16 Cuban Wedding Traditions That Are Fun & Exciting

Across most cultures, the institution of marriage is viewed as essential, and its sanctity is highly prioritized. Marriage marks the beginning of a family and binds communities. Thus, each society has developed a wide array of wedding traditions to make the sacrament even more special.

Although many Cubans are Catholic, religious weddings are prohibited by the State due to communist rule. Therefore, most Cuban wedding traditions take place in a wedding reception. Below is a list of eight interesting Cuban wedding traditions, along with corresponding explanations of their cultural background.

Memorable Cuban Wedding Traditions

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La Pedida de Mano (The Asking of the Hand)

Traditionally, the groom’s family will formally request the bride’s hand in marriage from her parents. The families will then discuss the wedding plans and budget, and decide on a date for the wedding.

El Velorio de la Sábana (The Shroud Vigil)

The night before the wedding, the bride and groom will participate in a symbolic ritual where they sleep together under a white sheet or shroud. This represents the couple’s commitment to each other and their future union.

Dress Code for the Bride

It is common across many cultures for the bride to wear a white dress or gown at their wedding. While this remains true in Cuban wedding traditions, a bride can only wear a white dress if she is a virgin. This is because a Cuban bride is often expected to be “pure.”

The bride’s wedding dress often has a floral motif. Moreover, it is typically made with luxurious materials, such as satin and silk. The dress also frequently includes ruffles or full skirts.

The emphasis on purity and virginity is also evident before and after the ceremony. The bride and groom must have no contact before the wedding; they prepare for the events in separate areas. On the day after the wedding, the newlyweds might be asked to present their sheets so as to prove that the bride was indeed a virgin prior to her marriage.

Extravagant Gift-Giving

The bride’s and groom’s parents are expected to give big and expensive presents to the couple. Similar to those given during a wedding shower, these gifts help prepare the newlyweds for the new chapter of their life.

In extension, newlyweds also inherit a house from one of their parents. This is because ownership of homes is transferred from generation to generation. The house they ultimately receive depends on multiple factors, including how much room is available, how many siblings they each have, and the presence of married siblings.

First Dance

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As with any wedding, the newlyweds’ first dance is one of the most significant and unforgettable moments of the event. Couples are free to choose what kind of dance they will perform; the most popular options include any variation of a Rumba or Salsa.
  • Rumba Guaguancó – noticeably sensual movements set to upbeat music
  • Rumba Yambú – has a slower tempo than Guaguancó and generally less sensual steps. This variation is sometimes referred to as the “old people’s Rumba”
  • Salsa Rueda – couples dance in a big circle, executing turn patterns according to the call of a leader

Before the wedding, couples generally have to spend some time learning how to properly dance. Although some may already know the steps, availing of lessons to brush up your skills might be the best way to go.

La Ceremonia de Las Arras (The Coin Ceremony)

During the wedding ceremony, the groom will give his bride 13 coins, which represent Jesus and his 12 apostles. The bride will then pass the coins back to the groom, symbolizing their shared responsibility for their future financial well-being.

Late-Night Wedding Reception

Cuban wedding receptions are filled with music, dancing, and enjoyment. They share this trait with other Latin cultures, such as Colombian. Receptions can be held in a hotel, garden, restaurant, or any place with plenty of space. Cubans emphasize entertainment in their receptions, typically hiring live bands and artists to perform songs with drums and guitars.

El Baile Del Billete (Money Dance)

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During a Cuban wedding reception, the guests will participate in what is called the el baile del billete, or the money dance. Every man who wants to dance with the bride will pin some money onto her dress as a gift. Conversely, every woman who wants to dance with the groom will pin some money onto his suit. Commonly, the newlyweds will then use the money to shoulder some of the wedding and honeymoon expenses. However, they are free to spend it in any way they please.

La Hora Loca (The Crazy Hour)

Towards the end of the reception, the party will take on a carnival-like atmosphere with colorful costumes, masks, and noisemakers. This is a time for guests to let loose and have fun, and for the couple to take a break from the formalities of the day.

El Corte de la Tarta (The Cake Cutting)

The bride and groom will cut the first slice of the wedding cake together, which represents their first task as a married couple. They will then feed each other a bite, symbolizing their commitment to taking care of each other.

El Ramo de Novia (The Bridal Bouquet)

The bride will traditionally toss her bouquet to a group of single female guests, symbolizing the passing of her single life onto someone else. The woman who catches the bouquet is believed to be the next one to get married.

El Cojín de los Anillos (The Ring Cushion)

The wedding rings will be carried to the altar on a cushion, which is usually decorated with lace or other embellishments. After the ceremony, the cushion is given to the mother of the bride as a memento of the day.

La Música (The Music)

Music is an important part of Cuban weddings, with traditional music such as salsa and merengue being popular choices. The wedding party will often dance the night away to live music or a DJ.

El Regalo de los Padrinos (The Godparent Gift)

It is customary for the bride and groom to choose godparents, who will act as mentors and advisors throughout their marriage. The godparents will often give the couple a significant gift, such as a piece of jewelry or a large sum of money, as a token of their support.

Special Wedding Favors

As with American weddings, it is a Cuban wedding tradition to distribute wedding favors as a way of showing gratitude for the guests’ presence. Latin cultures place importance on the favors they give; some families even organize a display of favors from various weddings and events in their homes. Some common Cuban wedding favors include:

  • Succulents with papel picado where the couple’s names are written
  • Cigars for the men
  • Wedding cookies
  • Local art
  • Ribbons with the couple’s names written on them
  • Spanish hand fans

Tight-Knit Family and Community Affair

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Cubans are family- and community-oriented. Some time ago, close friends typically arranged marriages between their children. Furthermore, marriages are encouraged between members of the same community.

The couple has the choice to walk to their wedding venue or drive a convertible. Either way, a crowd will cheer for them as they make their way to the site. The crowd also sings and dances during the procession, sending well-wishes and blessings to the couple.

The guest list of a Cuban wedding is composed of anyone and everyone that the families know. The typical size of a party ranges from 50 to 100 people. Historically, the bride’s family covers the expenses of the wedding; however, in more recent times, this may not always be the case.

Upside Down Pins

Although Cuban wedding receptions also incorporate a bouquet toss, they have another tradition with a similar purpose. Single women are encouraged to wear special pins upside down. If they lose their pin any time during the reception, they are believed to get married soon.

Final Thoughts

Cuban wedding traditions are deeply rooted in culture and history, with each one holding a special meaning and purpose. From the symbolic rituals and ceremonies to the lively music and festive atmosphere, Cuban weddings are a celebration of love, commitment, and family.