Marriages and family are important to people in every society in some form or another. Each culture has set rules to determine who is appropriate to marry and who is not. Many cultures mark the beginning of a marriage with an elaborate ceremony, others have no formal ceremony and may be marked by some kind of gesture such as moving into the home of one's chosen partner. Life after the wedding varies widely from culture to culture, usually with the married couple starting a life together. Deciding who to marry, performing a wedding ceremony, and the following family life is unique to each culture. In Cuba, these aspects are decided mostly by tradition.
Cuban marriages are always between one woman and one man. Years ago in Cuba, it was not uncommon for good friends to arrange marriages between their children. The choices of partners is limited to those outside the family. Marriage is not allowed between couples who have any known blood relation. It is preferable for the couple to be from the same community. Although marriages between a couple of different classes are allowed, the upper class family will discourage the joining. Like most young people, Cuban people hope to find a relationship that will not only meet the expectations of their family and community, but also their own expectations and desires.
Cubans have big wedding ceremonies for the bride, groom, and the family. Most Cuban women are married between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, while most Cuban men are married around seventeen or eighteen. The celebrations include everyone that the families know, usually at least fifty to one hundred people. Traditionally the bride's family pays for the wedding. The wedding is covered with decorations and the bride dresses in white only if she is a virgin. The reception is filled with music and dancing. Traditions such as the groom and the bride having no contact before the wedding, throwing the garter and bouquet, and giving the couple gifts are very similar to those found in the United States. The parents of the bride and the groom often give very big presents to the couple. The next day, the sheets may be displayed to prove that the bride was a virgin. The wedding ceremony is very important to the family and the couple in Cuba.
After all the festivities of the wedding, a couple must get settled into their new life. In Cuba, the couple has a choice of living with either his or her parents. Most common is for the wife to go and live with the husband's parents. The choice depends on a number of factors including how much room is available, the number of siblings, and whether any other siblings are married. The Cubans commonly live in extended family households. Houses are passed down from generation to generation. If there is only one child, then there is no problem--the spouse simply joins the family. On the other hand, if there is more than one child, the first to be married brings the spouse to live with the family. Then by the time that the next sibling is married, the first couple is expected to move out unless this next couple chooses to live with the other parents. This cycle repeats itself until all of the siblings are married. The oldest male is considered the head of the household within the extended family. One-parent families are very uncommon. A woman who has been widowed almost always runs the few one-parent families. Divorce is not common and single mothers are considered a disgrace and are hidden by her family. Every new couple has to become accustomed to a new family, a new bond, and a new life.
Cuban couples follow many traditions to find one another and to start a new life together. With rules about whom they can marry, big wedding ceremonies, and a changing family life, Cubans find a new beginning within the union of marriage. Marriages create a union between the two people who get married, their families, and their friend. Often these unions are the basis for their communities creating strong bonds to keep the people safe or at least safer.