Getting Married in Today’s Cuba

Daisy Valera 

Photo: Caridad

About a month ago — for the first time in my life — I went up the stairway to what we call a “Marriage Palace.”  While there, I could only think about two things:

First: the small private businesses that have begun to proliferate in all directions.

Second: if the government doesn’t allocate something for these “palaces,” a roof is going to cave in on top of some hoped-to-be-weds.

There in the hall a group of small business people rushed at me with all types of cards.  These announced rental outfits for men and women, hairdressers/cosmetologists, photographers and even graduates of the Cuban “Black Coral” school, which until that moment I didn’t even know existed.

I slipped all the cards in my jeans pocket and thanked each one of the vendors, convinced that I’d never use any of them.

I’d never dreamt of getting married dressed in white, and saying never, in my childhood I preferred the character of the princess a thousand times more over that of a bride.

On the other hand, I almost ended up hating makeup. I always feel like it makes me look ugly.

The cards only served me to verify how much energy Cubans have in developing their own businesses and that the business of weddings can be one of the most profitable.

When one thinks about a wedding, they begin to note details that previously passed by unnoticed:

It seems that it’s a tradition to drive around through the streets of Havana while dressed in the wedding gown and seated in a 1950s convertible, a car that of course one has to rent.

Although the excursion through the city might seem like madness, since the sun roasts you even more through a veil, the brides all appear to be radiating – inexplicably elated.

The bouquet — which is what the flower arrangement is called that has to be carried around for several hours — costs more than $20 CUCs ($22 USD)

That white wedding gown, which makes an attempt at alluding to the bride’s purity and innocence (usually without succeeding) can carry a rental rate of $50 CUCs for several hours.

And the cake, with the plastic bride and groom stuck in the top layer, can easily come to $25 CUCs.

It’s better we not to even talk about how the bride has to show off a new dress after changing out of “her” wedding gown, or that by tradition the couple goes on their honeymoon to one of those hotels where they now charge a minimum of $30 CUC per person per night.

Conclusions: weddings of this style are the business of quite a few people and the headache of those who have to finance them.

This is all a pipe dream for the brides and mothers of families at the lowest income levels.  They’ll likely never be able to make the Herculean effort, because for them buying even a pair of shoes is difficult.

The pride of doing it in style is for those with enough money in their pockets and thus can show they can do it.

Attention: I recently got married dressed in white and smiling at the cameras.  Beyond my anti-bourgeois posture, and despite everything around me looking inconsistent with those beliefs, I decided to please everyone who accompanied me on that day as they wished me happiness.