Caribbean Wedding Traditional Rules & Customs

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The Caribbean is an exciting location to hold an exotic wedding. It seems appropriate to follow some of the wedding traditions of this tropical destination. Many Caribbean customs have evolved over time through European, African and Colonial influences. The result is a colorful celebration slightly personalized by each Caribbean island.

Clothing

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It is customary for the bride and groom to dress in their best clothes and walk through the village. The bride might have a new dress for her wedding if her family can afford the fabric. The church bells announce their coming, and the neighbors line the street to view the couple and wish them luck.

For a Caribbean wedding today, a bride can consider fashion designers who create ethnic wedding dresses with modern twists (see Resources). A wedding taking place in the West Indies, for example, might benefit from a design using traditional African fabrics and clothing, such as the “iborum,” or shawl.

Ceremony

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Invitations to the wedding ceremony are usually personal, through word-of-mouth. Handwritten invitations are rare and used only to invite someone special. In the end, the entire local village may be present at the church ceremony even if some people did not receive an invite from the bride or groom.

The main religion of the Caribbean is Roman Catholicism, and the ceremony takes place in a cathedral with a priest. Oftentimes, both parents of the bride escort her down the aisle.

In a Puerto Rican wedding, the priest blesses a plate of coins and hands it to the groom. The groom gives the plate to his bride after they say their vows. This symbolizes luck and prosperity in their marriage.

Celebration

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A common theme throughout all the islands is the black cake. The women of the family pass down the recipe to each new generation. The recipe calls for one pound of dried fruits like currents and cherries. They serve the cake with a rum sauce that sits in a crock pot with dried fruits for several weeks prior to the wedding.

In Bermuda, the couple plants a cedar tree on their property during the reception. This symbolizes growth and maturity during their marriage. A similar custom occurs in the Netherlands Antilles, except the couple plants a lily-of-the-valley.

The celebration is usually an all-night event, especially in Cuban weddings, and requires upbeat island music. Every man who dances with the new bride pins money to the bride’s dress to help with honeymoon expenses. At the end of the night, the bride and groom whisk away to their weeklong honeymoon vacation.