I’ve already mentioned my Cuban heritage; I was born and raised in Havana and my family moved to Canada when I was 12. Though I’ve now spent the majority of my life on the outside, I feel and identify as unequivocally Cuban, whatever that means.
Mr. Waterfall and I have been successfully navigating this weird, cultural melting pot for the past 10 years—Reveillon de Noel with his family one year, Nochebuena with mine the next, and so on. However, planning a wedding where we wanted everyone to feel included proved to be much trickier than we had anticipated. It was important to have both of our cultural backgrounds represented, so we gave a lot of thought to what it meant to have a Cuban-infused wedding, as opposed to a full-fledged Cuban theme.
The process was not easy, and we considered several ideas that we ultimately discarded, such as setting up dominoes tables, like Mrs. Beanstalk. (While we loved this idea and had the space for it at our venue, we wanted to encourage our guests to mingle and have fun together, rather than creating a mass exodus of guests to a separate area to play dominoes.) We also entertained the idea of handing out traditional Cuban cigars as favors, but this would have been costly and we didn’t want to encourage our guests to smoke because of health concerns.
So, what ways DID we incorporate my Cuban heritage into the wedding?
1. The Ceremony: After speaking with our priest, we decided to include las arras or unity coins into our ceremony, symbolizing Jesus and the 12 apostles. In the Spanish tradition, las arras are 13 gold or silver coins which the groom places in the bride’s hands as a promise to provide for his family, and the bride’s trust in his ability to do so, a promise that “what’s mine is yours.” At Grandma Waterfall’s insistence, we also brought in a small replica of La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady of Charity), the patron saint of Cuba.
Image via Etsy shop Wedding Lassos
2. Food and Drink! Cuba is famous for its delicious food, and Mr. Waterfall loves Cuban food even more than I do, but it didn’t quite mesh with the formal plated dinner we had in mind. Instead of doing a full-blown Cuban meal, we chose to make one tier of our cake be dulce de leche. We also offered espressos after dinner since coffee is a Cuban staple. Finally, after some negotiating with our venue, we were able to feature mojitos as our signature drink alongside our martini bar. The mojitos were a huge hit, and what better way to feature Cuba than through rum? At our coordinator’s suggestion, however, we only offered them after cocktail hour. Since mojitos are such a popular drink, and so time consuming to make, it would have created an unnecessarily long line at the bar, so keep that in mind if you’re planning on having them at your wedding.
Image via consumelikeme.com
3. Music: Obviously this is a big one! We worked together with our amazing DJ to create a good mix of hardcore salsa as well as some club hits and wedding staples. (Yes, kids, we did the “YMCA” and people lost their sh*t, true story.) Lucky for us, Latin music is very in right now, so even Mr. W’s side of the family loved getting down to some Celia Cruz. Aside from Celia and Pitbull (ya tu sabes!), I also wanted some authentic Cuban music, so I gave our DJ a list of about 10 must-play songs that I knew he probably wouldn’t play otherwise, including a conga, and I don’t mean the cheesy Gloria Estefan one! We also considered hiring a live bongo player, which would have been awesome but oh so expensive!
I really think we achieved a nice balance of incorporating Cuban elements into different aspects of the wedding without going overboard. How are you incorporating your culture into your wedding?