My Spain Story: The Planning Of My Spanish Wedding

An Expat’s Experience Organizing A Wedding In Spain

Getting Married
It took a lot of planning to get to this point!

Photo: María Benitez

Wedding planning is not fun. Some people may disagree with this statement– I’ve heard it described by others as “such a beautiful time in your life” and told to “cherish the experience”!

Yeah right!

They obviously didn’t have to plan a wedding in a foreign country, while working full time, and without a car or even a monthly phone plan (I had a ridiculously expensive prepaid plan) to be able to call people and visit venues. No, I doubt that anyone who talks about the joys of wedding planning had quite the same experience!

So, What Did I Do?

I immediately accepted reality and jumped into planning mode. First, we had to decide where we would get married— the US or Spain. We looked at the legalities of both and thought about how our decision would affect our family and friends being able to attend. After various possible scenarios we decided on two weddings (what was I thinking?) because there was just no way that our loved ones could all go overseas.

The Spain wedding would have to be first (although we would be getting legally married in the US) as we were already in Spain, and my family could easily visit in the summer versus any other time of year. I looked at potential dates in early June as flights are still reasonably priced for the first week or two of the month. I reserved my parent’s flights, sent my family a travel checklist, and started planning away. We chose June 3, 2011 as the big day!

Choosing Vendors

Choosing Spanish wedding vendors was very difficult. The wedding industry in Spain is very different than in the US and it was much more challenging for me to find good quality information and reviews about vendors, venues, etc. We wanted to get married somewhere in Cadiz because that is where Ale’s family and friends all live. In other parts of Andalusia where there is a large expat population there are a lot of glamorous options, but where we were looking in Cadiz, not so much.

The Venue

Due to the lack of a car, time, and living in Seville but planning the wedding in Cadiz, we only visited one venue with a company I had found on the internet called Momento Andaluz. We chose a venue on a small golf course in Chiclana de la Frontera, Spain. It was not my dream wedding destination, but I knew we were limited for time and I was really realistic about our options. I loved that it was located next to some very nice hotels for guests to stay at and it was extremely private, located in the middle of nowhere! Their food was also really good and they worked with us to create a custom menu and event that worked with our vision.

hotel barcelo chiclana
Our venue was near lots of gorgeous hotels like Barceló Sancti Petri

Choosing a photographer was my biggest concern– more important  than the dress for me! I found María Benitez through her website and fell in love with her photos. She was the second photographer we met with and we hired her right away. As you will see in future posts, she did not disappoint! María travels all over Spain for wedding photography, so contact her if you are planning an event!

bride reading letter
María captured special details like me reading my mom's letter on my wedding day.

Photo: María Benitez

The Dress

I have written about my experience buying a wedding dress in Spain previously, so I’ll just say that it was an interesting experience– my mother-in-law went along– and I ended up with the last dress I would have ever imagined myself in. I’ve worn in 3 times since then and I love it!

Trying on wedding dresses
I said yes to that dress!
The Hair

My hair was again a very stressful thing. First, my MIL (who used to be a hairdresser) told me she was going to do my hair. I was very uncomfortable about this but wasn’t sure how to tell her. No worries, because she then told me that she actually didn’t want to take on that responsibility the day of the wedding when she would have a full house. Umm… okay, thanks! So I did two tests with a local hairdresser– I tried to convince myself I liked what she had done (I didn’t have time or transportation to do any more tests!) but I actually hated it. So one day my MIL played around with my hair, I really liked it and she decided to do it. Whew!

wedding hair disaster
I almost had this hairstyle!
Other Details

In addition to these decisions we also had to chose a DJ, florist, invitations, wedding favors, hotel, rental homes for my family, Ale’s tux, a bus for people to go from El Puerto de Santa María to the golf course and back, and plan 10 days worth of activities for my family’s visit. Needless to say, I was a ball of stress and nerves for almost 6 months– I think my in-laws thought I was a bit crazy!

blue wedding shoes
Choosing shoes was one of my many tasks!

Photo: María Benitez

Yet all said and done, I was no bridezilla. I mean, I was so eager to plan everything quickly and efficiently that I almost convinced myself to accept a hairstyle from hell for my own wedding day!

