Cuba's surging private sector adds magic to the island's weddings
Organizing a "vintage" wedding in exotic Old Havana or working out the complicated logistics of a ceremony on the beach is no longer a problem in Cuba: private organizers now take care of making almost any wedding-day dream come true, something unimaginable just a few years ago
Nuptials in Cuba are not often planned ahead and many lovers prefer living together without getting married to avoid the expense of celebrations in a country almost always under the shadow of economic crisis.
But that mentality "is changing," Zaylhi Linares told EFE.
Linares runs D'Evento, a family firm where her daughter Desiree also works and which offers lush services that bring joy to engaged couples and 15-year-old girls, very different from the cheaper but lower quality state offer.
"We have a lot of competition now but that's good, because it challenges us to develop and grow more," said this professional mistress of ceremonies who got into the wedding business by chance.
When it came time to celebrate the coming of age of her 15-year-old daughter, Linares saw that the desired services could only be found in a very scattered way, and realized that this was the road to pay dirt to a degree almost unknown in Cuba until the government started issuing "self-employment" licenses in 2012.
"Our services have evolved as the country has allowed people start their own businesses and let fly their ideas," the businesswoman said, adding that "there's nothing boring" about what she does.
Following the reforms promoted by the Cuban government, a store cashier called Monica quit her job and, under the title of Miss Monica Events, began to do the work "I was born for" and which "has gone very well."
"Every time I work with a soon-to-be bride and groom, I feel like I'm getting married again. I try to establish a special relationship with them and if they want, we'll manage everything, from the wedding ceremony and reception to the honeymoon," she said, while continuing to direct the decoration of the dining room where hours later a banquet would be served.
For Monica the secret lies in teamwork and in doing "magic" to find "what there is and what there isn't" in a country in short supply or totally out of so many things, and where even decorative ribbons have to be imported.
On the customer side, Iris is a mother who was delighted to hire an event coordinator for the 15th birthday party of her daughter Damaris. "I got married 10 years ago," she said, "and there was none of this. I had my whole family running around organizing things and I didn't have a moment to relax."
And while Iris "respects people who consider that party a luxury," for her it was "the best investment I ever made."
Planning festivities is obviously a business going places on the island.
"The customers themselves are making us grow," said Ailed de Guevara, creator and principal promoter of Aire de Fiesta. "We were just a family firm, but now we also have architects, florists and designers - a really great team."