Traditions of Puerto Rico
Everyone I know (especially NY'ericans), inquire about using Puerto Rican tradition - cherishing the rituals of the past, for their wedding.
Except for capias and bride dolls, there are no unusual wedding traditions. But you can always give your wedding a Puerto Rican flavor.When you think of things Puerto Rican you think of; coquí, orchids, tropics, palm trees, seashells, Taíno Indians, guitars, coconuts, rum, pig roast, and amapolas flowers). You can use things in the wedding and party that remind us of our Isla del Encanto (Island of Song).
- The wedding party could be held in the bride's parents house and yard area. That is traditional because long ago there were no ballrooms for rent. A beach, park or somewhere outside is the key to tradition. Perhaps a lovely ceremony in a garden followed by a ballroom or party space indoors - a pool with palm trees set up would also give tribute to the island.
- Lights were strung on the trees outside to light the yard for the party - it gives a rustic feel, but also makes the night magical.
- Wealthy families would serve a large banquet, "jibaritos" (country old-timers) served a lechón on la varita. That sounds like an unforgettable event - doesn't it? (Translation: roast pork rotisserie or on spigot as in Hawaii luaus).
- Serve all Puerto Rican foods and desserts including fresh fruit (pineapple,oranges, lemon/lime centerpieces. Serve "quenapas", a fruit that crosses a lime, a kiwi and a peach. They are usually available in the states for an April wedding. Guava or guava sweet paste on fancy crackers as part of appetizers is a treat before the first course is served or along with dessert/wedding cake.
- Make the wedding cake coconut, rum, or pineapple flavored or serve a "dulce de leche" (sweet milk with caramel) or "tres leche" (milk and sweet cream) wedding cake. As well, have a rum or vodka/pineapple martini signature drink served in coconut cups or glasses with Puerto Rico flag stirrers.
- Cake decorations may include seashells,palm trees, pineapple motifs, and flowers specific to the island.
- The wedding "brindis" used to be made using coconut cups because there were no fancy glass goblets. This was the traditional "toast." The bride and groom may drink a traditional café con leche (espresso) using coconut cups - done more like a ritual and photo opportunity. A traditional brindis may also be included using a flavored coffee liquor or a sweet fruit cognac like Grand Marnier with a toothpick skewer of orange, cherry, pineapple and grape.
- The "capias" or flower pin are attached to ribbons that hung from the bridal bouquet. At the reception the bride and groom cut off the capias from the bouquet and pin them on the guests, or some prefer to pin the capias on the Wedding Doll (usually a 16" doll with a tailor made ball gown and the capias are pinned below the waist and the entire circumference of the dress. This is a great way for the bride and groom to make contact with each guest. The capias traditionally, had a piece of “abeto” fern (spiny fern used in weddings) attached to it (about 5 inches of fern), and the capia sat in the middle of the fern. The fern lasts a long time. The capias include a piece of folded narrow ribbon printed with the bride and groom’s names on one end, and the date of the wedding on the other. This ribbon can be ordered just about anywhere that sells bridal invites. This is a nice favor or an addition to a favor. The guests where them on their lapel or shoulder of their dresses.
- The bride's bouquet was made using wild flowers of Puerto Rico – mostly amapolas, but also flamboyán flowers, and margaritas (include local greenery and abeto). Puerto Rico has over 50 native orchid species. Use orchids.
- The bouquet may include a fan - in Puerto Rico fans were a traditional part of a woman's attire. Wealthy women had fans in different colors to match their clothing. There is a long and detailed history of fans - too long to go into now. Bridesmaids may also carry a fan and an amapola (maybe a silk amapola, the official flower of Puerto Rico. Most people compare them to the Hawaiian Hibiscus flower.
- During the ceremony - in very low volume - play a tape of coquí sounds - that would be most romantic.
- The Doll (La Muneca) - At the traditional Puerto Rican reception it is customary for a doll, dressed similar to the bride, to be placed at the head of the main table. The doll can be a Barbie or a larger doll. She wears a wedding dress to match the bride's.
- The bride and groom may choose a danza criolla, a Puerto Rican waltz. La Borinqueña is a waltz and a very traditional song making tribute and expressing love to the couple and the island. There are many, many beautiful Puerto Rican orchestra pieces for ballroom dancing as well.
- If you are interested in the Taíno (Native American) culture use strings of seashell jewelry for the bridal party and to decorate the gift or cake table. Centerpieces could reflect our Taíno heritage using petroglyphs somehow. Use lots of candles too.
- Centerpieces - make small palm trees using “abeto” ferns for centerpieces and decorate with seashells, flowers and the like.
- If you can afford it, hire a local Puerto Rican folk dance group to entertain during dinner.
- Of course - play traditional and modern Puerto Rican music, "Bachata,", "Salsa," "Merengue" and hip hop "Reggaeton" as well.
- Flowers were used to decorate the church, house, and the yard. Again these were flowers that grew wild including amapolas, margaritas and flamboyán flowers as well as local greenery and palm branches.
- Select a wedding invitation with a tropical theme like ferns, palm trees, or sea shells.
- Select matching napkins. Also, traditional to the Island is cigars. Many older generations remember their "abuelo" (grandfathers) rolling fresh tobacco in leaves of the Island and smoking them for times of celebration. Now, there are several cigar rollers who go to your reception and set up a table. Be sure to check with your venue if they allow smoking in their outside spaces or each guest can receive it as a flowers. For the children, give them a bag of coconut candies, child-safe sparklers for the Taino Indians worshipped the sun, the moon and used fire as part of their religious practices celebrating the Great Spirit.
- If you need napkin rings they can be made using elastic and have a sea shell on top with some ferns. The napkin rings are those rings that hold the silverware that has been rolled on a napkin. You could also use "bling" and glue on one of the flowers or add a silver or gold novelty sea shell to upscale the look.
- Honeymoon – a Caribbean Cruise, or some Island hopping, of course -- including St. Thomas and other nearby islands.