In more than four decades of his relationship with Spain, Paul Whitelock has had the good fortune to have been invited to four weddings on Spanish territory, ranging from the Basque country, to the Canary Islands to Andalucía. The last was the other day. Here he describes that happy event and reminisces about the other three.
I was invited to a wedding last weekend. That brings my tally of bodas in Spain to four in 40 years. On this latter occasion, friends of ours, an Englishman and a Pole, ‘jumped the broom’ in the pueblo blanco of Montejaque in the Serranía de Ronda, where the couple are residents.
Tony, a retired lecturer turned walking guide, and Eva, a photographer and naturalist, met in Andalucía, fell in love and set up home together, first in Benaoján and then in neighbouring Montejaque. And yesterday Tony finally made a decent woman of Eva.
The civil ceremony, performed in the open air against a backdrop of mountain scenery, was led by the retiring mayor of Montejaque, Miguel Alza Hiraldo, with friends from Spain, England, Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland, Columbia, Germany and Finland in attendance. The reception was held at the delightful Hotel Molino del Santo in nearby Benaoján Estación, where the hotel and dining terrace sits alongside a rushing stream which gushes down the mountain towards the River Guadiaro.
The wedding was non-conformist to say the least, with suits and frocks banned in favour of T-shirts. There were even prizes for the best examples, the winner being a home-made effort urging us to ¡Ahorra agua, no te duches solo!, Save water, never shower alone!
As for the other weddings, the first two were more conventional. The first was in 1971 in a village church near San Sebastián in the Spanish Basque Country. On that occasion, Santi, a banker friend, married his sweetheart Lourdes. We thought we would miss the ceremony as a horrendous traffic jam caused us to arrive two hours late for the ceremony. But all was well, as we found that the bride and groom and the rest of the guests had had the same problem and had only managed to get there moments before us. All went well after that and the last I heard the couple had had two children, now grown up, and are still together living in Oyarzun (Guipúzcoa).
My second boda was also a Spanish affair and very grand. It took place on Tenerife in the Canary Islands in 1991. We met Candy and Carlos at a picnic site on the island one Sunday in February of that year, hit it off straightaway and became good friends. We were surprised, but delighted, when we were invited to their wedding a few months later. The ceremony took place in the magnificent cathedral in La Orotava and was very ostentatious, which is often the Spanish way. There were hundreds of guests, all of whom seemed to be at the wedding meal afterwards. We thought we’d be tucked away in a corner somewhere, but no, we were astonished to find ourselves seated at the top table alongside the happy couple!
We stayed in touch for a while. Whenever we visited Tenerife, which was quite frequently in those days, we spent time with them. They soon had a little daughter, but, unfortunately, the couple split up fairly soon afterwards.
Wedding number three was in Ronda in 2006. Becky, the Welsh-born daughter of my then girlfriend, married Graham, her Scottish man, in a civil ceremony in the beautiful surroundings of the Palacio de Mondragón. The civil ceremony took place in one of the patios and was performed by a local councillor, Daniel Harillo, to a background of live classical Spanish guitar music courtesy of local player Vicente.
Dressed in his traditional tartan kilt, and with three ushers in similar attire, the men created quite a stir in town that day in May. Some Japanese tourists thought the Scots were locals wearing traditional costume and snapped away contentedly and totally oblivious to their error!
To this day a picture of the bride and groom still graces the photographer’s shop on Calle Espinel in Ronda. Juan, the owner, told me only last week that he keeps it there because it draws inquisitive people into his shop and is good for business.
The couple now live in the North West of England and had their first child last year.
Returning to wedding number four, I think it’s unlikely that Tony and Eva will start a family – he’s even older than I am – but their marriage looks set to last a long time!
As for me I’ve been delighted and honoured to have been invited to four very different “Spanish” weddings in as many decades.
¡Vivan los novios!