An Expat’s Experience Organizing A Wedding In Spain
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”!
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 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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
My friends in Seville also surprised me with a beautiful brunch at the 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!