Solid (marriage) as a Rock

Gibraltar’s iconism, weather and fast-track weddings make it a magnet for lovestruck couples, writes Tom Powell

LAST UPDATED: 7 Mar, 2016 @ 11:32

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GIBRALTAR WEDDINGS: John Lennon and Yoko Ono
GIBRALTAR WEDDINGS: John Lennon and Yoko Ono

WHEN John Lennon and Yoko Ono got married in Gibraltar 47 years ago this month, they barely stayed an hour.

That’s not to say they didn’t fall in love with the Rock – Lennon called it ‘a little sunny dream’ and even wrote a song about it – they were simply in a hurry to get to their honeymoon (a week-long and rather public Bed-in for Peace at the Amsterdam Hilton, some may recall).

In fact, John and Yoko’s whistle-stop marriage isn’t possible now; a change of law dictates couples must spend at least one night in Gibraltar, before or after the ceremony, in order to marry.

But as you can still get married with 24-hours notice it’s certainly quick, simple and recognised worldwide.

The greatest allure for courting couples is the symbolism of the Rock – as solid, unwavering and powerful as enduring love – and plans to introduce legislation for same-sex marriage will increase its appeal.

And although James Bond actor Sean Connery’s 1962 Gibraltar wedding to actress Diane Cilento ended in divorce, he was sufficiently shaken and stirred to return in 1975 to marry present wife Micheline Boglio Roquebrune.

TV presenter Des O'Connor
TV presenter Des O’Connor

Other celebrity Rock weddings include Hollywood couple Lawrence Harvey and Margaret Leighton, best-selling crime writer Frederick Forsyth, Status Quo frontman Rick Parfitt and comedian Des O’Connor.

Of course, there are also thousands who descend on Gibraltar every year to celebrate the happiest day of their life who aren’t famous.

Interestingly, only around one third of couples are from the UK. The other two thirds comer from America, Canada and the world over.

In terms of swanky wedding venues, there is nowhere quite like the Sunborn Yacht Hotel, a luxurious ‘love boat’ docked in Ocean Village.

Three other hotels – the Caleta in Catalan Bay, the O’Callaghan Eliott in the town centre and the Rock Hotel – are also approved for weddings.

For a more natural and tranquil setting, head to Alameda Botanical Gardens. First developed in 1816 to provide Gibraltar’s residents with a green space to rest and relax, they have grown into a place of serene beauty.

At their heart is the Dell, an Italian-style garden designed in 18420, where weddings are also permitted.

PICTURE PERFECT: Atop the Rock. Photo by Jon Segui
PICTURE PERFECT: Atop the Rock. Photo by Jon Segui

If it’s unbeatable views you’re after, Mons Calpe Suite is located within the Cable Car’s top station. The unique spot won the prestigious award of Best Mediterranean Wedding Venue last year, chosen by Destination Wedding & Honeymoons Abroad magazine.

“It is a very special venue which has now been recognised by a leading wedding magazine, which is a fitting tribute to my entire team,” said manager Fernando Valdivielso Gomez.

Finally there is the Mount, a former residence of the Royal Navy’s senior officer, which boasts wonderful gardens.

Weddings in Gibraltar have become a significant part of the tourist trade, and thus services have blossomed to cater for that.

Professional photographers, makeup artists and florists can be easily arranged, either through the venue or externally, while there is no shortage of wonderful restaurants for receptions.

Most couples, particularly those who marry in Alameda Gardens, opt for the nearby, tranquil Queensway Quay, home to top restaurants such as the Landings and the Waterfront.

The government website offers information on marriage in Gibraltar and the requirements, while enquiries can also be addressed to the Registration Office or recognised travel agents and wedding planners.

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