The most difficult thing was undoubtedly planning my wedding without my mom and sister. The first time I went to try on wedding dresses I went alone, and I must admit I felt sad. But I was so lucky that Ale was really supportive, and although he was very much the typical guy who allowed me to plan most things, he took on a lot of responsibility calling and emailing vendors, making bookings, etc. I was also lucky to have my great in-laws, who drove us places, let us borrow their car, and went with us when we wanted another opinion on something. And my MIL did save my hair! I’ll never forget that…

When I went home for Easter vacation my sister and best friend Holly threw me a surprise wedding shower!

In shock at my surprise wedding shower!
wedding shower
My sister and I at my shower.

My friends in Seville also surprised me with a beautiful brunch at the Hotel Alfonso XIII.

Brunch alfonso XIII
A lovely brunch at Hotel Alfonso XIII

If you are an expat planning your wedding abroad, good luck! My advice is to try your best to find one really high quality vendor and then ask them for recommendations. Try your best to see and compare different options; I noticed that prices and quality varied enormously in Spain.

Lastly, it is my opinion that we shouldn’t be so picky. If we expect perfection we will likely be disappointed. I don’t regret “settling” on a few things to save me the stress, time, and money searching for “the perfect one”. When all is said and done, a wedding is only a day and it is meant to celebrate a union, not impress everyone with flashy food and flowers (although that is nice too!).

Last Time: The Proposal

Next Time: My Family Comes To Spain

If you have been a bride abroad, what was your experience like? Please shares any thoughts and opinions below!


  1. your comment about planning the wedding w/o your mom or sister really hit home for me! I too planned our wedding without much help because I was in CA, my mother in FL and my sister in VA. And although that made me sad, there were positives to it too: my stepfather couldn’t butt in 😀

    I’d also agree on your advice of not being too picky. I don’t remember the details but I had to fire our first florist. That and my brother’s tie was “lost” (later found on the floor of the closet where the tuxes were in our house) and he had to borrow our host’s tie(we got married in a friend’s house). Those were the only two things that went “wrong” that day. Unless you want to count the fact that I slept not ONE WINK the night before our wedding, heh. I don’t think anyone noticed 😉 (and my aunt reprimanding me for not inviting my cousins? oy….um, we could not afford to invite everyone unfortunately. We had the budget wedding of the 90s…and it worked great for us even if some people were unhappy.)

    thanks so much for sharing your story in all its parts, it’s fun to read and see the pics. happy almost first anniversary!!

  2. We had such a fun time trying to find the perfect place to have your Spanish shower, and I had loads of fun at your wedding, despite no date and that wind!! You seemed so, so calm and happy_

  3. I really enjoyed your blog, I only wished we would have met before your wedding, I could have helped and relived some of that stress! It’s what I do 🙂
    I loved all your pictures and you looked stunning!

  4. Lauren, I was stressed just reading and imagining all the coordinating you had to do! The behind-the-scenes photos are terrific; the one of you with the all-over-the-place ‘do is a gem. Glad the suegra came to rescue on that one!

  5. Sounds pretty much like what I’m doing right now! I have pictures of the hairstyle I want (or at least different options), so I don’t want any surprises … sometimes Mario’s cousin, who’s like my “young” fashion consultant here (she knows all the best places to get things done), acts like she knows more than me about it, and I’m going to stand up for myself. I mean, the things they wear sometimes — no thank you!

  6. The picture of what your hair could have been is hilarious! Great blog entry! and your MIL seems so nice ! What a terrific story!! 🙂

    1. I know– when I showed my sister and mom that picture they were like… umm, what? Are you joking? Thank goodness for honesty or I might just have gone with it to not be a pain!

  7. Being the daughter of a very typical Spanish father and havg lived in Spain, I’m thinking on having my wedding in andalucia (ideally near cost and near a convenient airport for lots of family to travel to). I was thinking of hiring a villa for close family members and to have the wedding there too. Is there any websites you can recommend? I’m also concerned with the legalities etc. any advice will be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Natalia,

      I’m afraid I don’t have much advice– we just chose a venue quickly (with Momento Andaluz) and worked with the team there to create the event. I bought my dress in Cordoba (Fuente Palmera) which also worked out well.

      Legally we got married in the US, so in Spain (although it was a wedding with all steps) technically we weren’t legally married.

      Good luck with your plans!

  8. Great story, I really still don’t know how mine will go in Madrid. I think reality didn’t hit me yet, but I am going there soon to choose a place, and we do have some time so hopefully it will be less nervewrecking!

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