Why you want to get married in Cuba
Claude Duke of Dukedom Studios
For couples wanting a unique and economical destination wedding that goes beyond the perfect beach, Cuba offers a vibrant culture and rich history sure to impress the entire guest list. At established resort towns such as Varadero, couples can choose the convenience and ease of all-inclusive wedding packages. Alternatively, the incredible architectural beauty of Havana offers one-of-a-kind venues such as open courtyards and ornate neo-Baroque cathedrals.
Legal requirements to wed are as simple as it gets: birth certificates, single status cards, divorce decrees (if applicable) and passports. Or even simpler, choose to do a popular 'symbolic wedding' and have the legal aspects taken care of at home.
What to see in Havana After the Wedding
One hasn't truly experienced Cuba until visiting the capital city of Havana! This playground for many, is an opportunity to immerse yourself in photography, architecture, art, history, music and dance. For the romantics, love is always in the air, making it an obvious choice for tying the knot.
Explore the narrow, cobblestone streets of Old Havana, decorated in an eclectic mix of architecture ranging from Moorish to Art Deco. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself taking part in the many street performances - join in and dance or shake some maracas. Savour the moments at any number of quaint cafes or bars, and with the passing of vintage cars you will feel as if you've gone back in time. Be sure to stroll along the iconic Malecon (seawall) or take in one of the contemporary art museums. However you decide to enjoy Havana, the lasting impressions of Cuba will always be the vibrancy and character of its people.
Hire a Vintage Car
As a country effectively living in a time warp, Havana has become synonymous with vintage cars. While North Americans equate vintage with 'collector,' these cars truly are a practical form of transportation. Sure, you can take a picture of one, but why not rent one yourself? Take your pick of a colourful Cadillac Eldorado or Oldsmobile sedan. Not only is it a stylish and convenient way to do some sightseeing in the Capitoli, but at 30 CUC per hour you can’t go wrong. Looking for a more economical option? Hire a taxi. At the going rate of 40 CUC per day you'll be able to explore all of Havana's highlights.
A Grand Hotel
Culture lovers will adore the highly recommended Nacional de Cuba Hotel. When conjuring images of the world's grand hotels, Nacional should be counted among the ranks. This gorgeous hotel is a symbol of Cuba and was declared a National Monument. Built in the 1930s, it has hosted notable guests including Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Located in the city's centre it offers sweeping views of the capital and the Havana Harbour. If you're only able to make a day trip to Havana, take in the hotel's Parisian Cabaret for a real Gatsby experience. The 'Cubano, Cubano' show is a fusion of Indoamerican, Hispanic and African culture, which are the roots of Cuban culture.
Havana's Buzzing Nightlife
You may know Havana's famous Tropicana Club cabaret, but have you heard of The Buena Vista Social Club? Internationally renowned, this class act has humble beginnings as a group of local musicians who hung out and jammed in local Havana clubs. Today the few members who are still living are the performance's leading stars. Find them performing at different venues throughout Cuba, such as the Nacional de Cuba Hotel and the Melia Cohiba in Havana, and The Plaza Americas in Varadero.
Best Local Dining
A lack of imports often has tourists bemoaning the food in Cuba, but travellers shouldn't overlook these three fantastic restaurants. La Fontana Grill and Jardin Del Eden (located in Hotel Raquel) whip up excellent tapas and offer entertainment.
Also not to be missed is El Foridita. This bar is known for its famous barfly, Ernest Hemingway. The author once claimed El Floridita's daquiri to be the best in the world. If you're after Hemingway's best recommended mojito visit Bodeguita del Medio. The interior of this quaint lounge is decorated with graffiti and salutes Ernest Hemingway's Cuba.
When in Havana, Sample the Cigars
Cuba is of course world famous for cigars. Sample premier brands Cohiba and Monte Cristo. Cigar shops are found throughout Cuba and those interested in the craftsmanship that go into their production will enjoy touring a cigar factory.
Getting Married in Varadero
Cuba’s top beach destination is Varadero, located just 140 kilometres from Havana. A resort town stretched out along a sandy peninsula, it offers 21 kilometres of pristine beaches enveloped by turquoise waters.
Transportation between Havana and Varadero
Buses run from Varadero to Havana for approximately 20 CUC each way. Most are clean and comfortable with a round-trip transit time of six hours. Typically, buses make a brief washroom break and stop for lunch. Alternatively, taxis and private car rentals can be hired for approximately 200 CUC round-trip and take only about three hours round-trip. If you are a larger group, coordinate with the resort concierge to explore a custom group tour.
Why Consider Getting Married in Varadero?
Varadero is the premier beach resort destination in Cuba, and all-inclusive is the way to go. Packages include all meals, alcoholic beverages, non-motorized water sports, activities and entertainment.
If you've travelled throughout Mexico and/or the Caribbean, you may be familiar with the star rating system used to assess resort properties and service. It's important to note that a 3-star in Varadero may widely differ to a 3-star on the Mexican Riveria. Cuba's unique modern history and trade restrictions mean the country receives less imported items, affecting everything from food to furniture. For this reason, discerning travellers will definitely want to opt for a resort with at least a 4-4.5 star rating. This level of accommodation will offer better food quality, amenities and updated property decor.
Also important to note is that less than five percent of Cuban nationals have access to the internet. If you're a social media junkie you may find internet connectivity limited to resort business centres. Be sure to check ahead.
Luxe (and often free!) Resort Weddings
Melia Cuba - Pardisus
The crowning jewels of 5-star resorts in Varadero may just be the Paradisus properties. Both Paradisus Varadero and Paradisus Princess Del Mar are stunning resorts with gourmet restaurants, chic nightclubs, lush tropical gardens, and ultra-modern decor. Common among Caribbean resorts is the option to upgrade to luxury rooms and private floors, and Paradisus truly rolls out the red carpet for VIP guests. The Royal Service (adult only) or Reserve Section (for families) offer luxury touches from pillow menus to butler service.
Varadero Weddings: Services & Costs
Resort properties in Varadero offer a range of wedding packages, starting from simple vow renewals through ceremony and cocktail hours. Typically, private receptions and decoration upgrades or photography and music packages are offered on an a la carte basis. If you’re seeking a private dinner and dance floor, rather than a semi-private meal in one of the resort restaurants, book a resort conference meeting room. Crave a warm tropical breeze? Work with the on-site coordinator to explore catering options on a patio, terrace or lawn.
Destination weddings are often a less costly alternative to throwing a wedding in North America; a relief for those footing the bill. Furthermore, the bride and groom will receive financial incentives. For each number of bookings made by members of the guest list (ex: for every 11th guest attending or 10th room booked) the tour operator will credit the value of one person's trip. In the scenario where 35 people attend your wedding at a rate of $1,500 per trip and an incentive for every 15th person booked, you would receive a credit in the value of $3,000. Incentives are used solely at the discretion of the wedding couple. Use it to help bring members who may not be able to attend due to financial burden or divy it up between multiple guests to reduce personal travel costs.
Planning a destination wedding anywhere in the world can be daunting. Further, Cuba’s relative ‘isolation’ and trade restrictions adds some complexity. But don’t worry, take comfort in the fact that thousands of happy couples have been wed in Cuba. Prospective brides can enlist the assistance of travel agencies, such as Marsha Steeves Destination Weddings based in Vancouver, that specialize in destination wedding planning. These companies handle both guest trip itineraries and offer special coordination services.
Have you ever attended a destination wedding in Cuba? How was your experience?
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