Amie Keeley on why getting married in Andalucia is not always as simple as cutting the cake
WITH Valentines Day looming romance is very much in the air as many young couple’s thoughts invariably turn to marriage.
Proposals are being made and (hopefully) accepted and the best possible date for the wedding is set.
It’s usually at this point that hearts begin to flutter; not just with love, but with a growing state of panic. Dates mean deadlines, deadlines mean plans, plans mean knowing who, where, when and most importantly how much!
But planning a wedding in Spain doesn’t have to be stressful if you keep in mind the most important things – you’re marrying each other and it’s your day.
On the face of it, Andalucia certainly seems to have it all when it comes to weddings.
With fantastic weather – just three days of rain on average from June to early September – leading dress designers and glorious settings, it is no surprise that getting married Spanish-style has become big business.
It also helps that Spain is the world’s second largest exporter of bridal wear, making the country a major trend-setter in the world of wedding fashion.
With a high value still placed on marriage, Spaniards like to spend large on their big day, which not only joins two people together, but two families as well.
But, to ensure that your wedding goes ahead without any hitches there are a few things you need to avoid.
Firstly, avoid a midday wedding in the heart of summer, as you don’t want your big day to be remembered for its fainting guests.
One local wedding planner recalled how one event turned into disaster when the brides elderly relatives started “dropping like flies” as a July heatwave arrived with a vengeance.
Then there was a wedding in Tarifa, where a champagne reception was ruined when 100 glasses shattered to the ground as the notorious Levante wind suddenly whipped up.
Secondly, a budget ball park figure is a must – it helps to keep everything grounded. Having grand plans for an all-expenses-paid jaunt for 200 on a €5,000 budget is not a realistic expec
While weddings in Spain are between 20 and 25 per cent cheaper than in the UK, they are still going to cost a reasonable amount of money.
The next most important decision is where to get married.
Increasingly, destination weddings are popular and Andalucia fits the bill perfectly for couples looking for guaranteed sunshine, a perfect honeymoon location and a great holiday break for guests.
Of course, like most things in Spain, nothing is straightforward.
The paperwork trail can be a little slow and somewhat complex depending upon the couple’s status.
All couples will need to show proof of ID, proof that they are free to marry, birth certificates and, if applicable, divorce certificates.
They will also need to fill in application papers and have posted the banns with the town hall in the area where they wish to get married.
Then they will need to show some proof of where they have resided for the previous five years.
Those that are resident in Spain will need their empadronamiento certificate, and for those that are not things can get a little complicated…
If either of the couple are Catholic, bishops from the home country and Spain will usually work together to produce a dispensation allowing a marriage in a catholic church in Spain.
Non-Catholics will need to find out from the town hall the exact connection needed with the town to see if you can get a permit.
While sometimes you can get permission by merely owning a house in the town, in others you have to have lived there for two years.
On top of this, all legal documents need to be translated into Spanish and presented to the town hall at least three months before the wedding date.
To guarantee no hiccups, non-residents should really try to begin the process at least six months before a planned wedding date.
An easier alternative – and a good choice for those in a hurry – is to get married either in the home country or in Gibraltar and then have a celebration ‘blessing’ in Spain with family and friends.
In Gibraltar there are a number of wedding organisers, not to mention a series of great venues, such as the stunning La Caleta hotel, which practically sits on its own beach.
Once all the paperwork is out of the way the real planning fun can begin.
There are a host of good wedding planners around to help you with all the right choices for wedding venue, the cake, hairdressing and flowers.
They will help make your wedding day memorable – hopefully for the right reasons!
For those of you not living in Spain, choosing somewhere here could be based on all sorts of reasons, from family connections to romantic reminders.
Above all, ask yourself: what sort of setting are you looking for? Is it historic, exotic, seaside or country? – Andalucia can offer all of these.
You might consider a stunning country hotel like Hacienda de San Rafael, near Jerez, or a brilliantly located townhouse hotel, like La Vista, in Medina Sidonia.
And then, of course, there are the more off beat wedding venues like golf courses, with the Fairplay Resort, in Benalup proving to be a popular spot.
Ultimately do you want a small or big wedding? How far will guests travel? Can you organise it all yourself or do you need a tour operator or event organiser?
Everything from not speaking the language, to not feeling comfortable negotiating with foreign suppliers, are reasons why couples often choose to work with a local wedding planner.
The planner’s local knowledge and experience will help to ensure a stress-free occasion and one that will almost certainly save time and money.
One of the top tips for a successful partnership with your wedding planner is to visit the area and bring as many ideas as possible.
Establish a rapport based on trust, leave enough time for planning and keep to your planner’s timelines.
Listen to advice based on sound experience of organising weddings – your expat mates might love that restaurant, but can it get 150 starters out in less than four hours?
Find out how many weddings the planner is working on that year and if he or she has more than yours on a particular day.
Andalucia is a great wedding destination which can offer you and your guests more than just a wedding day and with careful, considered planning you can make your dream day a perfect experience for all.