and groom’s first dance is significant, much like in Western wedding customs.
At Cuban weddings, friends and family play an important role. From the moment the couple announces their engagement, they begin inviting guests to join them on the big day. Cuban weddings are all about the celebration of love and the joy of having family and friends around to share in that celebration.
When it comes to wedding guests, Cuban weddings tend to be quite large. They often include extended family, close friends, colleagues and even people who have a special connection with the bride and groom. However, depending on the budget and preferences of the couple, wedding guest lists may vary.
Cuban wedding etiquette dictates that invited guests should send a card or present within 30 days of receiving their invitation. If a guest is unable to attend the wedding due to any reason, it is polite for them to still send a gift. Cuban weddings are generally a very social affair, so it is expected that guests will mingle with other guests, especially if they are not familiar with everyone. Guests should also expect plenty of traditional Cuban music, dancing and festivities throughout the night.
Party favors are widespread at Western weddings, and this is also true of weddings in Cuba. The happy couple may gift guests with handcrafted presents like ceramics created by regional artisans or Spanish hand fans as a way to thank visitors for attending their wedding and celebrating their love. The pair occasionally presents guests with ribbons with their names on them. If there is enough money, visitors could get more expensive presents, such as cigars.
Food and Drink During a Cuban Wedding
The wonderful thing about cuisine is that it can help to distinguish civilizations and also serve as a common interest for individuals. At Cuban weddings, the feast follows the ceremony and is the primary event.
1. Main Dishes
Cuban cuisine is frequently colorful and tasty. A variety of traditional foods, such as masitas or fried pork, arroz y frijoles negros or rice and black beans prepared in the Cuban way, sweet plantains and yuca fritters, may be served at a wedding celebration. For those who have never had Cuban beans, they are cooked with green peppers, onions and garlic.
2. Caribbean sweets
Even if it’s simply a wedding cake, most cultures throughout the world have sweets during weddings. In addition to cake, typical Cuban desserts, including guava cake, Cubanitas, which are bars with a coconut or fruit foundation, flan, a creamy custard and dulce de leche, a sort of caramel, may be served during weddings in Cuba.
3. Rum beverages
Rum is linked with Cubans, and a Cuban wedding wouldn’t be complete without it. Cubans enjoy drinking mojitos, daiquiris and Cubanitos, which are comparable to Bloody Marys. A Cuba Libre, sometimes referred to as rum and coke, is an additional option.
Wedding Dance Traditions
When it comes to a Cuban wedding, dancing is one of the highlights. As a vibrant culture, Cuban weddings are filled with traditional dances that you won’t find at any other type of wedding.
A Cuban dance popularized in the 1950s, this type of dance is characterized by its fast-paced, high-energy movement and upbeat tempo. Traditionally, the bride and groom will lead off with a few mambos before guests join in.
This traditional Cuban dance dates back to the 1800s and has been gaining popularity in recent years. It involves slow, elegant movements accompanied by a light instrumental score. Couples often perform a choreographed routine for the audience, complete with intricate steps and poses.
A popular form of partner dance originating in Cuba, salsa is characterized by its lively and passionate style. While it’s usually done as a couple’s dance, group variations have been developed to be enjoyed by large groups.
This Cuban street dance combines African rhythms with Spanish music and is often performed in a line formation. Its movements are slower and more sensual than salsa, making it ideal for couples looking to show off their love for one another.
A more modern form of Cuban dance, Reggaeton has become incredibly popular among young Cubans. It incorporates Latin beats with hip-hop influences and is often seen at parties and nightclubs throughout the country.
No matter which style of dance you choose, the main goal is to have fun and make the most out of your wedding celebration. With so many different types of dances to choose from, you’ll be sure to find one that fits your style and brings joy to everyone attending your special day.
Cuban Customs After Weddings
When a couple marries in American society, they often buy their own house. However, Cubans operate in a unique manner. After being married, some couples choose to live with their parents; in this case, the pair is likely to stay with the groom’s family.
In the past, if a younger sibling got married, the pair may have to move out to make way for that sibling and their new spouse. The pair does not, however, have to remain at their parents’ home permanently. They might take advantage of the chance to save money in order to someday purchase or rent their own home.
Other Special Cuban Wedding Traditions
In addition to the clothes, music, dancing, and food, other special traditions are often part of Cuban weddings.
One of these other traditions is the lasso ceremony. This is a special ceremony where the groom ties a lasso around his bride’s waist. This Cuban tradition is said to signify the groom’s total commitment to the marriage.
The other tradition is called the hija de la novia. This concerns when the bride’s father hands her to the groom. When giving the bride to the groom, the bride’s father often gives her a gift or piece of jewelry to mark the special moment.
Cuban weddings are full of vibrant colors, wonderful music and unique traditions that make them stand out from other celebrations. From the engagement ceremony to the dancing at the reception, every part of a Cuban wedding is sure to be memorable and special.
Whether you’re attending a Cuban wedding or planning your own, it’s important to take some time to learn about the culture and traditions of this beautiful Caribbean country. With a little research and planning, you can have an unforgettable experience that celebrates the beauty and spirit of Cuba.
Serena & Dominic are a married couple and parents to 3 wonderful children. They plan weddings, run multiple small businesses, and curate wedding events.
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